This post is a continuation of our experiences since the end of March. The posts in chronological order can be found on the Timeline page.
Through all of the experiences of the past several weeks, I was learning a lot about myself.
I hate mornings (I already knew this). But, I learned I could somehow find a way to summon the strength to bury my fatigue and get up at hours that no pregnant woman (or human) has any business seeing so that I could join Francis at the hospital before breakfast arrived.
I found a way to manage a home and a toddler (who is undoubtedly a daddy’s boy) while Francis was too sick to leave bed or the couch or was in the hospital. I am still amazed that I was able to accomplish these day-to-day activities as well as I did without burning down the house or leaving Couper in dirty clothes for days on end.
But most importantly, what I learned is that not a moment went by where I didn’t miss Francis. He’s my husband, best friend, and soulmate. Each morning my alarm went off I was immediately aware of the cold side of the bed next to me. I missed Francis’ company in the bathroom while I was getting ready. Each time I washed only one cereal bowl after I ate breakfast I wished for him to be there, headed out the front door for work or to retrieve the Wall Street Journal from the front yard. Each time I went to get Couper from his crib in the morning and he asked for daddy, I felt the intense longing for Francis to be there by my side for both me and for Couper.
I craved Francis’ wellness simply because I missed the love of my life each and every second of the day.
Now, back to the story…
One of the biggest changes in our recent life was the halt of normal, routine activities. One of these “normal” things we were both acutely aware of overlooking was Francis’ need of a haircut.
I woke up early on Saturday, May 12, and dragged my massive bump out of bed determined to do something about that. I packed a bag with Francis’ electric hair clippers and attachments, his Wall Street Journal, my Macbook and paperback pleasure reading and headed to the hospital when Melissa (our sitter) arrived to watch Couper early that morning. I also had to finalize plans for Melissa to drop Couper off at the O’Rourke’s house for lunch and nap time so that she could leave town for a week of commitments back home in Central Florida.
I made it to the hospital without missing the doctor that morning. Before the day got too far along, we set up the room for the haircut and were at least able to accomplish this small feat in the midst of the endless interruptions.
By early afternoon, I was tired and Francis wasn’t feeling like being in bed any longer. We traded places (I got the bed, he the recliner) and I settled in for a nap. I was able to sleep for about an hour before my nap and Francis’ email reading was interrupted by a knock at the door.
A doctor we had yet to meet entered and introduced himself. He was yet another specialist from the Digestive Disease Clinic (if you’re keeping track, this is DDC doctor number four). We exchanged pleasantries while he made himself comfortable in the only remaining chair in the room.
The doctor’s next statement went something like this:
DDC Doctor: Well, I have the results of your colonoscopy. Good news is that you don’t have Crohn’s Disease. Bad news is that cancer was found in your biopsy. Blah, blah blah…[Insert other cancer related sentences here.] Ok, I’m going to give you a chance to think and discuss, and you should see Dr. Sieloff (the surgeon) later today.
For anyone who hasn’t experienced a cancer diagnosis (and I hope that is all of you), it is easy to imagine the shock that you feel hearing the word “cancer.”
I immediately became aware that the room was too hot for me and that a lump was slowly filling my throat. When I should have been carefully listening to each and every thing the doctor said, I was focused on keeping myself from sobbing uncontrollably. I was able to grasp small snippets of the conversation that proceeded. Surgery was the next step, the cancer was called signet ring cell carcinoma, the presentation of the cancer is unusual and unique. Anything outside of that was drowned in my own internal struggle to hold it together.
I am still ashamed that I couldn’t be strong enough for Francis to not keep from breaking down as soon as the doctor closed the door behind him. My amazing husband sat there comforting and reassuring me when I should have been doing that for him. His emotions would arrive later in the shower, while he was alone with his thoughts.
The moments that followed are a blur. They also seem to drag on forever in my memory. After the initial emotions passed, the questions began to flood our thoughts. Chief among our concern was when we’d meet the surgeon, what the surgery entailed, when the surgery would occur. The specialist told us that we would likely meet the surgeon that evening. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. It left us with little information and the heartbreaking task of alerting family.
The decision about when and how to tell family was difficult. Our emotions were raw, and it was hard for me to even use the word “cancer” without breaking down. We knew we were going to need help at home with the surgery very likely to occur in the next few days. We also needed the emotional support that only our families were able to provide in the midst of such a crisis.
My mom once again made plans to fly to Tallahassee to give us some help and support while we worked through the events that would take place in the coming weeks. Looking back, it was a good thing we made this arrangement quickly. The next 72 hours were an endless whirlwind of information gathering and activity.