It was two years ago today that my world shattered. Two years ago that I heard the words that we had been dreading for two weeks. The words I will never forget. The words “You have cancer”. Those words were not spoken to me, but rather they were spoken to my husband, but I was in the room and I heard them loud and clear. The walls started closing in as the doctor started talking about treatments, surgery etc. I grabbed onto two other words that he said, and I would cling to those words for a very, very long time. I am still clinging to those to words “it’s treatable”.
As we sat in that small room 2 years ago, so many things went through my mind. The first thing I thought of was “how are we going to tell the kids”? Kaylee and Alex were getting married in just six short days. We were in full wedding mode. We had family already at our house……..just so much going through my mind. I don’t think we really processed what we were being told at that time. We went into auto pilot……told the kids what we knew, told close family what we knew (which wasn’t a whole lot at that time) and scheduled doctors’ appointments for the week after the wedding, and then focused on the joy of our daughters’ wedding.
The day after Kaylee and Alex’s wedding, Dave and I were sitting in the Oncologists office…..hearing lots of very frightening stuff. I will never forget when he walked in the door, crossed his arms and said “we have a fight on our hands”. Yep, that was very reassuring! We had appointments with two different oncologists that week, and then were referred to OHSU to meet with the man that we had been is told one of the best surgeons in the country for throat cancer, Dr. Peter Anderson. We call him the man who saved Dave’s life. He is AMAZING! We were sitting in his office the next week and he gave us the first bit of good news. Dave was a good candidate for robotic surgery to remove the tumor that was blocking half of his airway. We left his office with surgery scheduled for the end of September.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and we were at OHSU and Dave was heading into surgery. My sister, Kaylee and Alex were there as support. The waiting was horrible. We entertained ourselves by watching a very “interesting” family in the surgery waiting room. I won’t go into detail, but my sister got a great picture that day that she posted on Facebook. When we were told that Dave would soon be going to his room, we went up ahead of him. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I’m telling you the reality of our situation slapped me in the face when I got off the elevator (with a bit of a detour with my new son-in-law….we got lost) and saw “Knight Cancer Center” on the door above where we were to enter to get to Dave’s room. That was almost more than I could handle. In my mind, the cancer was gone. That’s what the surgery was for. It was a stark reminder that Dave was a cancer patient, and we were still in the fight. Dave was a patient at OHSU for five days. Five VERY LONG days. He doesn’t remember much of his time there which is good, I unfortunately, remember every minute, hour, day. It was hard. I spent much of it huddled on a small “bench” in the corner of his room. I slept there (couldn’t even stretch out fully) and spent most of my time there for that five days. I needed to be there, as Dave’s advocate, and for myself. When I was away from him, I just needed to be back so I left his room just a couple of times a day to walk down to the cafeteria to get my Pepsi and some food. The nurses were wonderful. Each night they would get me tea before bed and a couple of nights when it was exceptionally cold in his room (he kept wanting the heat turned down), they brought me warm blankets.
After Dave was released from the hospital and came home, then the battle to gain back the weight he had lost began. The cancer had spread to his lymph nodes so he was facing radiation. We had six weeks to put some meat back on his bones, before they would, quite literally, burn his throat with radiation. Oh, that was hard work, but we did get a few pounds back on him……..then it was time for radiation. Six weeks of hell. Six weeks of watching my husband lose more weight. Six weeks of watching my husband get to the point where he could only eat just a few different foods, and even those didn’t taste good. Six weeks of counting down the days until it was over.
Radiation ended just three days before Christmas. Kaylee and Alex were spending Christmas in Lynden……and I told Liberty not to waste her money flying home as I knew it would be difficult for her, and that Dave would not be really enjoying the day as he was hurting so much from the damage that radiation had done to his throat. So, it was just Dave, me and the boys that year. We had a good time, but it was so hard. Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes.
We had all looked at the end of radiation as the end of the struggle…..oh boy were we wrong. The struggle continued for months, which turned into about a year. Radiation is HARD to recover from. It keeps on working in your system even when the treatment is over. Getting Dave to eat enough food to start putting weight back on was hard…..a daily struggle. When April came, he went up to visit Kaylee for two weeks. He needed it and I needed it. Kaylee showed him what a true food Nazi was……..she put an app on his phone and made him eat the required 2500 calories each day.
Slowly Dave started gaining weight. Slowly he started getting stronger. Slowly, we started living again. Doing the things that we love. As I sit here two years later and look back, it is still hard to put into words what this journey has been like. It has been one of the hardest things I’ve every been through. Yet, here we are two years later. Dave is healthy again, and he is singing which many thought he would never do. God has been with us through all of this, and He continues to walk by our side. As those of you who have been through the cancer battle know, it never goes away. Dave continues to get “scoped” every three months and so far those have come back clear. I won’t lie……each time he has an appointment, we sit in fear that we are going to hear the dreaded words “it’s back”, but so far, so good. At his last appointment with Dr. Anderson, he told us that if we can make it to the two year mark (from the end of treatment) with everything remaining clear, that Dave’s chances of being “cured” (which they won’t say until five years) go up substantially. As we get closer to that two year mark, we are both starting to breathe just a little easier……..hoping and praying that we continue to hear those beautiful words “all clear”.
Two years later, we are still standing, still hoping, still loving and still looking to the future.