Back in November when I was registering for my first semester of grad school classes, I was growing anxious just thinking about how busy my life would be beginning in January. Little did I know that part time school and working a full and part time job was going to the be the least of my worries compared to being a caregiver to someone with cancer.
On February 8th when the Infectious Disease Specialist told us that Jake’s CAT scan revealed a mass the size of an orange in his chest that indicated Lymphoma, my world stood still.
I allowed myself (more of an uncontrollable reaction) to let those tears flow freely and silently weep as the doctor asked if we knew what “lymphoma” meant. After a small nod to indicate “yes”, he went on to explain the next steps and answer any questions we had. I distinctly remember Jake and I looking at each other through my tears after we heard that word and my heart just melting. Jake pulled my chair closer to him and held my hand. As Jake and I were left in the room alone while the nurse was making the referral to see an Oncologist, I remember Jake having me sit on his knee as we tried to talk through the tears and tried to process the surreal feeling of his impending cancer diagnosis.
The weeks following were filled with more doctors appointments, fear, a biopsy, a ton of unknowns and a few moments of impatience on my part. During those weeks and the past two months, Jake and I have tried to stay as positive as we possibly can. I can honestly say that Jake and I have never felt the need to really dwell on this diagnosis or lament in excess. Reading and hearing that a diagnosis of Hodgkin Lymphoma is one of the most curable types of cancers helped Jake and I discuss and agree that we were going to live our lives as “normal” as possible and not allow unproductive thoughts to take over.
During a recent conversation with a friend of ours who is going through her own struggles, left me with an interesting thought that I can’t seem to shake. She said that when people tell her they couldn’t imagine going through what she is going through or that she is “brave” and “strong” for going through this heartbreaking and stressful process is in a sense a backwards comment. She stated that she doesn’t see herself as being “brave” or “strong”, but simply doing what she needs to do in life. Her, Jake and I had a wonderful discussion in that there is so much truth to this. I think we can all agree that we have silently said “I am so glad it isn’t me” or “I’m not sure I would make it through” at one point or another in life. I know I have made comments to Jake that I would be a complete mess and not be able to half the things he does if I were in his shoes. But when I think about these comments, I really wonder. Our friend has a point. Jake isn’t doing these things because he is strong or brave, but because it is what he needs to do to survive.
As I say that however, don’t get me wrong, Jake and I have certainly had our moments. Not moments of worrying about whether or not he is going to make it through this, but our own moments of being overwhelmed living this crazy, busy, stressful, physically and mentally exhausting life. I have learned to know when I need to take time for me. When taking a nap no matter what time of day it is, or when it is okay to just sit and cry is completely okay. Crying should never be seen as a weakness, but it is more a sign of awareness. Crying is relieving and can be very refreshing.
Jake had his fifth round of chemo today and we are both hopeful that there are only three more to go after today. As I sit and watch four poisonous drugs enter his body, I cannot help but be reminded of the unknowns that are to follow and that the side effects to come are tiny reminders of how hard those drugs are working to attack and kill those cancerous cells.
Despite the moments of stress and exhaustion I talk about, I cannot help but know and feel the ongoing love and support we have from so many people in our lives. Having friends, family and church members who have cleaned for us, shopped for us, sent care packages, made meals for us, prayed with and for us and send cards and emails of support have all been true blessings.
This journey, process, whatever you want to call it, has already begun and will continue to make Jake and I stronger individually, with one another, with our friends and family and with our God.