I send out an update to friends every few weeks about Gerry – since many of you have been writing and asking how he’s doing, I figured I’d make the text of the most recent email my blog entry for today.
Oh, and thanks for the heads up about Banff. Silly me. Somehow I got it firmly embedded in my head that it’s in BC, but it’s in Alberta. D’oh! Don’t feel bad, Canada, I get a lot of US geography wrong, too… Let’s just chalk it up to the pain meds (aleve) and let it go…
Oh, and my back? Still hurts. Dang. It’s better, though, and I’ll be taking the advice of a poster to let the airlines know that I’m not running at full speed, so that I can be a Cart Person and ride in one of those little beeping vehicles.
Like the Pope – or royalty. Touch me!
So – without further interruption – here’s the update on G!
When I was a little girl one of my favorite books was Little House In The Big Woods – the predecessor to the Little House On The Prairie series. And now here we are, living in Laura Ingalls Wilder country, and we’ve been working our way through our own deep, dark woods since we arrived.
We showed up after traveling through a storm, then even as we were unpacking Gerry’s back was so bad that it was clear there was something really dreadful coming. Then Mr. Butkis was hit by a car in front of our house and it seemed that life was going so far wrong. A rough, rough February.
Gerry and I talked about it at the time – he, lying in bed because he was in so much pain from his ‘mystery illness’ – me, sweaty and exhausted from the unpacking, putting away, building of shelves & wardrobes. I remember that day as if it were yesterday.
I felt terribly guilty for dragging the family here, only to have all this bad stuff happen. He was philosophical – “It’s like we’re pioneers, as if we’re fighting through our first year on the prairie – ” Pioneers, and just a few short blocks from the local Caribou Coffee.
Since the diagnosis there’s been so much garbage – so much shit stuff – hardest on Gerry, but not a picnic for the kids and me.
But not really so bad, after all. Life isn’t supposed to be happy and fun all the time – sometimes in the hardest situations there’s a kind of gratitude we feel just for getting through it that is so sweet and encompassing. The kids wouldn’t put it that way, but I know they feel the same kind of thing – an everyday joy in just getting through something really, really hard. And a giddiness in doing it together.
All of the stuff we’ve been through since February has felt as if we’re working our way through a dark forest. Sometimes the trees are very close together, sometimes the ground is swampy, and sometimes it’s actually quite nice, with views of the sky above – or the stars at night.
And now we’ve walked into a clearing – a meadow – where we’ll be while Gerry gets healthier and healthier.
The transplant went beautifully – as good as anyone could expect – and the doctors at Mayo were very impressed with Gerry’s resilience. My husband, the over-achiever! I was away for the more brutal portion of the chemo reaction – the part where Gerry couldn’t eat and was so sick, lost so much weight and a good deal of his hair. I was in Southern France, teaching. Having fun. Nervous as a tick because I missed Gerry so much, and worried so much.
When I got home we were both shocked that Mayo announced that Gerry would be good to go home at the end of that week! We’d not planned on that – and although we were thrilled, there was SO much work to do to get the house in order! We were in the middle of a kitchen re-do, there was dust and other unsavory things all over the place, and I felt overwhelmed with the idea of so much cleaning.
But it got done – somehow – it’s a fog to me. All I can say is that you get done what needs to get done – period.
And then Gerry was home, we were all home, the kids, Gerry, me, Gerry’s mom Elaine, Atticus, Gigi – we were an all-together family again.
It feels so GOOD to be back together – and a little weird. So much happened while we were all apart, and now we’re together and trying to figure out how we fit together. The kids have grown, I’ve grown – and we have a new kitchen – and a new kitten (for Hannah’s 11th birthday) – and a new Gerry.
The nurse kept telling Gerry during his actual transplant on Sept 1, “Today is your birthday – Happy Birthday!”
“Great”, I kept thinking, “Just what we need, another Virgo in the house…”
Gerry’s so “new” that he’ll have to have all of his childhood immunizations again in about a year, we have to be careful about sickness – we all have to have a flu shot this year.
He’s like a baby – bald and adorable – and I feel as scared as I did when Hannah came home.
When we’re 100 days into the transplant – they call it Day Plus 100 – it will be early December and we’ll return to the Mayo for a full checkup for Gerry. A very kind woman wrote to me on the day of Gerry’s transplant – it was her Day Plus 100 after her own stem cell transplant for Multiple Myeloma. She’s kindly been updating us, sort of walking ahead of us in the woods with a flashlight, giving us an idea what to expect.
As a family we feel – scared. But glad to be together. We have no idea how long we’ll be able to stay in this ‘meadow’ before we have to go back into the woods. How big IS this meadow – is it a prairie? Can we build a house here, write a series of books and make them into a series starring a self-reverential TV actor?
We have our moments when it becomes too much – usually I’m the one having those moments – and then we pull together as a family and try to find some sense in the whole mess. If we can’t make sense, at least we try to make a joke. So far it’s working.
But as much as we rely on each other as a family – our nuclear support system – life would be so thin and empty if it weren’t for our friends who have made this potentially terrible past few months a ‘walk in the woods’
And thanks to all of you – those of you who have left lovely posts, send nice emails, and make me feel a little le
ss alone and more connected during those long periods when I only seem to be able to connect to students or nurses (or student nurses…)