Initially posted January 2013
How am I doing?
*Disclaimer* I nearly did not post this as it’s deeply personal. Initially I just wrote it to let go of the feelings. Then I thought that if someone else is going through the same thing, they might want to hear that they aren’t alone. So I’m pushing the “post” button.
It seems I am in a phase of this cancer fight that I can only describe as Crying. I cry for happy things; I cry for sad things; I cry when I am scared. I feel broken, like I have been strong for as long as I can handle. One moment I want to run off just me and Michael for a few days and the next I need to have all the kids around me. One moment I want everyone to leave us alone and just let the 6 of us be together and the next I need a crowd around us. I feel strong briefly like we can beat this again and then I am pummeled with the despair of what life will be like without Michael. I can’t plan for anything. If you ask me if I can make it to an event, party or gathering my best response is simply maybe. I don’t know. I have no idea what tomorrow brings so forget about planning for next week. People offer to bring food. I feel like I need to cook for my family and then some days it’s 5:30pm and I realize I cannot possibly prepare food. I have no idea which days this will happen. I have no idea what help I need until I desperately need help. All I really know right now is moment to moment how I feel and what we need. Planning for large projects is an almost impossible task. I can barely handle science projects and high school applications with the kids. My thoughts are so random and scattered. I want to escape and at the same time I want to so fully experience the present that I will never forget it. I want to cry for days and I want to never cry again. I want to run until my legs give out and I want to curl up in a ball and not move. All at the same time. I want to throw myself into community involvement and I want to retreat from society completely. I want to share my thoughts and feelings, but I also don’t want anyone to know. I don’t want to appear weak, I also don’t want anyone to think I am strong. And that is how I’m doing.
Just wanted to share our story of how Livestrong helped our family. Please freely give to this organization if you are looking for a way to support families with cancer.
On October 26, 2011 our lives were changed forever. I will never forget sitting in the waiting room while Michael had his colonoscopy and hearing the words from the surgeon — Your husband has cancer. I could not believe it. I kept thinking he was talking to the wrong person. We are young; we don’t smoke; we eat healthy; we exercise. He kept talking. He told me that it looked really bad, really far along. The next few days uncovered more bad news. Stage 4. Metastasized to the liver. Many large spots on the liver. We were in shock. We were traumatized. Our world was turned upside down.
In the past we had always raised money and Michael had ridden in the Livestrong rides — even when it was the Ride for the Roses. We were always so moved by the stories of survivors and even ones left behind. It has always been important to us. Our favorite charity or cause. Never in a million years did we expect that we would be one of the ones who needed the Livestrong organization. No, we were supposed to just be one of those who raised money for the org, not one of the ones who used the services. How quickly things can change.
When Michael was diagnosed, we knew where to go. We drove to E. 6th Street and walked in the doors of Livestrong. We cried with the receptionist as we told her what had just happened. We told her we didn’t know where else to go, but there. Immediately there were intake counselors, resources, help. We were not alone. There were people here who could help us navigate this new world of cancer treatment. When you receive a cancer diagnosis, you have to be an instant expert in something you knew nothing about just the day before. The cancer world is more than just understanding the disease — it’s knowing how to navigate the insurance companies; it’s figuring out how to take time off work; it’s finding others who have been there; it’s learning that you are not alone. It’s also understanding that the minute you are diagnosed, you are a survivor. Livestrong helped us with all of that.
We are eternally grateful to Lance Armstrong and to this organization and everyone who is a part of it. We wouldn’t still be here as survivors without everyone at Livestrong. You have made a life changing difference to our family. Please accept our most humble Thank You.
Felicia and Michael Adams
As I sit this morning listening to the sounds of the delightful rain outside while I wait for the rest of the house to wake up I have time to really think. I reflect back through our cancer journey that started last October. I think back to this time last year before The Diagnosis when we were just naively bouncing through life without realization to what was about to happen. What a heartbreaking, terrifying, joyous, tearful, strengthening, centering ride this has been. It’s not over, but it sure is getting smoother and easier for now. Last Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas I wondered — “will this be our last one as a complete family? What will these holidays be like in 2012?” I cried. The unknown scared me. The sadness took over as I pondered “what if?” What if he doesn’t make it? What if the treatment doesn’t work? What if the cancer is too strong? How will I make it without him? Looking at our 4 daughters — how in the world do I raise them on my own? These thoughts, these worries, these fears really consumed me at times. Thinking back now I see that each time I fell into this type of thinking, I was brought back up. A friend, a family member, a child gave me strength to face it again. Now here we are… NED… No Evidence of Disease. What does this mean?
Only about 5% of people with Michael’s diagnosis make it to this point. Most battle the metastasized cancer with chemo until they just can’t take chemo anymore. Then that’s it. That certainly could have been our fate. The odds favor it to be. Why are we one of the 5%? Some say it’s a miracle. Some say we had a great team of doctors. Some say it’s Michael’s fighting spirit. If it is a miracle — why did we get it and others do not? If it’s the doctors — they treat hundreds and don’t always have the same outcomes. Why did we get the good one? If it’s Michael’s fighting spirit — others are fighters, too, and have still lost. So I am left with — why? I have to tell you that there is an element of “survivor’s guilt” that plays into my thoughts. The idea that others haven’t fared so well in similar circumstances. While we are celebrating our current cancer win, others are mourning their loss. Why? I don’t think it’s for us to know. I simply cannot come to terms with a logical reason.
So we should say it’s a Miracle. I suppose it is. That is the only way I can describe the way all of the players in the fight came together in the best possible way. The way the skilled surgeons (from Switzerland and Korea) worked with the best oncology team (from Kentucky and Austin) and saved Michael. The way Michael was strengthened by prayer, thought, food, family, and friends so that he could fight on. The way the tumors shrank in just the right way so that they could be surgically removed. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of a miracle because — why us? And more importantly, why not them? Why not that family who has tried and lost? I just can’t make peace with this. I guess it’s not for us to know why. All we can do is make the most of what we have been given and not waste a single day. I hope everyone else realizes that today is a gift we have all been given. Make the most of it.
Really, it is. Things get overwhelming, crazy, unpredictable, disappointing, upsetting… and then, magically, they get better. This cycle happens over and over again. Each time you go through it, do you believe in the “it gets better” part? Or do you sink in the middle with the swirl of despair? I have to say that I always take a dip in the despair pool, but I quickly get out (or someone scoops me out) and I am returned to the brightness of knowing that it really will turn out okay. I know that some people can’t get out of the tailspin of negative thoughts. We need to recognize when those we love are in that cycle. We need to be the hand that rescues them and takes them out. The voice that lets them know that it really does get better. Once you have been through the cycle and realized that there is light at the end of the tunnel, an open window when the door is shut — all of these things — it is important to be that light for others who are stuck. There are people who were the light for me and taught me how to look for the light, the help, the new idea, the brighter side, the positive. I hope I am always able to recognize when people I know and love are lost in the cycle and I am able to help lift them through it.
Of course I rely on my faith for all of this. I consider the “light” God’s grace and I believe it shines for me when I need it most. Some of you might not see it in this exact way, but you can still agree with me that “Everything will be okay in the end. If things are not okay, it’s not the end.”
I have relied on this throughout our cancer journey as we roll through the bumps along the way to recovery. I have also been comforted by this during the other life events that happen outside of the cancer world we can become consumed in. Please let me know if you are stuck in a negative cycle. I want to help you see the other options out there. Our journeys in life are together, not in parallel, but always crossing.
Michael is in the middle of his 15th chemo treatment. I cannot believe all we have put his body through as we fight this disease. It’s amazing to me that he has kept going. I will never complain about being exhausted again! We are starting to see what could be our first bit of positive results from all of this. His CEA numbers are finally going down. They spiked up to 8.5 a few weeks ago and now they are down to 3.7!!! We leave on July 5th for our next trip to MD Anderson in Houston to take a look at what is going on in his liver. With the CEA numbers going in the right direction, we are cautiously optimistic. My hope is that we will see a dramatic reduction in tumor size that will allow for a surgery soon to get them all the way out. We will know Friday if we are there yet.
The kids seem to be used to our “new normal” of life with cancer. They could not have done this without the help of friends, family, church, and Wonders and Worries. We are hoping that after this is behind us (will it ever really be?) they feel like there is nothing in life that they can’t handle. Their childhood is certainly different than our plan for them. It’s a reminder that you don’t have as much control over life as you think. You can only really control your reaction to the cards you are dealt. What a lesson.
I have a true sense of inner peace about it all right now. I feel that it will all turn out okay. This doesn’t mean I am immune to bouts of crying or hand wringing anxiety, but I am overall at peace. I feel stronger than ever when I lean on my faith and I’m reminded of His gifts when I feel the love gathered around me during this time.
Overall life is really so good.
Jan 16, 2012 7:08 PM
The benefit this weekend was insanely, incredibly amazing. We were both moved to tears at different times. Our kids talked of how much love they felt from so many people. Daphnie summed it up by saying, “Mom, I don’t really understand why, but there are a lot of people who love us.” Indeed. We have never experienced anything quite so overwhelmingly wonderful in our lives. The effort put into the event, the incredible donations for the auction, the music, the food, the fact that so many people came…. The list goes on and on. Where do we start with giving thanks? How do we even say thank you? How do you show the proper amount of appreciation for this outpouring of love? These are questions I can’t answer. I start to think about it and I’m brought to tears — tears of gratitude. Know that every single person who was there (in person or in spirit) has changed our lives for the better. We are the lucky ones, we are blessed, we are lifted up and it is because of the love that all of you have shown us.
Amazing grace. We are humbled, we are thankful, we are loved and we thank you for that.
Felicia and Michael
As we wrap up the holiday season for 2011, I sit reflecting on it all. First thoughts are that life is so strange right now. There is all this “normal” floating around in a sea of crazy ocean. It’s like there are two different lives going on in parallel. This regular life where we are on break from school and having christmas with the family – cooking, cleaning, laughing, playing. Then there is also this epic battle for life happening inside my husband while we just hang out together. So strange. If I get to thinking too much about it, I can get pretty stressed. So I clean, I organize, I stay busy. It’s the quiet moments that are the hardest (luckily these types of moments are not too common in our house). People think I’m strong, that I have it all together. I can assure you that I am not, that there are many times I lose it, that I cave to feeling sorry for myself, that I lose faith briefly, that i feel defeated. These aren’t my proudest moments, but they exist. Somehow, through Grace, I am scooped back up and propped upright again, stronger. Sometimes it’s my kids, sometimes it’s friends, sometimes it’s family, sometimes it’s Michael who bring me this gift of strength. All I know is each time I fall, I am lifted back up. With each lift, I am reminded that I will never be left alone in grief. Somehow I am given the strength to handle challenges that come my way. I have so much happiness in my life right now. The key to recognizing this most days is to stay in the present, don’t fret about what the future holds, hold my faith high, keep friends and family close. Great life lessons for sure. What a gift.
Well, today is what I like to call Chapter 3: The Chemo Fight. In case you are keeping track… Chapter 1: The Diagnosis, Chapter 2: The Surgery.
Here we sit with the chemical cocktail coursing into Michael and letting his body know we aren’t going to take this lying down. It’s strange, really. We are in this big room with about 32 treatment chairs, about 1/4 of them full (so, how many chairs have people in them, how many are empty? Sorry, it’s the math teacher in me) and we are all counting on this liquid drip stuff to save us/our loved ones. Weird. As I look around the room, I see that cancer really doesn’t have a “type”. It really does affect everyone. Young, old, all ethnicities — we are all included in this club. As I type, the chairs start to fill. Each person carrying their own hope, grief, sadness, strength, faith. We are all together yet fighting our own battles. What a community we are.
I met Michael when I was 21, still in college. We met on jan 6(1993) and I would have married him the night we met. Instead, we moved in together 2 months later. He is my soul mate, my best friend and i knew it the moment we first met. Yes, we are THAT kind of couple. We are supposed to be that couple who dies very old, in our sleep, holding hands. That is the only way I choose to see it. It is the way it will be. This will be “that year Michael beat cancer”. They have either made an error on the severity or there is a better treatment out there. Something. I will not give up. I cannot. Our girls are depending on us.
If you know me on Facebook or Twitter, you may already know the news about my new job. If you don’t, here it is: I am now a full time 6th grade Math tutor at Mendez Middle School . This is a great opportunity to reach kids who are really struggling in Math as they start their middle school career. I will work with two students at a time in 45 minute blocks all school day. (This is the plan anyway, subject to change as we get started) I’m thrilled to be selected for this position and I feel that it will be a challenge I will enjoy.
I am busy spending this weekend getting prepared for Monday, my first day. This involves strange things like sorting the girls’ clothes and re-caulking the baseboards. Weird, I know, but that’s the way I prepare. It has been a while since I have had ONE full time job. Mostly since I’ve had kids, I’ve pieced together several part time or contract jobs. I’ve had multiple roles within a start up; I’ve represented multiple brands on Twitter, Facebook and blogs; I’ve run marketing campaigns while also selling real estate. It will be a major difference in job lifestyle, but one I am looking forward to having. I’m curious to hear from others who have gone from freelance or contract work to full employment. How was it for you? Also, teachers — what can you tell me about preparing for my first day with the students? Anything you did that worked or (even better) that didn’t work? I found some good tips here on the WeAreTeachers blog as well.
So, Monday I start with the rest of the staff at Mendez and in a week we welcome the students! That is when the real fun will begin