On September 18, 1989, I was 8 years old. I actually remember that day quite vividly. Hurricane Hugo had descended on the island of Puerto Rico and I was a young little girl eagerly anticipating the blustery winds and heavy rains the massive storm would bring to the island. I remember being anxious and very inquisitive throughout the day. We lost power, we lost water. We lived on the 4th floor of a six floor condominium. I could peak out our metal windows and see the pool below so full of brown water that we couldn’t even see the pool ladder. I could hear the howling winds, see mature trees struggling to stay grounded and I could even see debris flying everywhere. It was massive. Later that evening as I laid down to sleep the storm had quieted down and I knew in my little heart that a hurricane had torn up my island. But, just like any child I closed my eyes peacefully knowing it was all going to be ok. The next day we ventured and saw the damage in our town. . . yet, over time the island recovered.
On the evening September 18, 2015, my husband had MRIs performed. I was anxious and hopeful, secretly praying that surely he wouldn’t have a brain tumor just as his dad had faced a malignant brain tumor for the second time this past May. I was hopeful that all was going to be well and that the swollen Virchow’s node would actually not mean anything. We left the imaging center together, quiet, but peaceful. Yet, as I was slowly going to sleep I knew a storm had brewed.
At noon on Saturday, September 19th I walked in the house and Ryan simply stated, “read this message” and the message read “I’m going to call you guys in a couple of hours. Will you be available?” When your PCP sends you a text on a Saturday when you know he wasn’t on call you instantly know something is serious. Otherwise, either A) he wouldn’t have messaged at all or B) stated something like this, “I have the results, nothing major, will discuss on Monday.” As any human in this predicament would have felt, those were the longest two hours of my life. Finally he called. Its a clear conversation that has run thru my mind many times these last seven days.
“I spoke extensively with the radiologist this morning . . . the brain MRI was clear . . . but the neck/chest and the abdomen MRIs showed a bunch of lymph nodes lighting up all over the place . . . I don’t want to be an alarmist but we are looking at two possibilities: a rare virus of some kind or lymphoma. Its more than likely lymphoma. . . need to see an ENT ASAP, a hematologist oncologist. . . cancer center . . . a biopsy as soon as possible. . . this is progressing very rapidly from when I saw you a little over a month ago . . . I’ll network first thing Monday morning to get you an ENT and oncologist asap. . . I’m sorry, this wasn’t what any of us expected. You are generally a healthy man.”
And there it was, the words you never thought you’d hear: CANCER.
The tears flooded my eyes, shock, confusement.
Fast forward to 11pm that evening and my husband goes to bed in boxers and I’m bundled up in long socks, pajama pants, shirt and a sweater hiding under the covers because I’m freezing and so continues the research on my phone. Signs of Lymphoma . . .
- Enlarged Lymph Nodes: that started at least 4 months ago
- Swollen abdomen: about 3-4 weeks ago I told Ryan I thought his stomach felt harder than normal, we both thought he was just bloated.
- Chest pain or pressure: I thought it was just a cold.
- Shortness of breath or cough: So that wasn’t a cold that has lasted an unusually long while?
- Fever: no real fever with aches, but a few times his skin was hot last weekend when I was in OKC. I thought it was the cold.
- Night sweats: Tonight it hit me. I’m dressed for winter while my hubs is sleeping on his blanket. And this started well over a month ago. And, realizing he hasn’t been sleeping well for a month and he has drenched the bed a few times.
- Feeling full after only a small amount of food: So that’s why we had leftovers after we shared a meal at Ted’s Escondido last Saturday while I was in OKC . . . and he hasn’t been very hungry since he got home.
- Fatigue: Ryan had started a new habit of getting up at 6am every day to walk and eat an apple a day in June . . . all of a sudden in early September that proved to be very difficult for him even though his daily routine hadn’t changed much at that point.
And, here I am. Watching my husband sleep while tears run down my eyes. Couldn’t it just be coincidental? Couldn’t it just be a cold, he was stressed, a virus hit him hard? It can’t be cancer. It can’t be cancer. It can’t be cancer.
And then . . . I’m intelligent. I’m smart. Why didn’t I put these symptoms together? Why didn’t I tell my husband to schedule the ENT appointment earlier? Why didn’t I see the red flags last weekend while in OKC? Ok, so he did WIN a singles men’s tennis tournament last weekend, but still those HEADACHES . . . I thought it was just the stress of going to training for 2 weeks and passing a state exam. I thought it was just a long cold.
And then . . . Crap! He should have seen his PCP 4 months ago when those two lymph nodes flared up . . . but it was just two small lymph nodes with absolutely no symptoms. Would they have done anything at that point? We could have caught it soooo early.
And then . . . the whispers, Caroline, you have no control. . . Caroline, this is not your fault. . . you are loved . . . you are cared for . . . you have done so much research these last few years why are you afraid? . . . Remember what you know. Remember whose you are. . . Remember the strength that comes from the One who loves you. Remember to listen to your heart. . . Remember to listen to the Spirit. . . Remember . . . come to Me and lay your cares on Me. Come to Me for PEACE that passes all understanding.
In the roller coaster of the emotions I faced that day from 2pm to midnight, peace won. Peace reminded me whose we are. Peace let me rest and know that this too shall pass. Ryan and I are conquerors. Its just a bump in the road, but we can do it together. We can win and will win.
On the bed, covered in winter sleepwear and huddled under the blanket my heart stood tall. I was in the eye of the storm. I knew what had happened. I knew what was coming. Yet, I stood in peace. I stood looking at the storm swirling around me knowing that there’s a peace that passes all understanding. I am in the eye of the storm where blustery winds surround me, yet my heart feels calm. Even with the wreckage *it* strives to leave, Ryan’s body will recover.
P.S. I started writing this in my head days ago unsure if I should share my personal roller coaster, but today something inside of me said to look up hurricanes/eye of the storm . . . its just cool how little things like this just line up! I realized I needed to share this. . . I mean seriously, September 18, 1989? September 18, 2015? 😉
Live your life. . . Because, YOLO!