Welcome 2017! I am so happy you’re here, and I’m ready to say goodbye to a year that put us through the ringer – and pushed us to the edge of every emotion possible. Thank you, 2016 for being the year our brightest light was born. He is one of the biggest reasons we all kept moving forward through the low moments. I’ve been on a bit of hiatus from the blog due to honestly one of the hardest things I’ve even gone through. But I’m back – and excited about what’s to come!
Now… on to the past few weeks. How do I even begin to talk about this brief section of my life? It was filled with lowest lows and the highest highs. An emotional roller coaster, a “just hold it together for a few more hours”, a very little sleep, pure adrenaline rush filled time. I think it was the quickest and also the longest few weeks of my life.
As most of you know, I recently wrote about my dad’s battle with cancer – if you haven’t read about it, you can catch up here. One of the biggest things people don’t realize about cancer, is that often times for patients, the recovery can be harder than the actual treatment. (Obviously, it is different for every person, and I’m only speaking to one circumstance but this is my experience to share.) The day my dad finished his treatments, I was ecstatic, optimistic and ready to move forward, and with good reason. We all cheered from the sidelines, saw the light at the end of the tunnel and were so proud to be moving on. The doctors did say that it would get worse before it got better, so we tried our hardest to be patient and keep the optimism flowing.
When you go through chemotherapy and radiation, your immune system is completely demolished, because the treatments kill all of the bad stuff… and the good too. Which makes you even more susceptible to illness. It was easy for us to just assume dad would get better quickly and he’d be back to normal. Maybe that’s just that child mentality, assuming things will go back to “our normal” without really considering everything. When my dad was admitted to the hospital for pneumonia three Mondays ago – it was pretty crushing. We had watched him take two steps forward everyday, only to be served news of a pretty serious illness in his condition. My coping mechanism was to stay optimistic and actually all-out refuse to think about anything else. I’m not sure if this was a good or bad thing for me, but it is the way I coped.
December 23rd, the eve of the eve – typically one of my favorite days of the holiday season, my sister called and told me things were getting worse and dad was being moved to ICU, but that it was precautionary. I packed my things up at work, with tears in my eyes because I had a feeling so deep down in my gut I couldn’t hold it back.
When we got to the hospital, things were blurry, urgent and everyone was breathing very shallow, terrified breaths. It was a little like a scene out of ER, one that I never wanted to actually live. The next 12 hours would change me and my family forever. The situation ended up being far worse than we had originally thought, and we spent a lot of time praying, meditating and in zombie states. But my dad, ever the fighter – pulled through and to be honest, amazed his team of doctors, nurses and support staff. Speaking of them. Wow. Just wow. I cannot say enough about the staff at St. Mary’s in Madison. These men and women are not only extremely kind, patient and SMART, but they are unbelievably humble. I’ll never forget sitting in a consult room, weeping and thanking another human for his quick thinking, assertive choices and ultimately – saving my dad’s life. I am forever indebted to these people, and their beautiful gifts.
Over the course of the next few days, my family spent many, many hours discussing the treatment, next steps, possible causes, what we could have done, how to make it better and how to move on. These small “therapy sessions” or “reviewing” as we called them, seemed to really help us process what had happened. The St. Mary’s SSICU became home base and there are more Cheerios crushed into the carpet than I’d like to admit thanks to Dane. My dad’s treatment was a series of steps, one after another, each day getting easier and eventually we got the incredible news that dad would be coming home. ONE WEEK after the scariest day of our lives, dad was coming home. It’s a long road ahead, with obstacles and many more appointments, plans and possible treatments but he’s going to be okay. His spirit and strength are unwavering, and I’ve never seen him so determined to succeed at this. He makes me so proud to be his daughter.
I’ve learned a lot through this life altering, time halting experience. I’ve learned that positivity and prayer will always feel better than negativity. I’ve realized that having a support system is vital to coping during times of need and I have one of THE. BEST. I’ve learned that there are truly incredible people everywhere you look, people who are willing to stay past their shift to brief their replacement in order to make 100% certain that the best care possible is given, people who make phone calls at midnight to reassure the family of a very sick patient, and people who bring so much hope where it felt like it had been diminished.
To each person who has reached out with thoughts, prayers and encouragement – thank you.
I’m taking 2017 day by day, and appreciating each challenge that comes my way. I’m setting goals for a healthier lifestyle, a fresh outlook and a more brave way of living. I’m also going to write more about coping, moving on and staying positive.
Cheers to a healthy new year!