Sunday, December 28

2 Presents Left

Well, its December 28th and there are 2 presents left unopened "under our tree". 

I say "under our tree" in quotation marks because we decided, in keeping with the tradition of not having a Christmas tree when we have an 18 month old in the house (we didn't have a tree the year Laila was 18 months old), we didn't get a tree this year. Our presents still looked lovely stacked in front of our fireplace, our stockings were still hung by the chimney with care, the rainbow lights still adorned the outside of the house, our Christmas knick-knacks still made it out of the boxes (placed up high, mind you) and Christmas still came. Even without a Christmas tree. 

It also came without the physical presence of Nonna and Papa. While we were face timing on Tuesday afternoon, Laila asked "Papa and Nonna, when will you be home?" Papa responded with something like "As soon as we can, sweetheart..." and she broke our hearts when she said "But its Christmas!" 


We've been thinking that surely, SURELY they would be home next week. I told Laila so. 

But they won't be. 

Yesterday, Dr. Sands told Papa that he would need to stay in the hospital until Monday or Tuesday AND that he'll need to stay in Florida so that Dr. Sands can check him out until the following Tuesday. So, at least another week until they can come home. At least another week until Papa will start Tasigna, the chemo that will keep those leftover cancer cells from growing. 

To recap, a week after the surgery to remove the recurrent tumor, Papa developed a leak in the area of the rectum at the surgery site.  This required that he go back into the hospital for a temporary colostomy, a second surgery, that would allow the damaged area time to heal. After several days, he was released from the hospital.  During what we thought was a final follow-up to that second surgery, Dr Sands discovered an abscess in the wall of the rectum that needed to be flushed several times a day and drained in order to heal.  It also required IV antibiotics which meant he had to be admitted to the hospital a third time... and he's still there.

And, get this, apparently a LOT of people in the world like to go to Miami for the week between Christmas and New Year. Like, a lot a lot. As a result, Nonna and Papa are having a super hard time finding a hotel room that actually has a double bed or bigger for less than $300/night. Like, theres no room in the inn sort of thing. 

Friends, you can pray about that. An affordable place for Nonna and Papa to stay from the time they get out of the hospital to the time they are released to come home. 

You can also pray for Dad as he continues to learn how to handle "the apparatus" as we like to call it... and for the pain he's experiencing, as that has been a continuous struggle. 

I know that I usually end these sorts of updates with something about being positive and grateful. 

Yes, we are grateful and, yes, we are focusing on the positive but the bottom line is that Nonna and Papa are weary... weary of living out of suitcases, from hotel to hotel, hospital room to hospital room, paying for rental cars, being woken in the night for blood draws, pain medicine, IVs, laying in a bed, sleeping in a chair and being away from their children and their grandchildren. 

They are troopers, no doubt, but they are weary. 

Even so, every time we talk, they are both full of encouragement for me, love for each other and for all of us, words of wisdom for whatever I've needed to vent about and gratitude for each of you and your prayers. 



Monday, December 15

A Hitch

I should never have left Miami. 
I should have stayed on that sunny beach enjoying the adorable, overly-tanned, happily-retired, bike-riding, sun-bathing old people. 

Everything was fine before I left and now everything is in an uproar! 

Hear ye, hear ye, an update: 

Due to a weakness in the surgery area, a leak of sorts, Papa will undergo surgery tomorrow morning to have a temporary colostomy. 

A temporary colostomy is exactly what it sounds like, a "diversion" which will allow the surgery site to heal. The temporary part is what we're focusing on. 

Here's the deal: This surgery wasn't as cut and dried as the first one. The tumor was different, alive and kicking, whereas last time, it was calcified, like picking up a rock. When the surgeon was removing it, it crumbled, "seeding" the area, as they say, and making it very difficult to remove every single little bit. So the plan was to heal up, come home and focus on aggressively attacking whatever cancer cells were left behind with chemo. 

The plan was working. When I got to Miami on Friday morning, the day after the surgery, Dad looked great and was in great spirits. We laughed about the language barrier that existed with some of the nurses (hola, Miami!), the danger of catching pneumonia at the hospital and the super comfy cot that mom and I took turns sleeping on. (Or, actually "the cot on which my mom and I took turns sleeping... " if you're the kind of person who pays attention to dangling participles and all of that English major stuff...)

He was released to go "home" to the hotel on Saturday morning and all was well. We even took a sunny walk on the beach Saturday afternoon and attended the adorable little Hollywood community Christmas parade Saturday night. 

I left Miami Sunday evening, confident that everything would go as planned. 

Even Thursday, when my parents had a pow-wow with both Dr. Sands (the surgeon) and Dr. Trent (the oncologist), everything looked good and there was talk of Dad being cleared to come home to Texas early next week. In plenty of time for Christmas, I might add.

Friday evening, however, things took a turn for the worse. Mom and Dad found evidence of infection, called Dr. Sands and were back to the hospital for IV antibiotics for the weekend. You can imagine my surprise and disappointment when I went to answer the FaceTime call, expecting to see Papa lounging at the beach in a wide hat and Hawaiian shirt, sipping an umbrella-ed beverage with old people in the background and found him in a hospital bed instead. 

And, somewhere in the course of the weekend, Dr. Sands decided that the infection... caused by the leak which was caused by the tissue weakness... meant that a temporary colostomy would be necessary in order to ensure a complete healing. 

And, obviously, complete healing from the surgery is what we want. What we must have.

It's also what we NEED in order to carry on with the plan of aggressive chemo to zap away all the leftover cancer cells. 

SO, join us in prayer, dear ones. 

Let me be honest. What would be awesome is if God would just do the miracle of zapping the cancer cells FOR us and we could leave the whole pesky chemo thing out of it. How about we ask God for that? And also pray for Papa as he figures out all this colostomy stuff... for it to be as temporary as is wise and for Dr. Sands and Dr. Trent to know exactly how to proceed. Join me in praying for Nonna as well as she acts as Papa's support, laundrywoman, administrative assistant, liaison to the nursing staff, communicator to friends and family, etc, etc, etc. 
That woman is one amazing creature. 

And you are amazing too, friends. We appreciate all your hugs (physical and virtual), your texts and calls, your Facebook messages, your prayers, your friendships... Thank you. We could never say it enough.

Chels (and co.)

"We're taking the next train to Miami to see Papa!" -Laila Grace

Tuesday, December 2

I smile.

Well, after an afternoon spent decorating the house for Christmas and wrapping presents, there is a mountain of colorful and sparkly glitter in my dustpan.

I smile.


Yesterday, I overheard the following from Laila, behind a closed door:

Laila: "Jesus, why did you not make unicorns?... (pause)... Ok!... Well, thank you for making my Texas Rangers shirt... Goodnight!"

I smile.


And today, from the backseat:

Laila: "Lydia, repeat after me... Papa!"
Lydia: "Papa!!"
Laila: "Nonna"
Lydia: "... giggle ... Nonna!"
Laila: "Starbucks!"
Lydia: "Dy-puh!! (Diaper)"
(Hysterical little girl giggling...)

Smiling. Smiling. Grinning like a fool.


Yesterday and today, parenting by myself with no voice went far better than expected. The truth is that I have the sweetest, most understanding and darling little girls in the universe. As a result of this little bout of sickness, Lydia has learned to whisper (mimicking me) and blow her nose (mimicking me).

I smile.


Today is the day that my parents flew to Miami for my father's second tumor removal. Second sending into a deep, dreamless and unnatural sleep. Second waking to (aha!) no tumor pain (focusing on the positive) but also a process of recovery that is sometimes painful, always inconvenient and will likely mean that Nonna and Papa won't be home to spend Christmas with their granddaughters. They won't be spending Christmas with their children and children-in-law either but, let's be honest about who's really important.

Laila Grace. Stella Sloan. Lydia Kate.

Even so, we smile.


If, after all the things that go wrong in our lives go wrong and all the traffic that slows us down holds us up and all the things we are anxious about come to pass and all the difficulty that has to be endured is endured, I think that, if we try to smile... and we keep trying to smile... and then, one day, we DO actually successfully smile, I think it must get easier to smile again the next day. 
And the one after that.
And all the ones after that.

A recurring tumor is something. But so many people whom I love dearly have had to go through so, so much more. And, yet, they rejoice on facebook over their son's Christmas list, they meet me in the morning for a giggly and companionable run, they plan their wedding with excitement, they open their hearts to the hope of loving again, they find peace in the memory of the beloved parent they miss so desperately... they smile. And, by smiling, they inspire me, they challenge me, they fill me.

For all of you out there smiling in the midst of the pain, I join you.

I will smile.

Today marks the beginning of our family's second season of moving through cancer.
Today marks the beginning of our family's second season of moving away from cancer.
We have so much to smile about.