Saturday, November 29, 2014

"Every day's a good day"

Nearly seven years ago we were gearing up for our first chemotherapy treatment at Siteman Cancer Center.  We prepped thoroughly - reading online, checking out a few books, and pummeling our oncologist with question after question.  Still, this was new.  We were voluntarily allowing ourself to be pumped full of poison in an effort to eradicate the 'bad stuff.'

(Quick note: you notice I refer to Jill's treatment as "our" treatment, "our" oncologist, etc.  It's intentional.  I always positioned it this way.  It was one of the small, but hopefully meaningful, ways I wanted Jill to know that we shared everything on this roller coaster ride.  When she got treatment, I felt I was getting treatment as well.  We were in this together - the ups and the downs of this ride - side-by-side.)

So we're on the seventh floor, awaiting our callback, and the buzzer goes off.  This doesn't mean our table's ready.  It mean's our cocktail is ready - our chemo cocktail.  They lead us back to our 'pod' where we are grouped with approximately seven other patients in an open room, each sitting or lying in a recliner, each being pumped full of poison.

Now, these aren't all breast cancer patients.  This is a potpourri of cancer patients - bone marrow, lung, brain, etc.  And from chair to chair you can see the toll these horrific diseases have had on people's bodies.

Needless to say, our collective nerves spike upon entering the pod.

Jill plops down in the recliner.  I stand by her side.  A seasoned nurse comes to Jill, coldly asks for her name and birth date to verify the poison recipient.  "Jill Lustberg.  Seven - Fourteen - Seventy-One."  (She'll say this over and over and over again for many years.)

B/c this is Jill's first run, she has to read all of the 'potential side effects' of this chemotherapy.  Everything - minus leprosy, I think - was on that list.

Nerves climb.  Jill shows it.  I don't...ever.

They proceed to hook us up and begin what is unfortunately the best treatment option for people in this unfortunate circumstance.  It's not personal medicine.  It's mass medicine.  But, we'll get there.  I heart scientists...some more than others.

In our pod, there's a man to the left of us.  He's lying in a bed next to the massive window.  It's beautiful outside - blue skies in every direction.  We turn in his direction as he begins to sit up and slowly, slowly prepare to leave post treatment.  If memory serves, he's probably in his late fifties, early sixties.  He's alone.

His sweet eyes meet Jill's magical green eyes and he speaks, "First time?"

"Yeah..." Jill responds, concealing her fear with a friendly smile.  (She's very good at this.)

"I can tell.  I've been at this for awhile and can tell when someone's new to the process."

As he pulls on his shoes, he tells us that he's been in and out of treatment for many years, battling a different type of cancer each time.  And he says it with such ease.  What do you want for lunch today?  Maybe a turkey sandwich...whatever.  That easy...

Then he drops the line on us as he begins to shuffle past us for the door...

"Every day's a good day."

Again, he says it w/ such ease, but also w/ such great sincerity.  You can't let it escape you.

If someone had said this line to us while were pumping gas, it probably would not have the affect it did (and does) on us.  Coupled with the high emotions of that day, that line hit us hard.  So much so that we immediately began talking about it, about him, as our infusion continued.

"How can he say that?  After all he's been thru..."

"What a perspective on life this man must have to be able to utter such words...and mean them."

We never got the man's name.  And as far as I know, we never saw him again at subsequent treatments...which is odd b/c we had many, many treatments after that first round.

But, damn, did that man leave an everlasting impression on us.  We took that line and held it tight.  We remind(ed) ourselves of it when we needed to.  We shared it (along w/ the story) when we felt others needed to hear it.  We passed it on to Rory (who needs to be reminded of it w/ greater frequency these days).

Things are very difficult right now...and I know they will continue to be for a very long time.  I feel like I get punched in the gut at least two dozen times a day.  As I should; this is all still very fresh, very raw.

But, damn it, I have Jill in my heart forever.  I have Rory.  I have you.  I'm still lucky.  I'm still grateful.

Every day's a good day.

Damn right.

All love,

J, J, & r

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