Chris’s first week of radiation appointments were scattered all over our calendar. It wasn’t until the second week that we became fixed on the Tomo Therapy Cancer Treatment Facility’s 10:20 a.m. spot. This sporadic schedule turned out to be something I actually appreciated because it allowed me to ease into what would be our routine for the next six weeks. We even brought our boys along to the first two appointments because they were in the evening. Oh! And it was snowing on those two evenings. An hour long drive to and from Denver. In the dark. With snow. Mmmm, that was the good stuff right there. If anything would thicken my skin and make me buck up, it was braving a night-time snow storm two days in a row!
Blame it on that thick skin, or the edge that developed within me as a result of our lives being messed with, but I became quite the aggressive driver in no time at all. Picture little ‘ol me honking my horn as I was about to be cut off in traffic or grumbling “pleasantries” while shaking my finger in the direction of all the bad drivers not slowing down in the construction zone through Castle Rock. Yea, that’s right. I knew it was uncharacteristic of me, but I was simply defending myself…literally and (little did I understand then, but) figuratively, as well. No matter how or why, this sudden change in my demeanor came as a shock to my husband.
While my feathers were mightily ruffled on a daily basis, his maintained a lovely order and shine about them. All.the.time. And, to be honest, one of the biggest sources of my feather ruffling was the simple fact that his weren’t. Not at all. Ever.
It made me want to shake him and put my face right in his and shout, “Don’t you have any feelings about this?!”
Ok, I might’ve actually done that. But only once. Probably. I can’t remember.
Every morning at 9:15 we pulled out of our driveway and positioned ourselves in the direction of Denver. We’d arrive on the interstate by around 9:27 and Chris would put on his music. He’d sing along and dance to the best of his front seat-passenger-ability. I managed it a little bit, just a little mind you, and then the corner of my eye would begin to twitch and my fists would clench the steering wheel even tighter. “How was there room for frivolity when every day we were driving to a cancer center an hour away for the treatment of the tumor taking up residence in my husband’s brain?!” I kept going back to that kind of sentiment which, time and again, prevented me from moving forward in a manner of acceptance and eventually hope. My sweet husband often turned his music down or, on really rough days, off.
This is truth, my friends.
In retrospect, I try to feel embarrassed for my behavior, but I’m not sorry. And also not proud. I was still myself, but of the jaded variety. Feelings that were felt and expressed during those days were authentic by-products of what we were going through. I couldn’t be held responsible for that. And, I don’t think I was. Chris always received me with grace and patience on my days of such wild unruliness. I am reminded of when one of our pastors at church made us aware of the extreme that Chris and I were both positioned on and gently encouraged us to be respectful of it. He was on the side of: Totally positive, unscathed and solidly dealing with it. I was on the side of: Freaked out, completely-scathed and not dealing with it.
More on that some other time….
I can’t help but think about those calendar squares between the end of January and the beginning of March that Chris underwent radiation and feel mostly glad about them. When I finally calmed down, about two weeks in, Chris and I delighted in listening to the music together. We made frequent stops for donuts and befriended the donut-makers. Thursdays became our day to stop for lunch and a beer at the brewery on our way home, where we made friends with the bartender there, as well. On a handful of mornings, pals of our’s stepped in and drove us to Chris’s appointments. Some days we stopped for Caribou Coffee along the way. Chris and his friend, Ryan enjoyed lunch, a beer and relaxing discussion on a few Fridays. Chris’s parents came down from the north and met us for lunch and conversation. My mom met us at the office to share hugs and visit with me in the waiting room.
I smile when I think about how often there was a friend or family member in that treatment center with us. One day, we brought a gaggle of girlfriends up with us. We took up the majority of chairs in the waiting room and had to remember to keep our voices down!
In the end, Chris and I took what could’ve become a huge, monotonous burden and realized that it didn’t have to be. Well, Chris was doing that from the get – go, but I digress. Sometimes I want to feel guilty for all the fun we had, but realize how crazy that would be. It brings me back to the reason we had to do it all to begin with. And, I still find it difficult to think about. The awful reality of how badly the tumor in Chris’s brain had come back became the cause for so much positivity, personal growth, laughter and fond memory-making with Chris and I, with family and with our friends. I wouldn’t have asked for the tumor to have come back, ever. Nor do I expect it to again, but I also can’t imagine another circumstance that would allow us to file these experiences away in our mind vaults. I’m thankful for them. I truly am.