So Dr. Ney walks into the exam room on Wednesday, the 19th of March, greets us wonderfully as he always does, and says, “The scan looks great! Its clean!”
“Uh, what?” I can almost feel my eyes twitching as my defense army (you read about them in Let Me Be Brave) begins loosing it…crashing into one another, dropping their weapons, shouting inaudible demands.
You see, we don’t know what this means, this isn’t what we had expected to hear. I mean, it’s better than what we expected to hear, way better, but, hold on, what??
“No really, Doc, what are you even talking about?”
He tells us that there’s nothing left of the tumor! He could put Chris back on chemo therapy, but there’s literally nothing there for it to treat! I hear his words, but they aren’t really reaching me. I realize that my face is all contorted. It’s like his words are floating in the air for my mind to snatch up, but my mind refuses to grab ’em for a moment. I’m in the midst of disbelief and can’t quite manage my way out just yet. It’s all really good, but I haven’t ever heard these words before…
Chris’s mom begins to cry. His dad praises Jesus. Chris says, “I knew it.” And there I sit, jaw dropped, nose crunched up and eye balls protruding.
I think my husband had to shake me out of it. I really can’t remember much else of that moment.
So then, we are told that Chris will need to be scanned every three months for a while and that, “They aren’t ready to take their claws out of him entirely yet.” I’m OK with this, God knows we don’t need any more surprises!! Although I won’t love the anxiety and anticipation leading up to each follow-up, but we deal with that later.
Well! OK, then! Huh! My husband is healthy. My husband is healthy. My husband has no tumors in his brain! NO tumors in his brain. No tumors in his brain. No tumors in his brain. I could just say it over and over and over again because for the first time in three years we get to revel in this truth and the words are sweet, like a gentle bedtime story or like fresh chocolate birthday cake. Until I freak out about it again in the crazy wonderful reality of it all and I shout out the words like Agnes, from Despicable Me, shouts as she reacts to the giant stuffed unicorn that Gru gets her at the carnival…(It’s so FLUFFY!!!!)
Ahhh, that’s good stuff right there!
So, yea, maybe I feel like Agnes, in her unicorn bliss, after receiving our good news and I begin to further make my way out of the hospital! Heck! Maybe I feel like I just saw a unicorn! Even better, I must’ve been riding a unicorn!! Yea, that!! But in slow motion!! Well, whatever it was that I felt, I wish I could’ve bottled it. That was a high that I never knew before in my life!
On our way out, we stopped by Mel, who always schedules Chris’s appointments, to set up his three month follow-up. She’s an amazing, Jesus-loving, sister and we adore her. She sits in a little cubby in the wall, with a trash can and potted plant between her and where the patients stand. I think it makes her feel safely secure. I’m amused by it. Like I would try and get in her biz to look at her screen or something. I wouldn’t, but maybe others have…anyway. So when she sees us, she calls us endearing names like sweetheart, honey and darlin’… We always tell her she’s the best and how we just want to hang out with her all the time and she always tells us that we can because we make her day! So much love, right? Well, this time, the love and celebration echoed throughout the hall as we shared with her that Chris is tumor and cancer free and she rejoiced and praised God and waved her finger saying, “He is good, all the time! All the time, honey! I told you!”
I proceeded out of the office to call my mom and my sister. And as I retold the news over and over again, it only got more exciting. Each time I spoke the words, it felt like it was still the first time I spoke them. They felt fragile, like precious gems wrapped in cloth that I held within my cupped hands. I had to hold them tight and close to my heart for fear of them breaking and disappearing. These were sweet, precious words that I would treasure for always.
And I wanted to tell my boys! You know? There I was, celebrating the news in a hospital an hour and half away from them as they sat in school. I needed them to know and be able to rest easy. I bypassed emailing or texting both of their teachers because I couldn’t guarantee when they would receive it and be able to share it, so I decided to call the school office directly. I’ve come to know both office women well and knew that they would hold our news carefully and deliver it to our boys. But, then, there was a little stop for me. You see, one of the women suffers similarly, but always different, to how I had suffered, in that her husband has cancer in his body. And, it saddens me to write that their situation is much, much harder than our’s, as the cancer in his body has made its way through quite a lot of it and they’ve began to number his days. Again, although different, she and I always felt a connection because our husband’s health is/was compromised. I wondered if she would answer the phone when I called. I anticipated that it might feel awkward.
She did answer the phone and obviously, out of respect, I lowered my tone as I explained our news and asked her if she would please let my boys know so that they wouldn’t worry. I could hear her tone change to lower also, as she told me how wonderful our news was and she was so happy for us. As if she had to push the words out of her throat through sadness that her own story didn’t have happy news attached to it. But she was full of grace and asked me exactly what I would like her to write down to tell my boys and I believed her when she said she’d call them immediately upon our good bye. For a moment, I felt guilty. But I shook it out because everyone’s story is different and I knew that what was happening for us didn’t need to affect my relationship with her. In fact, I thought to myself in that moment, that I have a very important opportunity here. Just because we were released from Chris’s tumor and cancer, doesn’t mean that I can’t press on in it beside her. I can be there for her in a way that is unique. I’ve been through it. I get it. Before we hung up together, I let her know that she and I weren’t changing. If I tell her I’m still there for her no matter what, I mean it. I will listen to her sadness, her grief, her anger and when she’s got it, her hope. But I will never, ever tell her that it’s going to be alright, or that she’ll get through it, or that God has a plan, or that she should remain strong, because all of that is crap. Sorry to dim the light, but hearing those words from well meaning folks, is the worst part of it because it isn’t OK, none of it is OK and when you’re in the depths of fearing your husband’s death, no plan of God or reassurance of strength is going to make it better. It just won’t and it just doesn’t.
And when I told her that, she thanked me deeply and said, “Jen, that’s all I needed to hear today.”
She went and shared the news of their daddy with my boys and I’m so thankful she did. That moment with her on the phone was grounding for me, but also allowed me to put into perspective the gravity of it all. I cannot let our experience over the last three years be in vain. Like I said, we are given an opportunity here. I don’t really know what it looks like yet, but I know its there.
On the way home from the hospital that day, we got our pastor, Eric, on speaker phone to discuss how Chris would share his testimony coming up during both services on Easter Sunday. He was asked to prayerfully consider doing it about a month prior, but he knew he didn’t need to consider. He just would do it. Because, well, he rolls like that. And I supported him in his non-decision and imagined sitting out in the second row beaming at him as he shared about his journey. Safe in my seat, proud of my man.
As Eric proceeded to share with us the plan for his sermon Easter morning, he explained how he would incorporate Chris’s story with a parable or two about soul-piercing sadness, as in Mother Mary at the foot of the cross upon the crucifixion of her Son. But also, overwhelming joy and happiness as in His resurrection.
“So Chris,” Eric says, in a loud voice battling over the hum of our driving in rush hour traffic on the interstate. “I wonder if you’ll be able to share a bit about the history of your story, then about the sadness you felt during your story, and then also your happiness.”
I grinned at my husband. I knew what was coming.
“Well, Eric,” Chris responds. “You know me, I never really had any sadness….”
Far be it for me to interrupt a speaker phone conversation in the car driving from Denver to Colorado Springs between my husband and our pastor…
HAHAHA! I kid. I totally interrupted.
“AHEM,” I made a little noise in my throat, but carried on loudly after that. “Yea, hey there, Eric. It’s Jen. Um, yea, you need sadness from during our story? I’ve got your sadness.”
And we all giggled. But seriously. Then Eric confessed that I actually had brought him to an idea he’d had. Would Chris like to share our story and add my behalf while he was up there or would I simply like to join him up on stage and share my stuff, too? All the while, Chris is mouthing to me, “YES!! Do it!!” and pointing at me and giving me thumbs up.
“Yea, OK. That sounds pretty good, Eric,” I say. “I’ll do it!”
A note from me……!! I know its bad form to end it there. But, I do what I want! HAHAHA! Oh my, I’m just playing. I have a whole post in the works for the rest of this story, but my neck might stop supporting my head if I continue to sit here and write the rest of it in one post. And your eyes might fall out from reading so long if I did continue on this one. SO, please, I love you. Hang in there and I’ll post it as soon as its done.