We had almost forgotten what life was like when it is uneventful; it can actually be quite enjoyable! We spent a day last week down at our beach house with the kids and grandkids – what a pleasant break from trips up to the Medical Center. My trip there was the first since last September. It is amazing how cancer consumes lives in so many different ways – time and energy, in particular, have been stunted in its face. The beach actually let us forget about cancer for a day; it was joyous – particularly for Jack, who loves being surrounded by family.
Due to the radiation on his neck, Jack has been sans taste buds for almost two weeks. His taste is beginning to return, as well as his appetite - or at least his interest in maintaining some reasonable level of food intake. I am still surprised by how little Jack eats in a day. With his weight loss stabilizing at minus 60 pounds, we shopped for sweats and shirts this week – Jack’s old clothes were sagging across his shoulders. Every time I look at Jack now, he reminds me of the young 25 year old I fell in love with over 40 years ago. He continues to amaze me.
We visited the pain management doctor today; he will do surgery on Jack’s back on March 11. Jack is still unable to lie flat on his back; he has considerable chest pain and back pain upon sitting up or standing up straight for more than about ten minutes. And he has numbness and stinging sensations in his thighs that wake him in the night. There are no absolute promises, but after separating 5 collapsed vertebrae with balloons and inserting cement in them to prevent further collapse, the pain doctor believes much of Jack’s pain may be alleviated. The recovery period for this surgery is minimal, with temporary muscle spasms being the primary issue. I continue to be thankful for the skills and experience base at M.D. Anderson – they’ve done over a thousand of these surgeries in the last half-dozen years, with virtually no incidents of note.
Jack has a lot on his plate this month – back surgery and preparation for the stem cell transplant, along with physical therapy to build his endurance. As always, I know he can do what is required. Jack’s contagious optimism continues to buoy me when my own spirits flag. Yes – he is amazing.
And so are all of you. There is just no way that we can adequately thank everyone for the help they have given us and continue to give us. Thanks and praise go to Susan B and Fran for co-piloting our trips down to M.D. Anderson – along with offers from so many other friends. We have been blessed with gourmet meals from Jean C, Virginia S, Georgann W, and Jerryann C – as well as wonderful snacks from Merri S. Conversations with Bob and Melba H have been very helpful to us – we share many of the same concerns and issues regarding cancer. Son-in-law Robbie surprised me by carrying a tv downstairs for Jack; many thanks, Rob! Cheerfully fresh flowers bring thoughts of future Spring days, thanks to both Peggy C and Merri S. Sara B, in Hanoi, sent us an incredible card, filled with silk and symbols for health, happiness, and luck. Visits from Fred and Georgann W, Merri S, and Cynthia C entertained Jack several days in a row; cancer isolates those it strikes, so their friendship is especially appreciated. Everyone who has sent encouraging and friendly cards and emails to Jack – thank you for your thoughtfulness. A breakfast and long conversation with Lynn S, whose sister has the same disease as Jack, was especially informative and helpful to me; Lynn’s sister (Beth) had the same transplant doctor that Jack has; Lynn and Beth provided us with a wealth of books and information on stem cell transplants that I am still devouring. Well-wishes from Margo C the many members of The Quilt Show have been especially healing for my soul – along with the comfort quilt that my Birthday quilt group gave me. The extraordinary friendship and support of all of you continues to bring tears to our eyes. We cannot believe how fortunate we are – even in the midst of the toughest and most sobering struggle we have ever faced. We are ever-thankful for cherished friends, a deep faith, and a beloved family. Life is good.
Sue and Jack