This one may be a little lengthy, for that I apologize in advance. I haven’t written in a while so I’ve apparently got some pent up words to share. Today, we started round 3 of this journey we have been on for the past 5 months. Round 1 was surgery, Round 2 was the initial chemo and radiation treatments, and now we are on to Round 3, the “hard” chemo. This is the term the doctor has always used to refer to this step in our treatment. The round will consist of four, six week cycles for a total of 24 weeks. On weeks one of each cycle I receive two chemo drugs at the hospital via IV, then take another chemo drug in pill form. They let these do their job and give me recovery time, then on week 3 of each cycle I receive another dose of one of the IV chemo drugs. This format will be repeated until the 24 weeks have concluded. I can tell they are preparing me for being pretty sick during these treatments. I was given two separate medications at the hospital prior to the infusion to combat nausea, I will take steroids for the next three days to help prevent post infusion nausea and I have a decent quantity of Zofran on hand to use as needed. So while this doesn’t sound pleasant, I am happy to at least be prepared for it!
I have to share the best part of today: While I am hooked up to the IV machine getting this poison poured into my bloodstream, Heather and I were able to laugh with each other. Picture it: we are at the hospital in the one of the least pleasant circumstances one could imagine and to say that I am scared and nervous about this round (which means she is too) is an understatement. Then as we are talking to pass the time, we both enjoy a moment of true joy in laughter (the subject of which I will keep between us). This was not just the quick laugh at a joke type laugh, but a real laugh, the kind that starts with a deep connection between two people, that starts with love, and a laugh that evolves into sharing a moment together when everything in the room disappears so that its just the two of you, the circumstances you find yourself in are erased for that brief moment, joy takes over, and you laugh, together. Truly the best part of my day!
The lesson of the day: rise up, life goes on.
This is something I’ve experienced this whole time, but today was another great example of this. The girls don’t aren’t old enough (thankfully) to comprehend what we are facing. The point of life goes on that was brought to the forefront for me today, is that they don’t understand all this stuff we are dealing with, and so they still need to be kids. They need to be given opportunities to be fun, loving, exhausting, frustrating, silly, spontaneous kids despite whatever else is going on. Today, after getting the infusions taken care of, Heather and I ran some errands, then picked the girls up from school, went to a Farmer’s Market, ate out for dinner, then spent time with them at a park. As we were walking around the pathway that meanders throughout the park, we came upon a pond with a little boy fishing. He was using one of those kid fishing kits, and he was really into it, he had the tackle box, bobber attached to his line and he could cast like a pro. I did notice he didn’t have a lure on his line or any other form of bait on his hook, so he wasn’t overtly successful, but I bet he’s ok coming up empty handed. He seemed like he just loved being out there. So as we are walking, Hadley and Avery are watching, mesmerized by this boy and his fishing, “Mommy, I want a fishing pole for my birthday”, Avery said. Now, in Avery code this means, I really want one right now, but I know I have a better chance of you getting me one if I attach it to my birthday (she’s 3 going on 13 for sure). Heather then tells them about how she used to fish with her Grandpa for hours when she was little. We talked about our future fishing adventures for the next 20 minutes. Getting back to the point, life goes on. For Avery and Hadley, life will go on, despite daddy going through a tough time, they will learn to fish, and they deserve to. Today could have easily been comprised of a hospital visit and an extended stay on the couch, and I don’t think anyone would’ve questioned it. Don’t get me wrong, there will certainly be days coming up and there have been many along this journey where I am not physically able to be the “life goes on dad”, but today was about seeing that I’m sick (but feeling good today), they are not, so they deserve every opportunity to have their life go on as it normally would on this beautiful spring day. I am beyond thankful and truly blessed to have the ability to participate in this busy family filled day!
I must also address the other connotation to the “life goes on” term. In the past weeks, I know of at least two families who have lost a mother to this terrible disease, I have heard of many stories of other families who are having a rough month of May, medically, emotionally and otherwise. Life goes on in these circumstances too. This is not to say that life doesn’t hurt, doesn’t matter, or is fair. Life isn’t fair and it does hurt sometimes, but most importantly it definitely does matter despite any circumstances you face. It’s not as simple as taking the kids to play at the park, but life goes on for those of us who remain, to carry on the memories and share our own “fishing stories”.
John O’Leary says it like this is his book, On Fire. For full context you’ll need to understand his story and I promise its a story worth knowing:
“Before that day [when life changed], I was a typical nine-year old kid. I shirked responsibility and seldom owned my actions, and even less frequently the resulting effects. I cleaned my room because I had to, I did my homework because they made me, I went to church because they told me to. My parents were in charge, I followed. They gave me everything I needed and I happily accepted all of it. I was a bit entitled. […] I lived in a beautiful house. I had a father who worked, a mother who stayed home. I lived in a safe neighborhood [and] went to a great school. We had church on Sundays, blueberry pancakes afterward, and fried chicken at Grandma’s in the evening. We even owned a golden retriever. We had it all. Life was perfect. And then life changed. It always does.
When life changes, we can beg and plead to go back to the way things were. Feeling entitled to that reality. Waiting for someone to wave the magic wand and put things back to normal; back to the way life was.
We can step up, recognize that it is time to move forward from here, and embrace total accountability and ownership over our lives.” LIFE GOES ON.
Where does your inspiration come from?
While waiting to start Round 2, I decided I wanted to have something to constantly remind me where to keep my focus during the difficult times, and where to attribute the success during the good times. I bought this bracelet, handcrafted by a woman in Israel, I have worn it everyday, along with my #DAVISSTRONG band. These two items have been wonderful sources of inspiration. I cannot count the number of times I have glanced at them, if only for a moment, to either square my shoulders to gain strength, remember to give credit where credit is due (God and His grace), or remember the support of others traveling this journey with me.
In addition to gaining inspiration from quotes, like the one on the right, music has been a great source of inspiration for me lately. It’s strange that now that we are at a point in this journey that things happen slower, the need for inspiration has actually increased to me. When it was surgery, radiation, chemo in round 1 and 2 those were very much mandated steps that happened very quickly. Did I need inspiration, strength, prayer and support to get through them, without a doubt, in fact I believe that’s the only reason I did. Those rounds were scary and fraught with the opportunity for a much different and far less positive outcome than I am facing now, but now that life is a little more normal. There has been time to breathe and now, getting back up, dusting off my weak, light, bald, scared body and move forward requires a bigger boost than I anticipated. Starting treatment back up with a positive outlook and strength after a 5 week break has required a greater deal of inspiration. Today, I turn to a song again, not a new one, but a new song to me. Below are the lyrics and link to the song. It’s called “Rise Up” and to me this song is all about standing strong in the storm arms spread wide, screaming from the bottom of your soul, “I WILL RISE UP, I WILL BE STRONG, I WILL SURVIVE”. I hope you like it.
The way this song inspires me: I envision the first verse as someone talking to me, a pep talk of sorts. Someone telling me to get yourself together and remember the strength you possess, strength to move mountains. The tone then changes and to me, this is me standing up and vowing to rise up; but not to rise up for me, to rise up for you, for my family, for my friends, for my wife, for my daughters. The tone then switches back to someone continuing their pep talk, this time reassuring me that together, with hope we will rise up. This song is another one of those examples that when the student is ready, the master shall appear. I discovered this song on a day when I was feeling particularly weak emotionally and battered down by the thought of what Round 3 may look like. This song has inspired me to stand faithfully in the storm, spread my arms wide with my team surrounding me and screaming from the bottom of my soul:
“I WILL RISE UP, I WILL BE STRONG, I WILL SURVIVE, I WILL REMAIN DAVIS STRONG”
Thanks for sticking with me; Stay Strong,
Andra Day: Rise Up
You’re broken down and tired, of living life on a merry go round
And you can’t find the fighter, but I see it in you
So we gonna walk it out and move mountains
We gonna walk it out and move mountains
And I’ll rise up, I’ll rise like the day
I’ll rise up,I’ll rise unafraid
I’ll rise up, And I’ll do it a thousand times again
And I’ll rise up, High like the waves
I’ll rise up, In spite of the ache
I’ll rise up, And I’ll do it a thousand times again
When the silence isn’t quiet, and it feels like it’s getting hard to breathe
And I know you feel like dying, but I promise we’ll take the world to its feet
And move mountains, we’ll take it to its feet and move mountains
All we need, all we need is hope
And for that we have each other
And for that we have each other
We’ll rise up, In spite of the ache
We’ll rise up
And we’ll do it a thousand times again