What would Christmas be without cancer?
That was Greg’s response.
My statement had been, “Well, if it does turn out to be something, at least the timing is good, with time off of school, etc.”
“Well, yes, what would Christmas be without cancer?”
Three months post-chemo meant MRIs and blood work for Greg this week. Mercifully, he didn’t tell me about all of this until the day he was headed to Salt Lake City. It is not that I worry excessively, but it does mean feeling a pit in my stomach, or an extra weight on my shoulders until I hear all is clear. A hovering uneasiness is probably the best way to describe it. MRI on Tuesday with clear results on Wednesday. Blood work on Wednesday with low numbers back on Thursday. Then Friday morning came, and in the middle of the off-to-school rush I received a call asking for Greg. It is rare to get a phone call for him and it is usually the hospital scheduler calling our number by mistake, but this voice sounded intelligent and kind, so I found a quiet spot to hear his message. This kind, intelligent voice belonged to Greg’s oncologist in Utah. His MRI had be re-read by Dr. So-and-So, the best reader of abdominal films, and a suspicious spot had been identified.
Friends who read of this account are probably letting out a low moan, similar to the one I shared with Dr. W—. (I almost met this doctor after Greg’s surgery, but didn’t. We think that he believes my mother is Greg’s mom because she accompanied him on several visits… a bit awkward because he thinks he knows to whom he is speaking. – irrelevant -)
There is a good chance that this spot is scar tissue. Between moving a large piece of colon a few months ago and removing his right rectus abdominus muscle five years ago, there could obviously be a little bit of scarring. This is what we are counting on… they will be calling to schedule a PET scan and hopefully it happens soon… If there is something that needs to be removed, we are praying that surgery will take care of it and he can be spared another round of chemotherapy.
A few nights ago I was praying and was just overcome by feelings of love from my Father in Heaven. It was so real, it was like a hug. I knew again who I truly am – his daughter. My experiences here on Earth are for my learning. He wants us to be strong, to have courage… and the miracle is that he is there to provide it for us if we look to him and seek his help. It was a beautiful experience, and the next morning the doctor called. We are hopeful that this spot is just scar tissue, but it is comforting to know that if there is a fresh trial to face – the God of the Universe knows us, loves us and is on our side!!!
And… the timing is good. Greg will be home for Christmas, and what is Christmas without cancer?
Actually very few of my Christmases have been associated with cancer. I just typed up a few stories – none of them are new:
First Cancer Christmas was 1990. Mark had a large bone tumor removed from his femur that summer. The weakened bone then fractured while he was bowling, but it was so high on his leg that it could not be set without a body cast. We had managed to borrow a wheelchair to get him to his final exams for the semester, but we were just newlyweds and determined to go back to our parents’ homes in California for Christmas. What a trip – over an hour to get him from his bed and into our car. I drove on snow-packed roads from Provo to St. George. We were about the only car brave enough to be there, and I just followed my dad’s instructions to get my speed and not slow down. Mark was in considerable pain but would occasionally try to stretch back with the long-armed snow scraper to wipe the back window of our little Dodge Colt which has defrost issues. It wasn’t so painful for him to help clear off the front windshield. We had the necessary equipment to ensure that he never had to get out of his seat and I just drove for all I was worth – it is twelve hours on a good day. We pulled into his parent’s driveway and etched on my mind is the image of his father and brother, Danny, coming from the house to extract him from his seat and carry him indoors. What a relief to be with family who loved us and wanted to take care of us.
What year was it that he had the parotid gland tumor removed from his face? Maybe seven or eight years ago. Was that Christmas? I can’t recall, but it was during a huge snow storm through which I had to get myself home to the kids when they decided to keep him overnight. The surgery had taken many hours longer than expected and it was late when I got home. Then back through the snow to retrieve him in the morning. We laugh now when we remember how he called me early in the morning to come and help him because the nurses weren’t doing just what he thought he needed… It’s a good thing our children are brave because they have spent a lot more time in hospital beds than their dad.
There was the magical Christmas of 2010 when we all gathered in Greg’s hospital room and had a special visit from Santa Claus who came bearing several gifts for each child in the family. How wonderful that Santa could find us so far from our home.
2012 – Mark’s father passed away (due to cancer) just before Christmas. We were able to use our time off during the break to go and be with family.
2013 – We had just learned about Jackie’s parotid tumor and Natalie’s brain tumor, but the plan was to watch them for changes. It was the 26th of December when the doctor called from his family vacation in Florida to let us know that they had somehow missed the large chordoma on Jackie’s spine – I guess the page had been missing from the report. Yet as soon as they found out the wheels began to roll very quickly to remove this horrible tumor. Even then it took a couple months for all the necessary testing and precautions… I have always thought that this was a sweet blessing in timing – we were blessed with a peaceful Christmas before the storm.
2014 – Great Christmas to have all of our children home together – may be the last time we ever have just the eight of us alone! With all of the good times was that same “hovering uneasiness” about Greg’s health. He weighed less than all of us, except perhaps Kimberly… and, of course, it was colon cancer – surgery in January and six months of chemotherapy.
2015 – ??? (Well, we are moving two weeks before Christmas, so it’s not like we don’t have a little added stress already.)