Reality check

No posts in a while, I know. That’s because we’ve been in a state of semi-shock for the past few weeks as we digested some pretty tough news. It turns out that the thing on the roof of Chuck’s mouth wasn’t just a nothing. It’s cancer. The confirmed diagnosis, is follicular lymphoma, a type of malignant non-Hodgkins lymphoma. To say we were shocked and scared shitless is a massive understatement.

We kept it quiet that first day, cried a lot, had diarrhea – you know, the usual. We went to see an ear nose throat doc that the oral surgeon who performed the biopsy recommended because, well, because we didn’t know what else to do. He was okay, and lined up a lot of tests, but didn’t explain anything. That was when we called our friend Kyra, or as we think of her, our very own Florence Nightingale. She took charge and got us on to see an expert at City of Hope within days of the diagnosis. We jumped through a whole lot of red tape and bypassed all official paths. After a CT scan, blood tests, an MRI, and a PET scan, the doctor now knows the stage and grade of the lymphoma and has determined an aggressive treatment plan that will involve immunotherapy and chemo. Lymphoma falls into a category of cancers that are treatable and manageable but not curable (yet). Given the alternatives, we can deal with that just fine, thanks.

Chemo starts on Dec 15 and it will be an all day affair. He gets the immunotherapy first, then the chemo, then he takes prednisone for 5 days after (to combat the compromise to the immune system caused by the chemo). The treatments will take place once every three weeks for a total of six treatments. Phew! We decided last night to quit reading crap on the Internet about cancer unless it’s specific information. Reading online diaries of people with advanced pancreatic cancer is really not helping and mostly leaves us feeling depressed and/or anxious. Each person’s reaction to chemo is different, so the smartest thing to do, we’ve decided, is to wait and see how Chuck feels – and we won’t know that until he actually starts getting the drugs. One day at a time – that’s my new mantra (well, I’m trying anyway).

My sister (who is a cancer survivor) told us to think of this as a journey, and we are at the beginning and need to pace ourselves. Three weeks down the line, I now really know what she meant. Family and friends have been so supportive, it’s made us both cry. And Chuck, after almost eight years of silence is talking to his brother again. It’s funny how good things can come out of bad.

I’m glad we’re marathoners. We know about the long run and endurance. And if I might add a personal note to my husband of now six years, I love you more than words, Charlie O’Shea, and don’t you forget it!

Meanwhile, life goes on and so do we.