When I began this journey with Hodgkin Lymphoma a few months ago, I really didn’t know what to expect. My father went through the same regimen for the most part, but even though I was very close to him during all that struggle, I was still not ready for the full “Cancer” treatment. For those of your that really know me, you know that I am not a very patient person. That goes for having patience and being a patient (see what I did there?). Today was chemo treatment number 7. If you remember my first treatment was on December 27th of last year. That seems like an eternity ago. That was even before I started my blog. Now I am a veteran of the chemo ward. Everybody knows my name there, just like Norm from Cheers. I have now had the pleasure of sitting in all the different nooks and crannies in the chemo dock. I have also run the gamit of side effects. I went through hair loss, metallic mouth, exhaustion, nausea, and migraines. I have had some of the worst days of my life these past few months, but I must say I have also had a few of my best days. And you know readers, I really couldn’t have had those best days without cancer. Really think about that. Our trials in life are what make life beautiful. They are the things that expose us for who we really are. A few years ago through a series of actions some good, a lot bad, I lost many of my closest friends. It was one of the best times of my life, because it was so awful. When my father went through chemotherapy I was in middle school. Then my parents separated for a time. Because of my dad’s journey, I had a guide here with me every step of the way. Because of that time apart, my parents love each other more today than they ever did, and they love us (the kids) better too. I know I probably sound like a broken record by now. Maybe I look at the bright side of life too much or maybe thats just the way God wants it. Don’t get me wrong, many days I am just ready for this to be over. However, I can’t help but sit back and think, “God what are you really doing here.” It has got to be good.
I watched a lot of TV growing up. It wasn’t that my parents weren’t interested in me or that I was terribly unathletic (although I was terribly unathletic), I just really enjoyed it. Being a kid of the 80s and 90s really set me up for some quality television. More on that at another time. Really I wanted to focus on not my favorite show, but a show that came to mind to me this week. Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood was one of the oddest shows ever made. Really lets be honest the puppets were terrifying. They were something out of a horror movie and the voices they had were equally disturbing. Really the big draw of the show was not the puppets and other characters, but Mr. Roger himself. The way that he introduced himself to his audience. He always made you feel comfortable and welcome. Then he spoke words that were just for you. Made you hear them, not by force, but because you wanted to hear them. That’s when I heard about being kind to others, sharing, lending a helping hand, and that hard word to understand, empathy. Another key thing that Mr. Rogers said is listed in a small book I have on my desk at school. Its a book of quotes by Mr. Rogers and on the front is a mirror and the words, “You are Special.” I think I got this book as a graduation gift. I still look at it and smile today, because I mean how can’t you smile at that. Well in that book is a quote that goes something like this:
“Sometimes it is not a sign of weakness when you ask for help….sometimes it is a sign of strength.”
I don’t know if I have ever been the kind of person that liked to handle things alone. I have always been the one to want to have someone there with me through every situation. I like companionship and friendship. However, I am one stubborn kid. I hate to be told no and thats not possible. I also don’t like to be taken care of. You can ask my parents. I hated to be told what to do. For instance, if I was supposed to clean my room it had to be on my terms. I didn’t want to be told now was the time to clean. I wanted to clean in Bryce’s time. Same thing with getting out of bed in the morning. I wanted to get up when I wanted to, not when anyone else wanted me to. This obsession has overflowed into my classroom. Not that I have the most organized room in the world, but my process is set and my way of distribution and grading and leading class is perfect for my room. I love it. All of this is leading up for me to tell you that this week was the worst week of my year.
It started off just fine. All the problems arose on Tuesday at lunch. See my “bad days” after chemo are typically the Tuesday and Wednesday directly after treatment. This Tuesday saw the arrival of another migraine episode. I really hate migraines. I used to suffer from them a lot more in high school and college, but they have only just resurfaced again since chemo. Migraines are very elusive things. No one really knows why they happen or how to effectively stop them. Everyone who suffers through them like me have some tricks of the trade to handle them. Sometimes these little aids help and sometimes they just do nothing. Really nothing works well to stop the pain. A migraine means I am out for the next 3-4 hours. And there is nothing I can do to stop it. The most frustrating part is that a migraine looks like nothing to the common bystander. They see no physical pain besides that which you show on your face. No one around you really knows the pain you are going through except you. At least when people see someone break a leg they aren’t wondering if the guy is faking it. With me I am always like, “I have a migraine.” But I feel like people hear me say, “my head hurts a little bit.” I wish the pain I felt was visible on the outside, like my head was bulging or something. Here is how my migraines start:
First, one of my eyes, usually my right eye begins to have blots of my vision missing. I can’t focus, my vision begins to blur, and I lose a bit of depth perception. It is almost like I lose sight out of my eye with it being completely open. As my vision comes back, a slight ache begins above my left eyebrow. My vision comes back completely, but the pain is becoming greater. I begin to sweat from the stress and strain. My words start to slur and stumble. I can’t figure out what I am trying to say. The pain is now so great that it is all I focus on. Light hurts to look at. Sound begins to feel like it is bouncing in my skull. I have to run. Nausea sets in. All I want to do is rip the pain out. Nothing makes the pain subside. And there I twist and turn for hours until I either throw up all that is in my stomach and fall asleep or I get medicine that knocks me out before the nausea is done. Laying in the dark with an ice pack on my forehead helps, but it is no match for the pain. And there I am waiting for the pain to subside.
That scene was my Tuesday afternoon. That scene was my Wednesday most of the day. That scene was my Thursday afternoon. Each day I tried a different medicine approach. Each day the medicine failed to help. Every day I woke up feeling good and went to school to teach. Every day I felt my vision begin to “short out” and I knew what was coming. After three days of nausea, headaches, and frustration, I took Friday off just in case. I took the day slow and tried to pick up the pieces of my mess of a week. We found out that migraines really weren’t usual chemo side effects. So that means I am unique….yay. Another theory might be that the migraines are caused by anxiety brought on by the chemo. Also I have two more treatments left and if this is a sign of things to come, I really dread the last two trips. But I can’t think like that for the anxiety in me might explode. All I know is that I am ready for the end.
I really had to learn that lesson from Mr. Rogers this week. I could not have made it through this week alone. I needed help. I needed my wife to fix me the best ice pack ever made and hold it on my forehead while I slept. She also covered up windows in our bedroom to block the light out. I needed my fellow teachers to step in and take care of my students that I had to leave in the middle of the day. Again I am reminded of how amazing it is to have willing and able people around you who care about you. I had to sit down and swallow my pride and say, “I can’t do this.” I think Mr. Rogers is right. It is harder sometimes to say you need help.
So many people ask me all the time what can they do and I always say, “oh nothing,” or “just pray.” The fact is that it is so much harder to accept the gift of help. We are such selfish beings. We think we can do it all, but the truth is that we really can’t. So thanks everyone for stepping up and saying, “let me do that.” This week, I really couldn’t have done it without you.
Most people love Spring Break. I am one of those people. I have always had a Spring Break. It is one of the many perks of being a teacher. Ever since I was young, Spring Break has always meant vacation. Mainly those vacations were in Disney World. When I was in 9th grade, I went to Disney World with my good friend Geoff and his family. It was epic. In college, I went with a group of friends from Mississippi College. That trip too was epic. After college, Carly and I traveled to Disney World with my sister and her now husband. Then yet another year we went with our good friends Steven and Chrissy. Both trips were, as you guessed, epic. This year there would be no Disney World. Instead there would be chemo. I love this time of year at Disney and really just this time of year. Spring Break this year began with Daylight Savings Time, which is great that there is more sunlight after 5 pm. I love long afternoons that extend into the evenings. It is a grea time to have a walk or play some frisbee. It is also a great time to be at EPCOT at Disney World. EPCOT just started their annual Flower and Garden Festival, which showcases the Disney Park’s green thumb. You really can see the change from Winter barren to Spring bloom.
1. fixed door and microwave
2. much needed hours of doing nothing
3. lunch at both Two Sisters (fried chicken!) and Old Capital Inn(Crab Cakes!)
4. lunch before chemo with our great friends the Sharpes and their 5 amazing kiddos at Chick fil a
5. listening to acoustic guitar Pandora while talking with my wife
6. listening to EPCOT background music with my wife while driving around running errands (yes I married the right woman, and yes if you want some EPCOT background music just ask)
So there the goods out weigh the gripes. Sometimes its great to just have a little perspective. Life will always have the Spring Forwards and the Fall Backs, but we have to keep the positives. I could sit and complain all day about my metallic mouth or the nausea OR I could laugh it off and know that I am getting healed.
There is a season for everything under the sun.
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(D)”> and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace. – Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
“Hello my name is Child of the One True King.” – Matthew West
“Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” – Genesis 32:28
Childlike Empress: He doesn’t understand that he’s the one who has the power to stop it(the Nothing). He simply can’t imagine that one little boy could be that important.
Bastian: Is it really me?
Atreyu: Maybe he doesn’t know what he has to do!
Bastian: What do I have to do?!
Childlike Empress: He has to give me a new name. He’s already chosen it, he just has to call it out.
“The nations will see your vindication, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow.” – Isaiah 62:2