Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Blue Sky in the Winter

My dear Shelley is resting this afternoon, and I find myself with a rare opportunity to sit here and write something. It's been a difficult few months and more months of challenge loom ahead. Nonetheless, we find delight every day.

Just this morning, I was looking out the window into the beautiful blue sky of winter and saw a black bird fly across the sky. It was just that fast, in the blink of an eye, the bird displaying its proficiency in flight, moving from treetop to treetop. I think I could tell that the bird was having fun flying. It didn't just streak through the sky, but fluttered up and down, like a young kid with the new bike going down the road. Such delight in an instance.

And so our life goes. We have such moments alone and together that bring happiness and delight. Every instance is not relished or cherished. But if we take a moment, and contemplate what happens thoroughly, I believe we can and often do find something to appreciate and find joy in. Of course, my perspective differs from Shelley's; I am not called upon to suffer so. But we do laugh together often. And cry.

Shelley has now undergone three chemotherapies. They have been hard on her, very hard. She has lost considerable weight and most of her hair, had persistent nausea, struggled with bouts of diarrhea and constipation, bled from her nose and down below and other places too, suffered shooting pains and cramps, terrible fatigue, etc. She still cannot breathe well; is supposed to be on oxygen 24/7. It is hard. There is, after all, still a plural effusion and clots in her lung, besides everything else. There are persistent appointments at the doctors' offices, prickings and pokes, probings and sticks. It is not possible for me to articulate all of her various troubles and trials. Yet, she still is able to find laughter and a smile and delight and happiness, more than you would expect.

Some days are better than others. Some moments are worse.

At times, I think I should catalog all of this better. I think sometimes I should tell the whole story, if that were somehow possible. It's not. First of all, it would all be just from my perspective, not hers. I miss a lot.

The type and the advancement of the cancer Shelley now has — peritoneal (related to ovarian cancer) — is chronic. It differs from the kind of cancer she had twenty-five — going on twenty-six — years ago. Then, her Hodgkin's lymphoma was curable, not chronic. The cancer she has now was first detected when doctors drew out fluid from her pleural cavity and tested it. It did not originate in the pleural cavity so it had traveled there from another location, which means it is metastatic. It is also diffuse.

The foreseeable plan includes her visiting with a specialist in her type of cancer in Salt Lake City this week. She will need to have an other CT scan, but she has difficulty drinking the prep fluids, in this case, barium, for such scans — she can hardly get the fluid down, and if she does, it usually comes right back up anyway.

Friends and relatives have been very sensitive and loving. They want to help and serve and, when we let them, they do. They're very supportive. It would be difficult to articulate here all of the get well wishes and cards, gifts and flowers and plants, letters and notes, visits and phone calls, meals and treats we have received. The cousin who came and gave Shelley shots when she needed them. People have come and taken Kiele out to eat or to a movie to help out, have made certain that she feels welcome at meetings, have called her to help her deal with all of this. The same is true of various healthcare providers, generally. They have been wonderful — caring, sensitive, comprehensive in their attentions.

We are, by nature and by choice, an independent couple. Since we married all those years ago and left our respective homes and immediate families to forge a new life together as husband and wife, we have never needed or sought much help from anybody; anything anyone ever did for us, we always tried to pay back, generously. I hope we have succeeded in that regard, although there are many people much more generous than we are who make it very difficult to do, and now, I'm afraid, we've fallen behind them will never catch up. In any event, over a lifetime we have grown quite self-sufficient — made it into a way of life. We like it that way and believe it's the way people should generally live, if they can. Plus, I think we like our privacy.

Anyway, we are grateful. People have prayed for us and blessed us. They continue to do so, perhaps in measures that we will never be able to fully appreciate or repay. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.