May 4, 2006 ... that was the day we first heard the word CANCER uttered. Vern had been having increasingly severe back pain for several months. He went to a chiropractor, was prescribed some pain meds, went to physical therapy - but it kept getting worse. He eventually got to the point he was having trouble walking and they did an MRI. I can still remember the phone call from Dr. J that evening ... "Hey man, you've got a tumor on your spine. I want you to see a friend of mine at 7:30 tomorrow morning." We met with Dr. B who showed us the scans with the mass in the spinal nerve column. He said the tumor was metasticized from another cancer somewhere else in his body and he needed to be immediately admitted to the hospital for more extensive tests. They thought he probably had prostate or colon cancer and were not at all positive about his prognosis. We were in shock, so we drove to a quiet neighborhood and parked the car to talk, pray, shed some tears and build up our resolve to fight this thing before checking into the hospital.
The next afternoon Vern had surgery to remove the tumor and repair the compressed T-11 vertebrae - and I was told he had Multiple Myeloma ... a blood cancer that attacks the bone marrow. The next 4-1/2 years brought so very many issues, many hospitalizations and multiple crises (a bleed out after surgery with 4 units of the wrong blood being given, rehab to regain his ability to walk, GI bleed, pneumonia, pulmonary embolism, pleural effusion, chemotherapy, radiation, dehydration, c-diff, stage 4 pressure ulcer, colostomy, TPN, infections, malnutrition, kidney failure, dialysis, abdominal aortic pseudoaneurysm, endovascular repair, multiple blood transfusions). Vern was so very brave and I was proud to be by his side the whole way. We were one ... and together we were greater than the sum of our parts.
I haven't spent a lot of time remembering that eventful day, but on this 5 year anniversary my thoughts have returned there. It was a tough battle - very tough - but it also brought us much joy as we grew even closer.
So where do I go from here?
"Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand - and melting like a snowflake." Marie Beyon Ray
I know Vern would want me to move forward. I can take steps forward, but there continue to be steps backward, too. And I think that's ok, it's normal, there is no timeline for grieving. It will take as long as it takes (a line used by my bereavement buddy, John). So very true.