It’s a beautiful morning. Beautiful, because I got to sleep in an entire two hours! Beautiful, because the sun slowly rises on the other side of the field glazing the world in a gorgeous orange glow, lighting aflame the warm colors of the trees around me. Beautiful, because I have a steaming cup of fresh brewed coffee at my side.
When I was a kid I used to listen to Paul Harvey. I think that was his name any way. To this day I can still hear his voice saying, “and that, is the rest of the story.” I couldn’t tell you a single story he shared throughout his entire life, without the help of Google that is, but his concept stuck somewhere deep inside my little kid mind.
I hate not knowing the rest of the story. When I see an accident on the side of the road, I wonder forever if those people were okay. When I hear of a horrible house fire on the news, I wonder forever if those people were able to have their home rebuilt. When I observe a mother frustrated with her child in the store, I wonder forever if she’s a horrible parent or merely having a horrible day.
The truth is, that we live in a continuum of not knowing the rest of the story. Our very lives, our personal rest of the story, are unbeknownst to us.
I went back to the neurosurgeons nearly a month ago. A small glimpse of the visit was recorded here. I left the office with a hollow feeling inside of me. Withdrawn into myself. Tears filled my eyes as I tried to see past their blur to make it home. Oddly enough, exactly what I had wished to be told, I was. My prayers were desperate cries to not have surgery. Granted, I also didn’t want to have something wrong that they were unable to fix either, but I didn’t include the fine print into my prayers. My bad.
I have a herniated disc in the center of my thoracic spine. That’s the part that is connected to your ribs. I also have several bulging discs in my cervical spine, or neck. They may all heal with time and physical therapy, they may not. They may worsen. Either way, I was told in the most scientifically proper way possible, that I just had to learn to live with it.
So live I have. I stopped babying the area in fear of causing it more damage. Though I’m not completely reckless. I still do like to avoid the onset of immense pain. Most the time though, I push through the pain that I do have. I continue to fold clothes, vacuum, lift heavy boxes and even heavier children. I grit my teeth and I grin and bear it. Because really, what other option did the doctor give me? To curl up and die, or to stand up and live. I chose to live.
I bet that it sounds trivial from the outside. “Oh, lordy, she’s got a herniated disc, call in the special forces. Oh woah is me.” It is what it is, and we didn’t ask for this. We didn’t ask for my husband to have cancer, we didn’t ask for my step-daughter to break down, we didn’t ask for the responsibility of her three babies, we didn’t ask for the car accident. It was simply the hand we were dealt, and woah is me or not, we are dealing with it the best we know how.
Sometimes, being so strong all the time comes with it’s weaknesses. Sometimes, the burden becomes too great for my shoulders to bear. After all, I have a herniated disc, it’s difficult to bear great weight at the moment! (insert uncomfortable laughter here)
Really, it’s not the end of the world. Just what’s been up in my little world. A little piece of the rest of my story. I see the doctor again in a couple weeks and I go to her bearing good news. The pain is lower than it’s been, though still quite painful. My physical therapy is progressing as it should. I have full range of motion back. I get pain injection shots in a few days, and though they make the pain far worse for a few weeks, they do seem to make it better in the long run. I’m interested in finding out if my work restrictions will be continued or lifted and what the doctor thinks my ultimate prognosis is. We shall see.
For now, I am sure we are all due for a coffee refill!
The last time we were at the cancer doctor my husband received some good news and some bad. Well, unexpected more so than bad. The good news is that his blood counts that they test right away while we are there are all back to normal. This is amazing given that a mere six months ago when he was first diagnosed his white blood count was in the hundred of thousands!
After we leave they run his blood work through a lab testing something else. The results of this something else, that has an appropriately long scientific name that is impossible to remember, are told to us the following visit. This number needs to be insanely low, for where it’s at right now, and it needs to stay that low number for ten years before they begin to wean him off of the cancer treatment and see how his body reacts without it. IF the body maintains itself then they will conclude that the cancer has went dormant, though he will always have to remain on guard of it attacking again.
This brought two negative realizations to us, or to me anyway; 1: that he is guaranteed to be on this treatment for no less than another ten years, and 2: that this will be a battle for the rest of his life, though hopefully not a battle for his life. We are extremely lucky, still, because had this cancer overtaken his body ten years ago he would have lost his battle roughly five years later. There was literally nothing they could do for this particular cancer.
It is proposed that, with proper care, he can live out a normal lifespan. I take this information with a grain of salt though. For starters, the treatment he is on is relatively new. After all, ten years ago it did not exist. How many people have truly lived out a “normal lifespan” in the time since this medication has been discovered? For another, this cancer typically affects those in their high 60’s or older. It is extremely rare that my husband, in his mid-forties, has developed this type of cancer. So, how can they truly say that he has the likelihood of an individual in their mid sixties of living out a “normal lifespan”?
It may appear that I am being quite the pessimist. Truthfully, I’ve never shared these thoughts with my husband. I never shared that I’ve read the treatment only works for so long before they have to switch him to a different brand of it. That there are only so many brands to switch to. I never shared the things I’ve read because I know that above all, faith and courage will bring him so much further than if he lost hope. And the truth is, he has lots to hope for, there is simply a realistic side to it as well.
The reality is that life isn’t forever. But, isn’t that true for all of us? His life, my life, your life? None of them will last an eternity, though a bit of our teenage years may have felt that way!
I am quite the optimist at heart. The day is beautiful. The world is beautiful. People are beautiful. The coffee is beautiful. Sometimes, I forget that my husband has cancer. He’s strong and he pushes through many of his symptoms. It’s easy to forget when he’s outside working on something that all the while his muscles are screaming at him in pain, the cancer making them so weak they are hard to move. I look around and I expect the same things of him that I would any man in his place. I expect help with the housework. I expect him to help with the kids. I expect him to kill that spider when I scream. Often, I forget that he is sore and tired and weak and I expect the same things from him that I would any other human in his place. Not that I do it with purpose, but I think that it helps in its own way. I don’t give him a chance to wither away in self-pity. There are spiders to kill after all!
In the same way, I think my pessimistic realist way of accepting things also serves it’s purpose. Life is but a timer counting down. Nothing lasts forever. Not the good, nor the bad. Cancer, a car accident, they can strike anyone, at any time.
I know a man who was out in his tree stand hunting. A beautiful day. A beautiful dusk. The smell of a certain kill in the air. His wife and small child at home, likely playing quietly by a warm fire, dinner slowly cooking on the stove. The man was in his element. Hunting as men are born to do. He thought of his long work day. His blessing of having a job. His beautiful family that job provided for. He thought of the delicious meal stewing on the stove at home. His eyes slowly fell shut. He drifted off to a peaceful sleep, swiftly falling out his tree stand. He was instantly paralyzed from the waist down. His life forever changed in but a moment. As all of ours can be.
Nothing is forever. Not the good, nor the bad. The realization of this brings on such an immense appreciation for the here and now. The bad is less bad, the good, more good. That knowledge is what comes from what may appear a pessimistic view of my husbands cancer. I know without a moments hesitation that we do not have forever. The reality is that we never did have forever, not even before the cancer. Not before the car accident. Not before the herniated disc. The only difference is that now, I know, unlike my optimistic ignorance.
Possibly that’s the whole purpose of catching up with you all today. To share the beautiful day, the beautiful sunrise, the beautiful coffee, and the beautiful truth. That each day. Each sunrise. Each cup of warm delicious coffee. Each moment. It is all a blessing. It is all a gift. A beautiful, amazing gift. Because, nothing last forever, not the good, nor the bad.
And that, is the rest of the story.