All stories have a beginning, but mine, mine starts even before that.
In April of 2016 my husband was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. At the time, he had a great job in the city about ten minutes away from our home. To have our son in a “decent” school meant that I was responsible for transporting him there. I was also the sole transportation for my husband, myself, our son, daughter, step-daughter, her two kids plus the one on the way, my sister, and our friend John. I was anything but bored.
My husbands cancer was found merely by the fact that he had become so ill for so long that he lost his job. We were back and forth between the two local hospitals as well as his family doctor for over two months before a doctor we will never have the words to thank enough did blood work. One bone marrow test later the diagnosis was confirmed.
My husband silently cried a few days later. Had he not told me I would have never known. I, on the other hand, went numb. I felt so much that I was unable to process it into an expressional emotion. Mostly though, I was overwhelmed.
My husband has two “adult” children from a previous marriage. Four actually, but two of them rely solely on him for love, support, and their financial well being. You know, typical things children should rely on a parent for.
I quote adult because by age alone they are adults. But what truly makes an adult in our species? We are not birds. We do not kick them out of our nests on their eighteenth birthday and expect them to soar on their own.
Regardless, we had alot of people counting on us to care for them, to love them as the world hasn’t. Alot of people counting on my husband, myself included.
Though I was numb, I was so overwhelmed with emotion. The door to my durango I had purchased a mere two months ago would slam shut as my ten year old son would scurry off to school and tears would flow down my cheeks right there in the drop off line.
I became overwhelmed with the most innocent of demands on my time. Overwhelmed to tears. I could no longer function in daily life. Worst of all, I felt that I didn’t deserve to respond the way I was. I didn’t feel worthy of experiencing the profound emotions I was experiencing. It wasn’t I who had been diagnosed with cancer.
I was having a nervous breakdown. A breakdown so severe that I did something that I was insanely opposed to since I was a teenager. I asked for help. I walked into my doctors and with the tears that had been streaming down my face for several weeks I told of all that had happened.
She prescribed me Welbutrin for “anxiety and depression” and set me up with an inhouse mental health therapist.
I liked the idea of thereapy this time. I hadn’t been on any medication in years. I didn’t want a pill to hide my burdens, I wanted to resolve them. I needed therapy.
I saw the therapist twice a week. My son needed a ride to school twice a day. My daughter needed a supervising mom all day long. My sister needed a ride to the dentists and doctors a few times a week. My husband went to the cancer clinic over five times the first month. The cancer clinic that was an hour and a half away. The cancer clinic that only had appointents that forced my son to miss school due to having no ride. I was also in college taking classes three days a week.
Where exactly did my twice a week therapy sessions fit into this?
I managed to pull off a couple appointments before the added drain on my already busy schedule and the misunderstanding vibe of the therapist himself pushed me over the edge.
I quit. Everything. I literally wanted to curl up in a ball and die.
I quit college a week before final exams. My A+ grade point average plumeted. I quit therapy. I quit everything that affected no one but me… or so I thought.
By now bills were piling up. We had weeks before the electric was shut off. Probably a week after that the water. My husband could no longer work. He could hardly get through a day. I couldnt find a job to save my life that would let me take my son to school, pick him up, miss work once a week to take my husband to a cancer clinic, not to mention all the “normal” appointents of a family.
The city life we had worked so hard to build was crumbling before our eyes.
We had finally had “everything”. My husband had a stable job that he loved and made enough money to support us. We owned our own home. I mean, really owned. Paid in cash. We had just purchased a third row suv with black leather interior and four wheel drive.
Okay so the house needed some work. Alot of work. And the suv, well it was a 2000. But it was OURS. It was our house. It was our suv. We owed no one for them. It was the beginning of the life we had worked so hard for. We had sacrifced so much for. And, it was only going to get better from here. Or so we thought.
Due to the circumstances of my husbands diagnosis and the severely abrupt change in family dynimacs forced upon us, we made a choice as a family to move “back home”.
We sold our home. No, this didn’t give us wads of money. We got less than five grand out of the home. A sacrifice of having to sell fast before we were living with no power or water. A chunk of that money went into paying a few debts we had to resolve before moving and the cost of the cheapest uhaul we could afford.
We packed what we could into the uhaul trailer hooked to my beloved suv. We loaded up our daughter and dog, tore our son away from his crying best friend, abandonded my stepdaughter and sister, left most of our belongings, and ran back home to momma.
We lived in a shed on my mother in laws property for nearly two months before we could find a home for sale on land contract in our old school district. My son missed his last month of school. We hid from truancy officers and cps workers alike.
It was a hard life, and the children knew it, but we treated it like an adventure. Treating it as such was our only means of survival.
Like any city in ruins, my husband and I stood staring at the crumbled remains of our life… and, we set out to rebuild.
I started work within two days of us moving back home. We socked away what money we could to add to our housing fund. Between cancer appointents and sick days my husband searched endlessly for a home for us. Our friend John, he quickly became the live in manny that we never knew we had.
In June of 2016 we finally found a house. The property was charming. Though the house was only a two bedroom, we could make it work. The children would share a room until we had the money to build an addition. John, our old friend and new manny, would live in what we very generously call our guest house.
Handing over all that we had from our first truly owned house and my few months of working, we signed up for years of house payments, a concept we had worked so hard to get away from.
At the time I was working 60 hour weeks. The days were long but they never bothered me. It was worth all the hard work to rebuild and reconquer. My one day off each week we spent at the new house trying to fix the water. Roughly 90 percent of the paycheck I brought home each week went into our “fix the water” fund.
One Sunday we thought we had it fixed! Finally! We moved our beds and a few essentials and began staying at our new home. Finally out of that shed. Finally windows to look out. The next morning I jumped in the shower before work. The water lasted roughly three minutes before the pump ran dry. That was precicely how much water we could use before we had to re-prime the pump. Even our four year old quickly learned how to shut the pump switch off when it made that ungodly monstererous sound.
We “lived” like that for two weeks before finally finding the solution to the water issue. In the meantime, every day after work, after a long hot ten hour day, we would all go over to my mother in laws to take showers and brush our teeth and cook our dinner. Did I mention that our new home had a propane cook stove… and no propane tank? Yeah, so there was that too.
Finally I had a three day weekend. Fourth of July weekend had come! Boy did I have many, many plans for that weekend.
On the to do list; fix the water, finish moving our other belongings, actually move everything in and stop living out of boxes, and most importantly, celebrate our four year wedding anniversary. Yup, we were one of the crazy couples that got married on the 4th of July in 2012, the year that the USA hit record breaking temps nation wide.
That weekend we were going to accomplish the world. We were going to see the blue prints of our city rebuilt. We were going to be whole once again.
Little did we know that our troubles had only begun.