Monday, May 24, 2010

Cancer Scares

They come more frequently than I would like. Greg will feel something down there that doesn't go away and will later tell me.

And as Greg tells me he's found a new lump (this has happened 4 times now, twice since his vasectomy)-- every time it is the same.

I can't speak for Greg. I don't know what his heart and mind go through when he finds something new. Inevitably he lets me know of what's going on while he is at work, so I am often alone with the kids when I find out.

And what I go through is starting to get familiar, but it is definitely not getting any friendlier.

I get this weird cold vibrating feeling that starts at the back of my head and travels down my neck--almost like someone put ice there.. at first the feeling is completely physical and I feel no emotion other than shock. And then I can't say anything for a minute. And then I say, "Are you sure?" And of course, he is sure. And then I try to reason with him--come up with some logical explanation for why there is a lump on his testicle (as if there is any "normal" reason for such a thing to happen). Then the panic sets in, and then I feel light-headed and like throwing up and then I start crying. And then I usually call one or both of my parents and weep to them ("What will HAPPEN to him????"). And they don't actually have the answers I think I need, and I am annoyed at myself for freaking them out before we really know anything. But it is good to hear their voices anyway.

But it stays like that--I feel insane and completely distraught for as long as we don't know Greg's ok.

And I plead with God--beg Him to let this not be happening again.

And I try not to, but I can't help it --I go ahead a month... three months... a year in my mind and imagine the inevitable stuff we will go through if it is what we don't want it to be. I see Greg recovering from another surgery, Greg's parents taking care of the kids--frazzled and scared, Greg going for more rounds of chemo (this time there will have to be more because it is a recurrence), Greg being violently ill because of an out-of-order immune system, Sam bringing home more illness from school, me staying up all hours of the night, sick myself with the kids sick too...

I skip imagining the Greg dying part--it's just too horrible to imagine. I go straight to me alone, having to figure out the bills, the mortgage, not having a job, moving back in with my parents, Greg's parents a painful reminder of their son...

Thoughts like this remain until Greg is able to see a doctor. And then Greg and I go to the doctor and the doctor will either say something reassuring or say they don't know for sure and Greg should go get an ultrasound to be sure.

We got lucky this time--Greg's doctor was so certain it was epididymal cyst, he didn't even send Greg for an ultrasound.

Seriously.. how many men can say they are relieved they have a cyst on their testicle? But we are always relieved by anything that isn't cancer.

"Oh, you mean it's just a cyst forming because of some traumatic injury to my epydidimus? Sweet!"

But we still want to be cautious about how we approach it, because hope is flighty and unreliable. We almost fear hope more than we fear cancer itself. Trust me--it is not better to have hoped and lost than not to have hoped at all. There is comfort in expecting the worst because the worst can never let you down.

But later on, the hope comes anyway. I find myself feeling a little lighter. And I thank God a million times, and hug 50 Greg times more often than normal, and I can play with the kids without feeling distracted, and I am breathing again.

It is good to get good news.


I know many of my friends and family have actually been further down this road than I have ever been, and as a result, I often feel really jumpy in my reactions to Greg's bodily idiocyncracies. It makes me feel like I am being selfish because Greg *did* make it through the first time around. So many people don't get that lucky. Survivor's guilt.

I know I blow things way out of proportion. I know that deep down, I will always be paranoid of the words "lump" and "tumor" and that that is ridiculous. But sometimes, when you have been through something awful, your fear outweighs your mind. And you don't have any clue as to why you react the way you do--you just know that you are afraid.

And the fear is always there crouched in the corner of your brain. It gets smaller, but it never really does go away.. not completely. You end up wrapping your life around the fear instead. It is always there at the center, but it is cut off until the next scare. And then it grows and shrinks again--kind of like a tumor of its own.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Symbols of AnxietyTransformed To Symbols of Hope

It's funny how certain mundane, seamingly meaningless, things take on a lot of importance depending on the situation you are in.

I've been staring at this ID card for Aunica's Medical Insurance every day. Since Greg got his preliminary layoff, that ID card has come to mean "May 30th"--the day that our insurance would expire if Greg got that final layoff notice.

Greg's ties, hanging on the coat hanger in the living room have meant days spent not knowing whether he would need a tie in upcoming months.

The calendar on the fridge has meant a constant countdown to the day when we might be without work.

The checkbook and debit card have meant money disappearing and maybe stopping coming.

Oh, and the gas price signs? Don't even get me started on those.

You begin to realize that it's not that you are worried about the *stuff* you have. It's worries about maintaining life as you know it. It's about uprooting once again. It's about having to wonder if you are going to have to move in with your parents or in-laws. It's about having to figure out if you can pay for insurance, mortgage, and bills on a substitute teacher's salary alone. It's about those practical things that you always take for granted.

God is definitely not letting us take anything for granted. Ever. And I am actually thankful for that. Because when we lived in Whittier, I was miserable. I couldn't pin it down to anything at the time, but now I think I just had it too, uh, cushy? Life was just too easy. It never felt anything but.. mundane. Since 2004, we have had nothing but upheaval, but if nothing else, you can say it has kept life interesting.

It's nice to worry sometimes.

So yesterday, we were supposed to get Greg's layoff notice. We didn't. We still could get it tomorrow, but I am hopeful that it won't come. And Greg is too. And we are all dancy and excited because we get to stay in our house and we get to relax just a little more.

And slowly, the insurance card is beginning to mean we will have insurance for one more year. And the bank accounts are not going to tap out. And we are going to be able to buy gas. And there will be another calendar on the fridge.

It's good to have a little of both hope and fear. I'm glad life isn't too easy. Things are more interesting and I am more grateful this way.

(But that doesn't mean I really want another layoff notice next year)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Grandpa Campbell

Sometimes I think of him just out of the blue.

He was a the best grandpa a little girl could ask for. All I remember of him are good things. I honestly can't remember having one negative thought toward him. The things that were strange about him, they were just quirks--they weren't *bad*, just funny. He was charasmatic and joyful. He always was smiling and was the most kind-hearted person I think I've ever met.

Trips to Reno (where we'd go pick him up at the airport) were some of the best traveling experiences of my life. I remember he would sit in the front seat, and I would always sit directly behind him. I remember staring at the back of his bald head and saying, "Hi Grandpa!" just because I didn't have anything else to say--I was just happy he was there.

I don't know why my assocations with childhood and Grandpa are so interlinked, but they are. Maybe it's because he was a person who truly knew how to love, and all the best things about childhood had him as a part of them--Christmases, Thanksgivings, Birthdays, Summers... he made sure to be there for many of them from my adoption to just before I turned 7.

He was giving, gracious--my mom says he was a "man without guile. He loved books, and therefore was totally excited to read to me. I think he was a major factor in me becoming kind of a ravenous reader.

He was a definite lover of Southern California and lived there his whole life. I think that love rubbed off on me quite a bit. I still have this palm tree obsession, even though I see them all the time around here. I have yet to have one of my own. We're trying to grow one, but it's really little and so it doesn't count.

He took us to Disneyland twice. Those were the best trips to Disneyland I can remember.

Grandpa was sophisticated, but not pretentious. He loved anything classy--old movies and musicals were his favorites. He had been a tour guide and gave garden tours in Europe. He was very in-the-know when it came to new technologies. We have home movies he put together from when *he* was a young man, up to home movies from when my sister and I were little. Greg was touched when he saw all the home movies of me. He said, "Wow. Grandpa Campbell really loved you."

My mom says he was short, but I remember him being tall. I suppose that is because I was little the last time I saw him, and maybe because I looked up to him so much.

I was devastated when he died, even though I was only seven years old. It was a month before my 7th birthday. We were expecting him to come to visit, and I am still feeling like it was pretty unfair for him to go and leave like that. It's only because he was such a great person. I would have kept him around forever. I wish he could have met my kids.

Grandpa, I love you and miss you and can't wait to see you again someday.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Thank God for Happy Endings

So today we had a scare with Aunica. Well, to be more accurate, I was more scared than I probably should have been. Greg kept pretty cool. Though he was at home.

Oh, you want an explanation? Okay.

Aunica came down with a 101 degree fever during her naptime today. Fevers are not unusual in this family for the most part, but when Aunica gets them, they are rather mysterious. She is a tough little cookie, as well as non-verbal (for the most part) and so you can't tell if she's just over-heated, sick, getting sick or what. I had noticed her pulling on her ears so I decided it was probably an ear infection.

So, we drove the 40 minutes to Fontana and went to Urgent Care. We got in quickly, which was nice, but then the doctor could find nothing *really* wrong. But then he said the dreaded words:

"I think I'll test her urine"

See, there's this funny thing about being a new parent. There are these things people don't tell you you will become paranoid of: the first time your kid gets sick (not just cold-sick--I mean *sick* to the point if you aren't sure if they are going to be ok) it just about kills you. As you probably already know, Aunica's brother, Sam had urinary issues when he was two weeks old that hospitalized him and traumatized both him and us. He underwent multiple invasive tests which involved needles, catheters, continuous radiating for an hour (not to mention much screaming on Sam's part and weeping on our part)...

It turns out Sam had urinary reflux, a relatively common problem in infants and toddlers--Sam's was a higher grade and he was given a 30% chance of recovering from the reflux on his own--surgery if he didn't. He was on antibiotics for the first 2 1/2 years of his life, but we took them off when we realized he was getting 1/3 the dose he needed (the doctor hadn't updated us on dosage, age and weight so we thought we were doing fine) So far, he has not had another UTI and he is almost 5.

But even though he has been fine, I have thought the beginning of every illness was a sign of something worse--something more drastic, something dangerous and life-threatening. He sneezes and I say, "Are you ok? Do you feel alright?" And I know it is wrong, but I still worry about him because I am caught off guard by my love for him all the time--this completely unrelenting love that won't let me not be devastatingly afraid of things being wrong with him.

So when the doctor said he wanted to test Aunica for a Urinary Tract Infection(because she was otherwise symptom-free), this huge battle between my heart and brain broke out.

My irrational mommy-heart was saying, "No, please God, no. I don't want to go through this again.. not with Aunica, too."

And my brain was saying "Yes, there is and was a 50% chance she would have Sam's defect, too. We knew this was a possiblity."

And then my heart said, "Maybe if she does have a UTI, somehow I could disinfect the urine so they wouldn't be able to tell, and then she won't need further testing."

And then my brain said, "That is just ridiculous. If she has a UTI, she needs TREATMENT, you dolt. You can't just wish it away."

So, we slapped a urine bag on her (yes, it is an adhesive bag that collects urine for testing). Aunica *hated* the thing. I stood in the bathroom at Kaiser for 45 minutes coaxing her to pee into the bag (she's not at all potty trained yet). Finally she did pee and we got to turn it into the lab.

Kaiser is pretty good about getting labs done quickly and the results were in as soon as I got home. Everything was within normal ranges and there were no indications of UTIs whatsoever.

I went and kissed Aunica up and thanked God for making her a-ok and suddenly was starving.

So that's my emotional journey for the day.