Nashville or Bust

The trip that started a longer journey

Day +16: The Process of Assimilation

looking-down-river-aaron-siebensToday is Friday… day +16. Dave left the hospital on Monday… day +12. It was a bit sooner than anticipated given how he was feeling mid-last week, but it was a welcomed, quiet event. The nurses told us that when the engraftment process latched, we’d see quick results. Counts are rising. All is well. And while the brunt of the big stuff is over, there are still a myriad of appointments at the hospital, some in-home care things we do and a slow climb back to normalcy. The transition is amazing when you think about it. It’s done.

It has been nice being home and being quiet with Dave as he settles in and rests. We have coffee (really!) and get the kids ready for school. Outside of medical appointments, the schedule has been simple: eat — nap — enjoy a movie or documentary on Netflix. Repeat. We are assimilating — absorbing experiences, both past and current, adapting, adjusting.

Keeping it simple has kept us both from trying to do too much. Keeping it still has helped us both to listen to what we need to hear. Sometimes we talk about all of this… the summer, the phases, the nineteen days in a hospital room, all the people we encountered, the experience of re-entering the big, colorful world… but mostly we just talk about other things. It has been tender and a bit surreal. Sometimes it feels as if none of this happened.

Interestingly, somewhere in the process, ‘Roger’ slipped away. As I think about all the things I’ve felt since May, all the things that have rumbled through my brain and all the talks Dave and I have had, at some point, recognition of  the cancer itself simply stopped. I’m not sure what that means, really, and perhaps someday I’ll take the time to figure it out. But it is somewhat telling, I think, to realize this. Our focus swiftly turned to tearing down and building up — dealing with the symptoms and reactions to those two things. The salvage and the salvation. Why ponder over the catalyst?

And maybe, that’s just what we all need to do at this point. We made it through. Not just Dave, myself, Brandon, Jameson, Tessa, Dave’s family and mine… but all of us. We. Throughout these posts and phone calls and private messages and video clips and cards and songs and private thoughts, the panels of our universe aligned and fused. We fumed together. We cheered together. We cried in the dark together. We laughed at bad jokes together. We held memories and made memories. Together.

We changed and now we must assimilate. It’s all good.

Stay happy people. We love you and thank you. ~Jacqui

 

 

 

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September 25, 2015 Posted by | Dave, Everyday | 1 Comment

Day +10: How DID he do this?

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Not bad for a guy that is on day +10.

 

Medical marvel or sneaky dude with friends who watched Oceans Eleven too many times?

The world will never know.

But what is apparent — someone really wanted to make sure his Brew Hog requirements for 2015 were fulfilled.

Bed alarm be damned.

Must be the coffee.

 

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Taunting the nurses with a sweet addition to the I.V. pole and posting a new daily number…

Surveillance images from the party pad. These people sure do look guilty.

Surveillance images from the party pad. These people sure do look guilty.

He even disguised the Bud can. Sneaky...

He even disguised the Bud can. Nice.

September 19, 2015 Posted by | Dave | 1 Comment

Day +8: Thursday Goes Like This

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I was a bit wary on Tuesday when one of the nurses told me Dave would start to feel better soon.

I still felt wary on Wednesday when I popped in for a quick lunch visit. Dave looked rough and didn’t want visitors. He told me he felt like he had been run over by a “truck, then a bus, then another truck.” And that was the nice version.  He was officially in ‘The Bottoms’ and it seemed like he’d be there for awhile. His numbers were down and he definitely had a fever. Mentally, I prepared myself for a long stretch of days.

But oh, what a difference 24 hours, some antibiotics and stem cell voodoo can do for a guy. It is safe to say that as Thursday wraps up, someone is feeling a little bit better.

Dave’s counts are starting to climb. And while he did receive another blood transfusion at daybreak, he also had a cup of coffee. That, seriously, is a big deal. Nurse Brian checked in on Dave this morning and hooked him up with first pour from the nurse’s station. I never thought I’d be so thrilled at someone else bringing Dave ‘first pour.’

These nurses are amazing. They know their stuff and they know what little things can take a patient far. I’m so overwhelmed with gratitude for Dave’s care team and for where he is tonight. Still a long way to go but progress is being made. Thanks for all the encouragement, love, support and good energy this week. It’s working! ~Jacqui

September 17, 2015 Posted by | Dave | 2 Comments

Day +6: Blerg

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When counts are down, we mask up. That’s just the way it goes. Even Chippy, Dave’s mascot, knows the drill.

 

Dave’s numbers fell even further today  — some hitting rock bottom — so he got yet another blood transfusion and his first platelet transfusion before breakfast. Following the footsteps of other rock legends, he chased said transfusions with Frosted Flakes. Hey, whatever works, right?

The stem cells should start their stem cell voodoo here real soon. Until then, keep your masks on and your spirits high, kids. And if you can, make that date with your local blood bank. Donations rock. ~Jacqui

 

 

 

 

September 15, 2015 Posted by | Dave | Leave a comment

Day +5: Night into Morning

“Going away, away toward the sea
River deep, can you lift up and carry me
Oh roll on through the heartland
‘Til the sun has left the sky
River, river, carry me high”

— Peter Gabriel, Washing of the Water

It has been five days since Dave’s stem cell transplant. A lot of things have happened and he’s entering the low point of the cycle. Numbers are dropping just like the team said they would. He’s uncomfortable. His appetite is gone. He’s had one blood transfusion and from the looks of his counts on the tote board, he most likely will need another soon. There is a fringe of fever so nurses hover, constantly checking his temperature with antibiotics and culture swabs at the ready. The pivotal balance of this entire journey continues.

Again, all things expected and as explained. But after such a strong start, it is difficult to witness the dip. He has to ride this out. We both have to trust the process.

My husband is sick. He is keeping a strong front but his system inside is fragile. Relinquishing everything and every thing to this statement is hard — hard because it is true. Sitting in the dark of his hospital room, there is a void and it is enhanced by this truth echoing in my head. I feel small especially as I watch him sleep.

Dave had cyclical low days during this first round of Lymphoma with the CHOP chemo and again, some minor post side effects a few days after each RICE chemo treatment in July.  For those low points he was home and we were able to manage as a team. But this is different. Bigger leagues. Different scenario. The effects of six days of chemo leading up to the transplant are being felt and seen. Similar to an earthquake in one region that sets off a tsunami in another, the latent response is difficult to reconcile. I have to remind myself that this is the chemo hitting and not the transplant. Until those stem cells remember who they are, where they are and what it is they need to do, it is all a matter of recalibration, waiting and yes, riding out the storm.

I didn’t anticipate being with him tonight as my job has been to keep things stable for the kids and maintain a quasi-normal life/work existence. But given the way he was feeling, I decided to run up for a quick check in after dinner. Instinctual? Perhaps.

Dave had another fainting spell while he was up on his feet with his nurse. His first happened on Thursday resulting in a fall.

This time I saw it happen. I was stunned, frightened and rendered useless. Somehow his nurse held him up, yelling for help, while I was there, frozen. It happened so quickly. One moment he was speaking then he went slack.

They’ve determined that it is a blood pressure situation — another reminder of how hard his body is fighting to realign itself. He needs to stay in bed while he heals. His freedoms and independence are on temporary hold. Relinquishing everything and every thing to this need is hard, too. But he is resting now and that is good.

I really should get back home to the kids but I don’t want to leave. I’m toggling between two different realities, two very different regions, two different manifestations. Same storm. I’m grateful for the extensions I have in both nurses and family who are there to help especially during the times I feel most torn and useless. It truly is a pivotal balance. ~Jacqui

September 14, 2015 Posted by | Dave | 4 Comments

Day Zero: Re-Entry

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The stem cells are here! The stem cells are HERE. And they even came with their own crock pot. It is truly time to get this party started. Congratulations, Love. I’m very proud of you.

 

September 9, 2015 Posted by | Dave | 2 Comments

D minus one: This One’s For You, Roger

 
  Given a quick re-arrange of schedule, I caught the hanging of the last chemo bag. This little thing is the nastiest of the nasties: Melphalan. It felt odd to watch it drip. So many things went through my head. 

May this be the last chemo he ever, ever needs. ~Jacqui

September 8, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

D minus 3: You’ve Been Asking

HELP on speech bubble price labels

I promised people that when I figured out the hows, whens and whats regarding help for our family during the days of treatment, etc., I’d let people know.

I’ve done a horrible job with this.

When I sense the question coming, I try to dodge it as soon as possible. I’m uncomfortable with it and feel that my inability to respond, or perhaps my overt change of subject (“Look! Squirrel!”) has hurt some folks. It isn’t a pride thing. I am humbled by the offers and honestly am rendered speechless.

I did a lot of scrubbing yesterday and a lot of thinking. A LOT OF THINKING. I was trying to figure out why accepting help is so damned hard. Why can’t I answer the simple question of “what do you need?” with any sort of direct answer?

Then it dawned on me… the only thing I need (and want) is the return of Dave home to us. That process is in motion. Dave is where he needs to be, doing what he needs to do. He has incredible professional care and more personal support than can be articulated. It is amazing what that sort of love medicine can do. The process is slow but it is working. There is peace in that.

When I broke it down further (still scrubbing, by the way) what I came to was this: it is hard for me to accept help for that which we don’t ‘need’ when I know so many, many, many others can use a similar helping hand — and have very little or no support system to get them through the crunch.

Despite the one passive aggressive letter from the insurance company that said, “we may or may not pay for the transplant” we have incredible benefits. By the way, the woman who wrote the letter personally called Dave a week later to let him know they were covering everything. It was all very strange but it is covered and that is all we need to know.

Add to this, Dave was able to re-work his schedule at work so that the time he is away from the college is his term off. Translation: we didn’t have an abrupt loss of a complete salary. Again HUGE in the world of diagnosis and cure. It illustrates to me that even with a few months of savings in the bank, a situation like this can devastate an individual and a family in a matter of weeks. Some never recover.

Maybe this is why it is hard. I look at the logistics and we are not in need of anything except for love, support and understanding. And you all have come through with these gifts in droves. Yes, with Dave not here, our schedules are a bit different but I’ve re-arranged things with my employer to be home a bit earlier. This allows me to make dinner with and for the kids. It’s a bit of healing and growing for us, really. We use Skype to bridge the miles between here and Jewish Hospital so we maintain that face-to-face contact. I run up and visit at lunchtime. His parents and sister see him at other hours.

Sure, all of this will start to feel like a drag in a week but it is so very temporary. We can do temporary.

But I know all of you well enough to know that you are sitting there saying, “But Jacqui… we want to… NEED to… do something.” It is a natural response. So I have an answer.

Let’s channel some of the blessings and love that we all have and want to share in ways that will make a bigger impact.

1.) If you can, donate blood. In speaking with some of the folks in the unit, I learned how much blood and platelets they go through in caring for the patients in the blood cancer center. Call Hoxworth and make an appointment. You cannot give directly to Dave but you can give in his honor. This is a big need. It is likely that he will need some sort of transfusion through all of this. It is heartening to know that someone unselfishly gave this precious gift up so he can keep going.

2.) If you can’t do the above, how about diverting the money you would have spent on a meal for us to someone who could use nourishment and other aid? Play It Forward Cincinnati is a local organization established to help local musicians in a time of crisis. Many of those who heal our hearts and souls with their wonderful gifts do not have adequate insurance. This is our chance to help them out.

I did a quick look at the tab accrued to date and almost retched at the total — and all of this didn’t include last week and the current hospital stay. It is worth every penny but it saddens me to know that there are others — possibly some of the folks on the floor with Dave right now — who are worrying about this avalanche of debt when really, they should be focusing on healing — body, mind and spirit.

Together, we can be angels and help others who really need it be comforted and feel loved. It could be just the thing that keeps them here on the journey with us. What do you say? ~Jacqui

 

 

 

September 6, 2015 Posted by | Dave, Everyday | 3 Comments

Direct from Dave…

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From the pain come the dream

From the dream come the vision

From the vision come the people

From the people come the power

From this power come the change

~Peter Gabriel

 

Day -6

I drifted off to sleep last night listening to a favorite record by one of my favorite artists. “Fourteen Black Paintings” was the last song I remember hearing and it was still gently swirling in my head this morning.

It is impossible for me to write or express the power, the energy, the love I feel when I return over and over to all of the comments, well wishes, words of encouragement and wonderfully funny sarcastic jabs you all have offered. And while Jacqui has and will continue to share this journey I felt compelled today to try to put words to page in an attempt to say thank you.

If you had asked me five months ago, this is the last place I saw myself. My thoughts and energy were focused on anything but cancer. After all, summer break with Jacqui and the kids was about to begin. I was enjoying the hell out my masters degree work, Pike 27 was set to cut a new record, and my summer students were really fired up and ready to have fun. We all know the sensation of putting the breaks on a project or plan. It happens all the time. But to slam the breaks on everything you have going on is jarring, harsh and brutal. And while confusion fear and concern have a way to mask the bruises of this sudden stop, an emptiness remains. Your energy fills that void. The moment you take to give me a push. It provides the motivation and the little distraction needed to direct focus on what is needed instead of what had to be tabled.

The last few weeks have really been a window into just how challenging and unpredictable this path is. After the two rounds of chemo with very little side effect we got the fantastic news that things were working better than expected. But like a sine wave, there is a trough for every peak in a cycle or series of events. A stark reminder that this is no sprint, but a much longer race with dark days, obstacles, traps and scary stuff out there.

But “from the people comes the power and from this power comes the change.” I was completely overwhelmed by the love and support from everyone last Friday at the Pike27 show and the Saturday that followed. I thought back to this early in the week and often. The feeling of so many kind hearts carefully lifting me up and holding me. I’m a lucky man. And then it happened again. A beautiful message from my sister brought that cradle back, lifting me and my family up one more time. I am truly a lucky man.

This power reminds me to live in the now. The bad days are out there, floating….shifting….waiting. They remind me to enjoy the goods days and not put things off. There are dark days ahead for sure, but this is the hand I was dealt. And by proxy, this is the hand my family was dealt and this is the hand my friends were dealt. While there is still a small place in my daydreams for how this summer could have been, you all have given me a beautiful, colorful window to look through allowing my thoughts and daydreams to drift through this change of seasons and onto next summer and what can and will be.

Look for the little things.

Peace and love,

dk

September 4, 2015 Posted by | Dave | 5 Comments

D minus 6: Check In, Kick Off

IMG_3090Today started like any other day, really. Coffee ritual: His mug on the left, mine on the right. His gets first pour with the powdered stuff. Mine’s more snobbish with half and half. Whomever is up first gets the coffee ready and brings the mugs to the bedroom. But his is always first pour. He’s a one big cup and done. I tend to refill… and then lose my mug somewhere in the house during the morning hustle. Ah, the serenity of automatic reflex. It wakes you up and gets you through.

As for the rest of the day, it went well. The team is incredible and Dave feels confident, supported and loved. Sure there is some anxiety regarding the new chemo cocktails, the long hike back to restored health and the inevitable loneliness that comes with a long stay such as this. But he is starting out in a good place. This thing is a mental game as much as anything else. The fog is the danger zone.

It took a bit of time to get up to the room then there were rounds, a smattering of check-in tests and introductions. We had lunch together and I had a chance to drop into a caregiver’s support session. It was the first time I sat in a group with people who carried the same expression I sometimes catch in the mirror. Waiting for chemo, we played cards. I stayed as late as I could until it was time to get home and start dinner for the kids. They checked in via Skype and we’re just keeping each other in check as we test out these waters.

In a few hours, it will be time to start the coffee but the routine will be a little different. Dave will only be able to have coffee from a styrofoam cup. and it won’t be his beloved, salt of the earth Chock Full o’Nuts blend. I can have first pour if I want it, I can even brew some of my fancy stuff, but that will feel a bit strange. When I inevitably misplace my mug in a random spot, the kids will share in the laugh. We’ll muddle through. ~ Jacqui

September 3, 2015 Posted by | Dave | Leave a comment