Okay, you know you really have a problem with ADHD when you have 16 unfinished blog post drafts, but haven’t posted anything in a week. Le sigh…
And also, these two blog posts shouldn’t really be called simply “Candace” because it’s really the whole story of Kevin’s recurrence. But whatever.
If you remember where I left off yesterday last week, God had very clearly orchestrated putting someone in my life who was able to offer some empathy during the difficult time while Kevin and I were plodding through the maintenance phase of his interferon. And two days after I met Candace, Kevin and I visited Dr. Lawson’s office, only to hear that they were concerned about how sick the interferon had made him, as well as his large amount of weight loss, and that they were ordering scans.
We went to lunch that day, and I pretty much sobbed through the whole meal. I remember Kevin asking me what I was thinking about, and telling him, “I’m thinking that I don’t know if you want to be buried or cremated. I’m thinking that I don’t know how to pay the mortgage! How am I going to live without you? How am I going to raise two kids without you?!” And I remember him telling me, “I’m not going to die today. So let’s just get through today.”
On Thursday, he had a full body PET/CT Scan and a brain MRI. Even though I had been devastated after the initial doctor’s appointment, by Thursday evening, I was at peace and hopeful that maybe, just maybe, the scans would come back clear AND Kevin would get to stop interferon. The kids were still at my parents’, and Kevin and I went to Centennial Olympic Park to relax for the evening. I remember lying down on a quilt next to Kevin, imagining how wonderful it might be if we could have our old life back. Kevin had been instructed to stop interferon immediately, and he was already feeling better. The weather was warm, but with a breeze, and I remember vaguely thinking back on meeting Candace the previous Sunday. I wondered about the details of what all they had been through, and wondered if she had had moments like this. We went home feeling calm and hopeful.
Friday morning Kevin went to work as usual, and I was getting ready to run some errands with my neighbor Maiya. She called to tell me she was at my door, and as I was running downstairs to let her in, the phone rang again. The number was an Emory prefix, and when I answered, it was Dr. Lawson’s nurse. I remember instantly feeling relieved, thinking that it must be good news, because it was the nurse calling, and she was calling me, not Kevin. And so it felt like a double whammy when the next words out of her mouth were, “You need to bring Kevin in as soon as you can, because the scans are showing some “possible new growth” in his face and neck.”
As I hung up the phone, I dissolved into my neighbor’s arms, sobbing uncontrollably. After a few minutes, I finally pulled it together, and made new plans for the morning. I picked up Kevin and we went in to Dr. Lawson’s office, where he was examined and a fine needle aspiration (biopsy) was performed to confirm that the spots found by the scans were, in fact, cancer. A spot on his liver had also glowed on the PET/CT, so a liver MRI was ordered for Saturday morning. The one piece of good news was that the brain MRI had come back clear. By Monday morning we had confirmation that the spot on the liver was cancer as well, and by Tuesday, we were going over treatment options.
My sentiments exactly
I don’t remember exactly when, during those crazy few days, that I texted Candace, but it was definitely after we had found out about the recurrence. At some point, we found the chance to talk on the phone, and I asked her to tell me all of Stuart’s story. I was floored by some of the similarities. While it was a different cancer, Stu was treated at Emory, like Kevin, and he also underwent inpatient treatment with the same regimen that Kevin was about to undergo. He was treated in the same ward, and even on the same floor as Kevin would be! Candace knew all about hospital life, which Kevin and I had mostly avoided up until this point. We were now looking at three months of on/off inpatient treatment. After she had shared with me everything about her own experiences walking with Stuart through their cancer battle, she also shared with me a wealth of tips for life in the hospital. I asked if she would come with us on the first day to help us get acclimated.
Once we had gotten our treatment plan figured out, we worked on plans to make a trip to Los Angeles to visit with family and friends (Kevin was born and raised there, and I lived there for most of my 20s). My amazing sister in law Jenn got into high gear and within hours had booked us tickets for the following week. We took a whirlwind, exhausting trip to LA, where, as you know, we left the kids for the duration of Kevin’s treatment. We flew back on Sunday July 8th and walked through the door to our house at 8:45 in the evening.
At 9:00, friends and family joined us for a time of prayer and scripture reading to prepare our hearts and spirits for battle. Then we quickly unpacked from the LA trip and packed for the hospital. Candace and her husband, who we really barely knew, but had this new, terrible thing bonding us together, had joined us for the evening. When it came time to pack, Candace, Becky, and my sister started busying themselves getting everything ready. For the umpteenth time this year, my brain was fried, and I certainly couldn’t think about what I needed for a week at the hospital. Candace pulled out this huge bag of stuff and started sorting it out in and amongst the things my sister was packing for me. I couldn’t believe it!
She’d gone and bought very specific, thoughtful things for me, like a toiletry bag filled with unscented shampoos, soaps, and deodorants (she remembered that Stuart’s nose was VERY sensitive during treatment). She’d also gathered things that I never would have thought of, but proved to be oh so important during the especially scary parts of treatment. She’d packed large blank posterboards and sharpie markers and used them to help me write out verses and prayers and tape them up onto the hospital walls.
When Kevin was in the midst of rigors, I would look around the room and just start reading off the verses and prayers that I saw. They were a constant help in times of need. She also thought of what seemed like a million other little details that no one would have thought of had they not already gone through this. Plus, I’m pretty sure her brain works a lot like mine, and she knew that I would need things to feel cozy and comfy, almost like a dorm room, for my own sanity.
Not quite like the dorm rooms we remember in college…
Here’s the thing. I’m not writing this stuff about Candace to say, “oh she’s this amazing new friend and I just love her so much!” Sure, that’s definitely true, but I have SO many amazing friends right now who have all done so many things for us. And I love them ALL so much! But to me, my sense of awe and gratitude comes not so much from Candace, but from God, and how in His absolutely perfect timing and wisdom, He would place someone in my life who KNOWS, who truly KNOWS. And that He would do it just days before this next chapter in our journey would start.
I am in awe of a God who Himself KNOWS, oh so truly KNOWS our pain, yet would take the time and interest to demonstrate that truth to me in such a physical, tangible way this side of heaven. That is an amazing God. God has met our needs every step of the way. Do I wish we didn’t have cancer at all? Absolutely! If I had it all to do over again, would I have chosen this path? Absolutely not! And I make no apologies about that.
BUT, the one thing that I do know, and I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record here, is that God is GOOD, and he LOVES us COMPLETELY. He wants nothing but good things for us, and in every detail, as we make our way through a sinful and broken world, He is still present, powerful, and active. And that is why I wanted to tell you all about Candace. I hope you can hear His message of active, ever-present love through this story.