Battle on, friend.

It's kind of a grey day today and although I have piles and piles of work to do, I've decided I can take a minute or two for me this morning. I was thinking in the shower this morning about how I had so many things I wanted to say, so many thoughts I wanted to capture, and by the time I sit down to write them, too many of them have escaped. I suppose that's the nature of life though.

Wednesday I had my tri-weekly Herceptin infusion. We were sitting in the waiting room and I thought of Stan. I mentioned to Greg that we hadn't seen Stan and his wife Darlene since before the holidays, probably early December. I know I've mentioned Stan before but he's a very difficult person to describe. Stan has been battling his cancer off and on for about nine years now. We met him early on in the weekly treatments - probably in late August or early September. He went out of his way to introduce himself to us - to everyone that made eye contact more or less - and was never short of questions, quips, or jokes. He knew each one of the nurses by name, and something about them not pertaining to the chemo suite. He remembered something about us, about everyone he spoke with, and always something that he could poke fun at. And Stan got away with it. I remember him telling one woman she must have been around in prehistoric times, and asking another one to bring a ham once he found out she worked for Honey Baked. By the time her infusion was over, he had various people in the chemo suite committed to bringing the side dishes, too. The day I ended up shaving my head, Stan was asking various people if they had wigs on, then started telling everyone we were all going to make a trip to Suzy's Wigs that day. Stan came out when we started walking the 3 Day, as the route passed very near his house, and held a sign that said "Hi Jen!" We had no idea he was out there until he told us a couple weeks later that he stood out by the lake and looked for us. We never saw him, but he was there.
Stan somehow managed to pull off asking people questions that most would gasp at. Perhaps it was the environment coupled with his personality. Perhaps he just knew who he could joke with and who he couldn't, but when Stan was in the infusion suite, there was always laughter. Much needed laughter, which was sometimes a stark contrast to some of the people in there that seemed like they were just waiting to die. Not Stan. Ever. Someone once had the nerve to complain that there was too much noise, too much laughter. I wish I had heard who said it - I would have given them a piece of my mind.

For a little while in November, Stan was quieter. He told us it was because of that complaint but we later found out that he had gotten news that wasn't too good and that the chemo he had been on wasn't working. A couple weeks later, Stan was back to his old jovial self. Dr. C had switched his treatment and the new regimen seemed to be keeping the demon at bay. This past Wednesday, shortly after we were talking about them, Stan and Darlene walked in. We gave them hugs and they immediately asked how my January surgery had gone. They admired my new growth of hair and showed genuine happiness when we told them that I had been given a bit of reprieve. They asked if we were doing the Climb to Conquer Cancer this weekend as they had seen an article in the paper and thought of us (which we are) and told us of their first grandchild's impending arrival. My name was called, and we said we'd see them on the other side.

They came back to the infusion suite a little while later, but were sitting on the opposite side of the room. Greg had stepped out to take a call and Darlene had come over to where I was sitting, in search of a padded chair, and stopped for a minute to talk to me, and to Helen and Larry who were to my right. I asked how things were going and she shook her head. "Not so good. Dr. C started another chemo and it's been really hard on Stan. It's one that he took a while back, but they thought he might benefit from it again. The PET scan showed that things hadn't stopped spreading. Fifteen months straight we've been here this time. That's the longest stretch yet. If this one doesn't work, that's it... there's nothing else we haven't tried. " My heart was in my throat and I was at a complete loss for words other than, "this really just sucks, doesn't it..." I knew if I said more, I'd tear up, and that was the last thing I wanted to do. By the time Greg came back, he knew there was something wrong. I couldn't say much other than that Stan wasn't doing too well and I'd tell him later. I refused to cry.

All I kept thinking is that I am so incredibly fortunate that even though I have to deal with this, I am only at the beginning of the laundry list of things there are to try and keep this demon at bay. I have options upon options, and I am at the point where if we try something and it doesn't work, there is always another one. Those words "that's it" were so haunting to me. I can't imagine hearing that I've run out of options, and I can't imagine, as a spouse, knowing that your companion, the love of your life, has run out of options. "That's it?"
That CAN'T be it.

Greg later walked over to talk to both of them as the nurse was unhooking my IV. He told me that Stan said that for the first time in nine years, last week he got sick. However, he told me they spoke of options. Of clinical trials, of MD Anderson, of Tucson Medical, of holistic treatments... even if this regimen didn't work, that WASN'T it. Not for Stan. Battle on, friend.

It shook me up though, and I thought about it for quite some time afterwards. I thought about how he had touched our lives, how many times he made us laugh, and how many other people's lives he must have touched along his journey. We know so little about the people we share an infusion suite with, yet so many of us share a common goal and a similar battle. I suppose that fact in and of itself, sometimes, is enough.

Before I fell asleep that night, I said a prayer for Stan. And for Darlene. And for the strength and love they have in one another. I said a prayer of thanks for all the options I have and for my health and mostly, for the fact that I never could have gotten to where I am now without the love and support of the person sleeping beside me. I think it could take me the rest of my life to try and find the words of thanks and gratitude for him simply being who he is and loving me the way he does, day after day. I still don't know if I do this prayer thing right, or if it's just a feeling. Or mostly, if there's anyone listening. Whatever the case, I'll continue to give it a shot...


    thoughts for steve, too.

    and very happy you found the right love at the right time.