We've sat down on sereval occasion's between the two of us to start this. Overtime the words escape us. We have always loved the personal relationships we build with our clients, and part of that personal relationship requires us to be personal too. However sometimes things are so raw and hard to digest that you just don't know were to begin.
Cancer. Everyone knows of it. Almost everyone know's a friend, relative, or loved one who's battled it. Everyone hates it and wants a cure. It's something that brings all kinds of emotions to various people in various ways. I never knew how raw an emotion it could bring until the afternoon I walked into my grandparents apartment to be greeted with "the results came back for those test's I've been having...I have stage IV non-small cell lung cancer." My world froze. You hear of this stuff all the time. You know someone at some point that battles some form; but to have it hit so close to home, it literally flips your whole world upside down.
So many questions flood through your mind when that news hits. How bad is it? Where? Why? What's next? What are our options? Where do we go? In those first few moments a thousand emotions hit and I couldn't stop the tears that were escaping my eyes. The only words I could summon were: "What's next". "We fight" he said. He informed me that the cancer has spread. He has masses in his neck on a main artery, in his lung, and in both of his armpits.
Just writing that brings tears to my eyes. Here is my little grandfather with a killer disease that is already taking over his upper body.
Dale had already had a pretty bad week. She didn't know the news yet because they were telling everyone in person one by one. She started asking questions on if I'd talked to anyone yet since the results were suppose to be back...I kept saying no. I didn't want to lie to her but I knew this was news she needed to hear in person from her own father.
She stopped over while I was there the following day. She held her youngest son close as she took it all in. He again assured us he was going to beat this and be here for many years to watch Conor grow up. We went over all the information we currently had and what has to be done next.
The following weeks were filled with phone calls, tests, and appointments. All of a sudden big words like 'Radiology' & 'Oncology' were our new norm-infact they're guiding our lives at this point.
Last week on Monday he went in for surgery last minute after his doctors decided to just go ahead and insert his chest port for treatment access. He came home without a port....Something was blocking the doctors ability to get through so they had to send him to a specialized unit to insert it the following day. After the port was successfully in he was scheduled to start a low dose of chemo once a week as we wait for these last test to come back in the coming weeks. Those test results will then tell us what treatment course is best to take.
Let the Battle Begin!
Friday Oct. 20th marked the start of our battle. Day one of chemo was fully underway by 10am as everyone met up and made our way to the center. We wanted to be there as a family to support him through this and keep him laughing. Like Dale and myself, my grandfather (her father) is a man who loves life behind cameras. Many of the locals to Middletown know Adrian Hunter as the man who writes screenplays, and is recording his own videos. He is a big fan of documentary work so it wasn't a surprise when we all had the same mindset- this battle, no matter what the final outcome is. Is something we all feel strongly about capturing. So, Dale and I promised him we would capture it for him; no matter how hard and raw it becomes. We don't know how often we will share, but we will be keeping you all informed through our family's battle to beat this.
We arrive shortly before 11am to start his first day of treatment. It was a very surreal day. I felt like I was walking through a dense fog at some points. You hear about these things all the time, but actually witnessing a loved one go through it is a thousand times worse then what one can only imagine prior to actually living it.
Everything was in a slow motion effect. Looking for the signs we needed to lead us, walking through halls and asking staff where to go.
We found our way to the proper waiting area, got him all checked in, and the waiting game continued.
They took him back and sat him in his chair for the day. He sat down and showed us his new new "arc reactor" (port). The nurse kindly hooked him up to his first round of fluids and pre chemo treatments.
It's funny the things you learn when you are actually helping someone fight through it. Before hand we knew of it in a sense; but you really don't understand all that goes into it until you're helping someone through it. t's raw. It's scary. It's a lot of waiting, medications, and a whole hell of a lot of unknown.
We have no idea what the future holds at this point. We don't even know what's next after his third Chemo. For now all we know is to wait and pray.
Our family's developed a pretty good system already. We have a strong bond and family is always first for us. It was no surprise when my Uncle Aj, my step-mom (Ma), Dale, and I took on the appointments, procedures, treatments, and transportation, while my brothers and aunt and grandma took charge of the home front. Ma spent the first part of the appointment with him that morning. She has been going with him to every appointment to make sure the doctors receive all the information they need on symptoms and what not....My grandfather has a tendency to say he's fine when he's not- ya know the typical stubborn old man. (Yet we wonder wee we all get it fam.) Dale and I are alternating treatments so that he always has someone there to keep him company. It get's pretty boring in a chair for three to four hours. Aj stops in during the evenings to check in a few times a week and tend to any bigger household jobs, as well as help get him to and from his appointments when we are struggling to line up a car. Together as a family without batting an eye we are working together to fight though this.
Once he got settled in he goes, "Hey nurse - I have a question for ya."
"what's that?" she says
"Am I allowed to eat with this thing?!" he says while pointing to his new R2D3. He started to refer to his machine as R2D3 after the excessive beeping it does once a bag of fluids are finished.
"Of course! We want you eating breakfast, bring a lunch and snacks. we want you eating whenever your hungry because we don't want you loosing any weight on Chemo!"
I flash back to all the chemicals, stories, movies and in my mind I picture my petite little old grandfather months in. Of course he didn't eat breakfast this morning, he didn't have a lunch packed. It's now near noon, and all he has is a banana, a bag of Keebler Fudge Stripe Mini's, (boy ya'll should have been there to see the disappointment on his face when he pulled his first "cookie" out! I wish I got that expression on camera.)
and the gatorade Dale brought him to keep him hydrated and full of electrolytes.
The nurse offered a snack as well but I wasn't okay with him having snacks in his system instead of real food. I asked him if he had any preference for lunch, made a list for the future of anything he wouldn't like. I got up and squeezed his hand. I switched places with Ma so I could run down to the small cafeteria they had to find him something for lunch.
It was about this time that I realized I left my wallet on the table at the house during my hustle out the door. I started frantically searching through all my bags in hopes of finding my check book so that I at least had some form of payment to get him some real food.
When I get to the cafeteria I ask the lady attending the register if they took checks, They didn't. Guys I literally started to ugly cry in front of this poor women. I just wanted my grandfather to eat. I wanted to get him food and I couldn't because I didn't have my wallet. I apologized for my complete break down and just explained that it was his first day of chemo and he didn't eat and it's just been a roller coaster of a few weeks. This sweet generous lady just looked at me and says "I understand, please take whatever you'd like for your grandpa, no charge and feed him. We have vegetable soup, yogurt, sandwiches, fruit, whatever he'd like. I couldn't believe it. I started crying all over again and thanked her through my tears. Vegetable soup is the one soup he doesn't like. (Probably because it's got the healthy stuff in it.) So I got him a turkey sandwich on a pretzel bun. I thanked her again for her kindness and told her I would pay for it at his next treatment.
I hurried back upstairs with his lunch and quickly wiped my tears and put my strong face back on. I brought him his sandwich, to which he goes "you better capture this one so your grandmother can see I'm eating! That'll make her happy!" So grandma these are for you, don't worry we are making sure he's eating plenty!
Once the smaller bags of the pre treatments are completed they hooked him up to the chemo. It wasn't very long before the nurse had to come over and stop it due to a compilation though.
About twenty minutes into the chemo dose, he got really itchy. He had asked the nurse if it was normal, and she ran over, stopped the R2D3, and told the desk to call Dr. Hong.
Within Minutes Dr. Hong arrived and instructed her to give him another dose of Benadryl, she comtemplated more steroids but worried because he was already on the smaller side that it wouldn't be good for his body in terms of shakes and that his blood pressure became quiet high with the first round as it was.
After about a half hour things had returned to normal and they continued with his treatment. We talked with a few fellow patience who were also undergoing treatment. One of which had actually reached out to chat with him because she'd recognized him from the Public Market that he walked to multiple times a day. They'd talked about screen plays together at one point and had chatted like no time had past at all. She shared with us that this was her fifth time undergoing treatment and that she gets cancer like some get colds. They wished each other well in their battle and she left to enjoy what was left of her afternoon.
As we finished up we enjoyed some laughs with some ladies sitting in the corner to the left of us. We joked about Bourbon and Tequila to make light of the treatment. Grandpa and her exchanged stories of their port procedure and what he has to expect in the comings weeks. All of these wonderful individuals in various stages of their life are battling for it. All of them have so much light and spirit that the treatment room is filled with hope, not worry or sadness as I'd anticipated.
Towards the end of his treatment my grandfather looks at me and says, "I'm not scared or worried about the final outcome. You girls do enough of that for me. My only fear is that I'll loose my sense of humor. I don't want that."
I just looked at him and said, "Grandpa, we are not going to let that happen. I promise. We will keep you laughing through this, even on the worst days."
He told me he knew and that he'd always worried that no one inner family received his sense of humor. However after the last few weeks he does't worry anymore because somehow blood or not, he see's I have it too. So I did what I had promised, and I kept him laughing through his first treatment.
Our family doesn't know what's next. We do know we are ready to fight this though. Dale and I will be out of the studio on Fridays over the next few weeks. We will be available to reach out to via email and phone, we just might not be able to get back to you right away on days of treatments. We thank you all for the love and support we have received and continue to receive during this time.