Could use some additional prayers of rest & healing here at the Czech household. The flu or teething bug we thought was passing reared its ugly head again last night in every horrible form possible for our little man. We really need Ed to kick this virus (in combo with two molars halfway through) & soon. I pray Adam & my immune systems are strong enough to stay healthy.
We really want to celebrate Christmas yet before surgery with Adam’s family but every day Ed is still sick makes that look bleak. Obviously, we also REALLY need Adam to be 100% come next week Tue when he starts his prep for surgery.
It is now almost 6:30 am and my 3rd attempt at sleep. This by far the worst illness we’ve had to date with Ed, going on a week. The Big Guy upstairs must think Adam & I can handle a lot of big stuff at the same time…on zero sleep.
I thought the longest time in anyone’s lifetime was the last month of pregnancy. Anxious, uncomfortable, anticipation, and restless nights are some of the initial thoughts that come to my mind. Turns out I was wrong, very wrong. The last three and a half weeks have been the longest, and we still have another full week to go before any treatment and CURE will start for Adam. I can throw all those same emotions into this situation, while adding sadness, anger, confusion, worry, stress……and love. While nothing else feels positive in life right now, at least we have love and have felt so much love from family, friends, and the community around us. So many people have been generous to our family and every thought, prayer, or gift has been greatly appreciated and warmed our hearts.
Have you ever told someone they are strong? I have. Looking back, I wonder when I said those words if I ever really knew what I was saying. “You are so strong” I would tell someone going through a difficult situation in life. I was right, after all, without truly knowing what it meant. People need strength just to wake up in the morning when you are hit with a Mack truck diagnoses like cancer, losing a baby, child illness, losing a parent, the list goes on.
I can’t speak here for Adam, but I can see and feel his dark emotional hole he is in. For myself, I have told friends my day is broken into 4 parts-morning, afternoon, evening, and sleep. Not one of these parts of the day are the same. I don’t glide through one day and go to bed saying, “huh, today was a good day”. Nope, hasn’t happened yet. I hope it does again some day. On the flip side, if the morning starts off horrible, I do have hope that by the time Ed naps or Adam comes home, it won’t be as bad as it was at 9 am. Friends, this is strength. Adam going to work in the morning. Every day outings I used to consider normal with Ed, now take a LOT of courage and energy for me to leave the house. It feels good when I do, good for our little man too.
We celebrated and survived Christmas in traditional and non-traditional ways. We went to a beautiful Christmas Eve service at church and enjoyed time with Ed and Adam’s parents. We already celebrated with my family in WI last weekend and we will celebrate as usual next week with Adam’s family. Christmas Day was spent just the three of us (or 4, however you like to think of it). It was one of the few days this entire month we had some quiet time just at home. We also had an adventure with Mr. Edward at an indoor park after nap on Christmas Day….I’ll spare you the details but even Adam said it took his mind off things for a few minutes.
Monday we have a series of appointments at the U of M regarding our official plan of action to remove the cancer. I will leave those details bland at this point and update everyone after we have fully made our decision on how Adam will start attacking the cancer medically (meaning either surgery or chemo the first week of January). We feel pretty strongly about starting his journey in one direction, but either way, he will start a course of treatment the first week of the new year. We will also update here meal train info for those who have inquired. A friend will be setting that up for us next week, as help with meals will be appreciated.
It feels like time has stopped moving and we need January to get here, fast. Adam went in to the hospital on Dec 1 and to say we are anxious for him to start treatment to stop this damn cancer from growing in him is an understatement. I am also hoping starting treatment and our new “normal” will calm some of our anxieties of the unknown towards treatment & healing. No, cross that, I need to start say CURING his body.
We received several gifts or cards with bible verses or uplifting messages on them. I am going to end by sharing two that we have up in our house, reminding us to put our faith in God.
“God didn’t promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, nor sun without rain. But He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears, and light for the way.”
“I will not worry. ‘Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer & supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God.’ Philippians 4:6”
Hello to Adam’s Pack on this rainy Sunday afternoon.
Julianna here to give a quick update. Adam returned to work last week Monday and had two iron infusions. (These will be part of his routine leading up to potential surgery as his hemoglobin numbers need to rise). I returned to chasing Edward around, attempting to potty train him (which by the way, the excitement for him has already wore off.) A few of Adam’s high school friends came to visit us and even were successful at giving us a few belly laughs. These guys, especially our former roommate, is always good at bringing up old stories that NEVER get old to laugh at. Laughter is a great coping strategy for us and feels damn good.
On Thursday, we had our 20 week ultrasound for baby. We received the best news all week – a perfectly healthy baby BOY! This news deserves my one exclamation point. Edward continues to show us how resilient he is and is rolling with our new schedule of visitors. He & I also returned to our ECFE and his preschool class. We are blessed to have such wonderful teachers (and my mama friends) in our lives.
We had some fun decorating cookies with a few of my friends and their 2 year olds on Saturday. Followed by my sister’s family coming for the night to baby-sit Ed. Adam & I had a Christmas date planned for over a month and we have decided not to cancel plans for as long as we can. We went to our favorite restaurant, Bar La Grassa & to the “Christmas Carol” at the Guthrie Theater. Both were amazing venues as always, and we pushed through a few rough moments together to have an overall nice time. We want to keep busy and life as normal as possible. I disagreed with Adam at first on not cancelling any plans, just wanting to hole up in our house and never leave again. However, I’ll give Adam a “you were right, honey’ and have come around to seeing the importance of this.
Today is more of the same with awesome friends trickling in with meals and hugs. It is Packers Sunday so of course, football is on already per our usual. Adam’s parents will arrive tonight to help with an appt tomorrow morning. We are meeting with an oncologist at the U of M to hear what he has to say and it is really more of a “meet and greet” with him. Adam will have two more iron infusions this week. On Friday, we will head to Mayo with Adam’s parents for a second opinion.
My motto on this journey is this is a marathon, not a sprint. We want to extend a heartfelt thank you again and again to everyone who has helped us and been generous in supporting us through prayers, messages, visits, meals, cards, and other donations. We appreciate them all and it makes the burden a little lighter. In the weeks to come, a friend will be creating a Meal Train. I would like to wait for more information from the oncologist and dietitian on what the best diet will be for Adam. We have been blessed by an overabundance of meals and food for the time being. We have some amazing cooks in our lives, YUM.
Keep the prayers rolling, we feel them and need them. We are sleeping well (the pregnant wife not as much as the others, but that is to be expected). We need Adam’s hemoglobin levels to rise, we need to continue to rise out of our dark emotional hole, and pray for guidance from the doctors on a course of treatment. I ask you pray for Adam to be filled with HOPE, peace, and strength. Please also hold us up in your prayers to enjoy Christmas and our celebrations with our families.
What a nightmare. What else can we say right now. Please throw some cold water in our face and wake us up from this horrible, horrible nightmare. I will do my best to convey the details of what we know in the best way possible for you to read. You are Adam’s Pack. Adam’s Pack of family, friends, co-workers, supporters. He is the writer, not me, but I have earned a few degrees behind my name so I’ll do my best. I’ll also do my best not to use exclamation points, my husband in communications hates them and says I only get one a day.
He looks healthy. Adam had some trouble sleeping on his right side or stomach for the last couple weeks. He had complained of being more tired the last several months or longer but he/we attributed it to the fact he works two jobs, has a toddler, a demanding wife and social calendar. He complained of feeling like he had the flu or just feeling very full, bloated the last few weeks. He was getting winded going up stairs, hunting early November and most recently, going up the stairs Monday night at Williams Arena for a Gophers basketball assignment. Monday night he came home and slept downstairs. He had trouble sleeping and woke up with the pain going into his shoulder. I (Julianna) told him he needed to be seen now, concerned it was his appendix or gall bladder because the pain was on his right side.
The clinic doctor ran blood and urine tests, which came back negative for anything. They set up a cat scan to check for gall bladder that afternoon but soon after, they said his hemoglobin was very low, 5.8 (normal for male at least 11+) and to head to United Hospital ER asap. He drove himself and soon after, decided Ed and I needed to go there too against his wishes. Our family jumped in to come pick up Ed from the ER. Ed, being the rockstar he is like his dad, did wonderful at the ER. That is where the story goes south.
ER, Tuesday Admission to United Hospital First thoughts were Crohn’s Disease or Colitis. CT scan soon showed a large tumor in his colon of cancerous type and we were admitted, not even 8 hours after he went to the doctor at 7:40 am. The large of amount of blood lost was from the tumor growing in him, even though Adam never noticed anything unusual. The tumor is about 3 feet in his intestines, a sneaky little demon growing in him for years. We will learn this cancer is nothing he has done or not done. PURE BAD LUCK.
The rest of Tuesday is already a blur. He had a blood transfusion and prepped for a colonoscopy on Wednesday. I arranged for family to watch Ed and we both spent a sleepless night at United. Thankfully the prep went well for Adam, as well as this could go. He was sedated but watched the entire procedure. Quickly learned the tumor was inside the colon, 5cm in size. It is not blocking it but concern it could in the future. Soon after, the oncologist met with us and bluntly stated Adam has cancer. It has spread to the lymph nodes and abdominal cavity. When asked the chances of his opinion being wrong, he said he was rarely wrong but we needed to wait for the biopsy results.
Boom. In less than 36 hours, our 6 years of beautiful marriage and young family is flashing before our eyes. All we could do was hold each other, cry, and talk about real adult life and death. I am praying and pleading with God to keep Adam here. I need him here as does our little man Ed and our baby coming this spring. I wanted the world to stop right then and there but it couldn’t. I had a toddler at home who needed to see his mama. We are blessed already with an outpouring of support via texts, calls, and last minute calls to friends to give me rides home and back to the hospital, run errands and help with Ed while we waited for my parents to arrive to take over Ed duty. Adam needed a little time to process this alone at the hospital and then his parents spent most of the evening with him. A Colon and Rectal Surgeon met with Adam and his parents, agreed with what Oncologist said but did offer them a glimmer of hope. The surgeon said he has seen chemo treat aggressive cancer, it is rare but possible. Chemo for colon cancer patients tends to be more tolerable than others, but no walk in the park either. Our Pastor kindly paid a visit to Adam and has been checking in with us.
Last night was long. I quickly realized how difficult this journey will be on me to take care of myself in addition to being Adam’s caregiver, friend, and mommy to our sweet babies. This isn’t about me, but Adam is my rock in every sense a husband and friend is. I will need to learn to sleep alone at some point in this journey, probably sooner than later but as long as I can be next to Adam, I am okay. We take turns I guess being strong, but right now, this guy still doesn’t know how amazing he is and I regret if I haven’t told him enough. If you don’t know, know now. Adam is AWESOME. Hard working, never complains, loving, never yells, patient, comforting, calming, helpful, supportive, sprays poop off cloth diapers, mops the floors, does the dishes, grocery shops and so much more. This guy would wake up with me to nurse Ed in the early weeks when it was so painful all I did was cry. Every 3 hours, then went to work all day. If you haven’t seen him with Ed, you need to. He is the best Dad to this little guy! He supports us in every way and reminds us to have fun. Adam never took life too seriously until we are told cancer wants to take it away. Laid back guy as you all know. I hope that laid back guy can make a comeback.
Today, Thursday Dec 3 The biopsy results confirmed the horrible news we had been given already. Stage 4 Colon Cancer, spread to lymph nodes and abdominal cavity. Oncologist gave us treatment options and the GI doctor also gave us some input which we greatly appreciated. Obviously chemo. The other option is a Debulking Surgery which can possibly cure, hopefully treat to extend his life past another 2 years. Chemo is 1-2 years. We don’t know stats on how many people go on to live a full healthy life after this surgery and to be honest, I don’t want to. They do this surgery because it is an option to cure this demon cancer and if God gives us 1 year, 2 years, 5 years, 20 – I will take those days and moments with this big guy. We have heard success stories of Stage 4 Colon Cancer and for now, I just need to know it is possible and we have to fight.
Adam has to fight. He is a strong guy. He isn’t in pain other than some discomfort now from the tumor when he lays just right at night. The GI dr gave us, or at least his parents and I, more HOPE that we need to seek second and third opinions and go to Mayo and U of M to speak to these surgeons who specialize in this type of surgery. It is major surgery. The GI dr was more positive that a surgeon isn’t going to turn away a 34 year old male with a young family and if he does, find someone else who will fight to help us. It is open surgery and would involve a week hospital stay, assuming no infection. A month recovery. The Colon and Rectal surgeon is also advocating for us and called the U of M at noon today and called us on our way home from the hospital today. We have an appt tomorrow morning for a Cat scan of his upper body to make sure it hasn’t spread. The oncologist was at least hopeful there it hasn’t spread elsewhere based on CT of abdomen. We will then have a consult with one of these surgeons, not sure their name yet tomorrow morning. The care coordinator at the hospital is working on getting us in at Mayo next week to meet with their specialists which will be a 2-3 day trip to Rochester. The GI dr, surgeon from United, care coordinator, my mother in law’s former doctor she worked with are all advocating for Adam. They are pulling strings to get us in soon to Mayo. The oncologist assured us 1-2 weeks for cancer won’t be detrimental but to us, 1-2 weeks is like 1-2 years right now. For now, we take this day-to-day as best we can. We want to get this ball rolling as we are expecting number 2 April 30 and we simply can’t be in different hospitals at the same time. Nope.
My journals might not be pretty to read, I don’t know that anyone’s are. Friends who have gone down this journey before us have shared the emotions will come in waves and wow, are they big tsunami type waves for me. Adam describes his life right now as a huge dark cloud hanging over it and who can blame him. This is where you all come in to help me, Edward, our baby I am carrying at 19 weeks along and of course, Matilda who completes our little family. We need prayers. Our parents, siblings, nieces and nephews need prayers. We need your encouragement to keep going. We thank everyone already for the outpour of texts and calls of support and offers to help. We read them all and listen to those messages, it is simply really painful to talk and say this out loud all day. This is a long journey and please know, we appreciate you and will ask you for help. For this weekend, we are going to concentrate on us. Take Ed on the Polar Express Train with Santa, hang out at home, decorate the tree, and hopefully go to Christmas on Holz Farm near us Sunday. Love to you all, XOXO.
A person’s clothes tell a story about them. It isn’t something we think about while getting dressed, but it is one way we are remembered. A wardrobe paints the scene in our memories with the person we miss.
Allow me to paint a picture in your mind of the one and only, Mr. Adam Czech. No images today, just words. Just as Adam would do.
Depending on your relationship to Adam, you would see him in one of his signature outfits. If you saw him more than anyone else, you were a co-worker. Monday through Thursday he was in a short sleeved polo or long sleeved, button down dress shirt with flat front dress pants. On Friday, he’d cut back and relax a little, sporting that polo or button down with a dark denim pair of Levi jeans. A few times a month, you would have seen him looking very dapper. A sport coat on and one of his dozen ties, laying neatly over a wrinkle free dress shirt for an important meeting with the board, a politician, or an event sponsored by his employer.
If you sat in the press area with Adam, covering a local professional or collegiate sports team, you remember him the exact same way. Many of his fellow Associated Press writers will recall Adam pretending to be warm when the press box windows were open during a cold Twins baseball game. He usually forgot a coat (even in subzero January temperatures) and would never admit to being cold. Adam would share in a quick text, something along the lines of “shoot, forgot coat, windows open, chilly.” On a hot day, of course, the quick text was about the free cookie ice cream sandwiches he got. (His love for food is for another place and time, but reporting what he ate at the stadiums was a favorite past time.)
Many peers who blogged about football with Adam, never met him in person. They were friends from all over the country through Twitter and email. If they were lucky enough to meet him, it was at Lambeau Field. They will picture him wearing an All Green Bay Packers or Cheesehead TV shirt with his name on the back. They saw and knew his face from the few photos he posted to social media of himself with his sons.
Adam did not reserve his green and gold attire solely for Wisconsin or sitting around at home. He proudly shared who his favorite football team was wherever he went, especially back home, deep in Minnesota Vikings country. His mom will tell you how the Packers winter coat he wore as an adult, was from his godfather in the sixth grade. He proudly wore that Starter jacket to every freezing football game we went to. His few Packers sweatshirts were from middle school and high school. Throughout the years together, I helped expand his Packers merchandise collection. They are in mint condition and saved for our sons. Some with very special memories attached to them and were put into handmade quilts for us. Adam held on to things and took care of them.
If you were in Adam’s hunting party, you will also remember his simple gear. In his beginning years, he and his mom shared an orange hunting coat and wool pants from his grandfather. Adam was 12, it was the only coat he ever wore. The coat was so heavy it gave her a backache, and eventually when the hunting season was extended to nine days she bought her own coat. Adam rarely wore gloves hunting (or ever), he would say “that is what my pockets are for.” If it happened to be a colder than usual fall, his parents had an extra pair of gloves to borrow. He kept his hunting boots from middle school with his hunting gear back home, they still fit and he rarely wore boots anyway. One Christmas, his parents gave him a new pair of winter boots. The only hunting gift I ever recall Adam receiving. He didn’t need or want much.
I was really excited when he brought those winter boots home. Until that year, he would shovel snow in his work shoes, rarely with gloves on, but usually, well sometimes, a hat or earmuffs on his head. I would scold him. Not only was it too cold to dress like that, but it also ruined one of the three pairs of shoes he had every winter! Oh, did I forget to mention? He only had three pairs of shoes and one pair of sandals. Grey tennis shoes, black dress shoes, brown dress shoes, and a tan pair of sandals for the summer.
Family and friends saw Adam the same way, with one exception. He had a collection of heavy metal concert t-shirts, several with disturbing graphics on them. Our oldest son, Edward, is a little more sensitive and I made the mistake of putting one of Adam’s favorite concert shirts from a band Ghost in the middle of his blanket. There were several pictures of Adam and Edward with this shirt, and I wanted these blankets to hold memories. Reggie on the other hand got his green Still Kickin shirt in the middle of his blanket, very appropriate for him and not frightening at all! Often, Edward (age six) will ask about the ghosts and skulls. I don’t mind. It gives us an opportunity to talk about his daddy. They both love to know the story behind a shirt in their Daddy-blankets warming their bed.
My favorite scene painted with Adam is him in one of two outfits. These signature items meant we were on a date. Everything green and gold for our yearly Lambeau Field date. Depending on the level of class for the special date he planned, he’d wear his sport coat, perhaps a tie, a nice belt, black suspenders if it was a wedding, and a dark pair of pants.
I can see him. I can hear him exclaim every time how beautiful I looked, how lucky he was. I can smell his cologne from our first kiss and last date together.
Picture after picture you will recognize this big guy in the back with the goatee and one of his signature outfits. These are the stories his clothes tell. The scenes painted in your memory and mine. The ones I hope are never forgotten and will continue to share.
I was so lucky to know him and the stories his clothes tell.
The boys and I received pennies in church last week. I wrote down a prayer request and Edward put it in a basket by the alter. He brought a penny back, like everyone was instructed to by Pastor. This penny is a reminder.
Truth be told, the prayer was for me.
A prayer for comfort, peace, and direction. Comfort as I head into the third year without my husband by my side. Peace to fill my heart for the holiday season. And guidance for direction in my life.
I put the penny on our microwave where I’d see it often. Ironically, the boys came home with six pennies each on Monday after an exercise about honesty at daycare. Seeing all these coins is a good reminder to pray for help and lay my problems down for the Lord.
Two years ago, I went through the worst week of my life. It started on Sunday and ended on a Friday evening when my loving husband passed away. There was very little time to process how fast the end of Adam’s life came and how it all happened.
Adam and I knew the end was near. We had met with palliative care days before his last week of life to begin some end of life planning. Time ran out for any of these wishes to happen or be carried out. Instead, we had fifteen minutes in between his oncologist delivering me news we should move to hospice before our parents all came in to visit. What a short conversation for us; for him to share his wishes for me to love again, hear him tell me “I’d be okay”. In between nurses and family that week we’d sneak in funeral questions, bank and billing questions, things at 33 you should not be talking about
This last week of his life, the last week of our marriage was full of searing pain, yet exploded with love. There was also a sense of comfort and peace. I felt this peace especially when we entered into hospice. The only way I can explain this feeling, and my ability to pray and help guide Adam to his eternal peace was from your prayers.
This week, since the penny came home from church, I have felt peace again. Every time I saw the penny in the kitchen, I’d say “please give me comfort, peace and direction God.” God is good; I have really felt comfort this week that I haven’t felt since he died.
I still think about the painful days during Adam’s illness. The memories are scars left in me and honestly, I don’t ever want to forget them because it reminds me to be thankful for life, health, and our sons.
But what I can now see in this second year of living with my grief, is prayers are not always answered how we want. We practiced healing prayer every week with our Pastor. Nightly, I led and prayed with Adam.
I have to carry the burden and balance feelings of being thankful, angry, and bitter. Thankful God peacefully took him home to heaven, free of cancer and pain. Angry my sons will never truly know their own father and madness our love story was cut short. Bitter I was robbed of a loving marriage and the life with my best friend.
And again, thankful God is still with me and answering prayers. Sending me new relationships and strengthening others to help me find my way in this new life. Giving me peace and comfort during this week where I remember Adam drifting away from me, going where I can’t yet.
At 33 years old, I didn’t expect I’d have to rebuild my life. No “job”, a full time mommy to a baby and a preschooler at my side. But this is the life I was given and I am going to live it. I am going to love life and honor Adam’s legacy. I am going to honor my promise to him, “I’ll be okay.”
Reading, volunteering, traveling, and most of all time with his sons were the things he wished he had more of when when we talked. Coming from the man who always had a couple of books on the nightstand; would offer or say yes to help family or friends; who was always ready and willing to book a flight and go. A man who loved his sons and wife more than life itself.
Those very things he wished more of, I will carry on for him. Ironic now, how reading and writing have become two ways I cope best with my grief. When I travel, I am able to shed a little layer of guilt and pain. Volunteering with cancer caregivers and widows helps me find a way to kick the aftermath of cancer. I will live my days to honor Adam and his legacy by being the best mom I can be to our sons.
Miss you sweetie. I love you more. You’re still the best!
Support groups and counseling have provided a safe place for me to talk. To share vivid dreams and signs from Adam. People who understand my anger, awkward widow humor, and the secondary losses of losing a spouse.
The first group I was invited to was December 2015. I was not thrilled to be sent an invitation to the Young Cancer Wives support group on Facebook.
This woman, kind enough to reach out when her husband had just entered hospice care. Their sons were a little older than ours when he was diagnosed with colon cancer two and a half years prior.
My husband was not going to die. He was going to defy the odds and survive well into his 40s at least. Her husband died a few weeks later. We were on opposite ends of the spectrum from my perspective.
She has become one of my best friends. We have only met in person twice but she understands me. She gets me because we are living a “what the hell happened” kind of life and finding ways to move forward. Finding ways to feel joy again.
She gave me her number and answered any time I called. If Cat was on a home visit for work, she’d text me as soon as possible. Cat was the one who walked me through how to talk with Edward about his Daddy dying, about the funeral, about death.
Cat provides support and offers advice as a fellow widowed, solo mother who is dating. Sometimes we just call to say a lot of f-bombs together. Because nothing makes us feel better then talking for 15 minutes and seeing how many swear words we can fit in.
I went to this online support group she invited me into when it felt like the bottom to my life was falling out. When I didn’t know what to say to the endless offers of help, they gave me practical advice.
They shared their experiences of having babies when their husbands were on chemo. Tips on how to prep myself. If there were any ways to prepare someone for cancer, chemo, and a newborn baby this group would know.
Women who helped me care for myself and support Adam through his surgeries, chemo, emotional ups and downs.
Caregivers who became widows. Supporting me in a way nobody else could when it was time for hospice.
When Adam died, Widows Don’t Wear Black (for cancer widows)and The Hot Young Widows Club became the only reason I’d log in to Facebook or Instagram. This group of strangers grateful to have each other. All of us wishing we would have never met.
It took a little more work to find a support group we could physically go to. Our social worker from the cancer center knew about a family grief support group through Fairview Health Services.
As I retold the events of how my sons and I arrived at this group, a woman across the circle kindly stared. She asked if she could go next. Anna’s s husband died less then a month after Adam from colon cancer. Their story was almost identical to ours.
Fast forward to today. Anna and her two children have become an extension of our family. She is an incredibly important person in my life.
Our oldest boys are a year apart in age, our youngest also a year difference in age. We have morning play dates and supper dates with all four kids. It is always loud, a mess, and we can never guess who will eat and who won’t.
We rarely get in five minutes of adult conversation without interruptions but that never stops us from trying.
It is helpful to have someone nearby to relate to. Our oldest sons especially benefit from playing with another child whose “daddy died of cancer too.” As her youngest daughter and my Reggie start to identify their grief, they will lean on one another.
As mothers, we lean on one another.
We have helped each other with dishes and laundry when the other was sick. When getting to regular counseling sessions became difficult with my new schedule, our weekly dates at the zoo became my grief therapy.
Regardless of how our grief is affecting us in the moment, we can get each other to smile. She laughs at my inappropriate jokes. We encourage and inspire one another. There is an exchange of f-bombs when the kids are not within ear shot. (Disclaimer: young widows love the f-bomb.)
Without social media, I wouldn’t have made new friendships.
Without our social worker at the hospital, I wouldn’t have found the family grief support group or my grief counselor.
A large part of why I am a survivor is because of these gifts.
We survived our first 5K on a hot and humid morning. (2011)
Survival was the biggest gift.
I do not remember much from the first six months. Family, friends, and our nannies helped often and frequently with the boys so I could merely survive this new life I didn’t ask for. Shock helped protect me but around July it started to wear off.
August was a wake up call when I was blessed with the shingles. Blessed? It wasn’t a blessing at the time but I can look back now and see it was.
It helped me realize several things. My antidepressant was NOT working. I was on such a low dose but honestly, never felt like I needed it. My medication was increased when I got the shingles because people in their 30’s get shingles from lack of sleep, stress, and a low immune system.
I turned into a zombie from the increased dose. I was exhausted and no amount of coffee or naps helped. In November, I couldn’t take it anymore. Six weeks later on a new medication, I am not exhausted anymore. My highs actually feel high and I can feel the lows too. My mood has leveled out and I can function better.
I needed to find ways to get quality sleep and take better care of myself. While I have not found the answers to simplifying life with two busy boys, it has improved. The new medication and taking melatonin before bed has greatly improved my overall health.
In November, instead of turning to wine to drown my sorrow, I joined the YMCA. I can workout while they boys play; instead of trying to exercise at home with them literally under my feet, asking for a snack every two seconds. I am enjoying exercise again, something I got away from when the lows became more frequent then the highs. It has been key to my mental and physical health.
Okay, so you might be asking yourself, “Why is she sharing her medical chart with us?” Antidepressants get a bad name and some people assume they are for the weak or grieving. I think that is absolutely wrong. I was on an antidepressant in college for about six months. Sometimes these medications are long term and sometimes they help your body and mind get through stressful situations until you can maintain balance again. There is no shame in asking your doctor about a prescription.
Exercise. Simple right? Simple to skip, that is what I think. I go through phases this last year where I think, “Why even try to be healthy? Adam exercised, ate well, and lost weight the years before he was diagnosed and it didn’t matter. Eating organic didn’t matter. Drinking only once a week didn’t matter. Why will it be the difference if I exercise, eat well, and limit my (bottles of…) wine?”
Honestly, I don’t know what to believe is the right answer to prevent cancer anymore. Fitness didn’t prevent Adam’s body from overproducing cancerous cells. I do know it was one of the things he did that helped his body and mind feel better. Exercise helped him feel in control of something. It helped him survive when he felt terrible.
I think about us going to the gym together over the years. The body pump and cycle classes we went to. The session of yoga classes he took with me at a studio. Imagine Adam in yoga? Yeah, it was as hilarious as you are imagining! He did it though and never complained. He started running with me one summer and we ran a 5K. He even stepped in and ran with my friend when I was injured so she didn’t have to run the race we planned to do together. We walked the river boulevard probably a hundred times when we lived in St. Paul and biked by the river.
When I get in a rut and don’t want to exercise, I think about Adam. I think about him going for a walk when he was wearing his pump for chemo. I think about him walking after his surgery in summer and how every step was like climbing a mountain for him. Getting back to fitness has helped me feel better overall and has been a big factor in surviving.
I survived a lot this year. Even something as simple as eating and going to a body pump class brings a constant flood of memories with Adam. I trust I will survive all the happy and sad memories next year too.
I am grateful for the blog posts I wrote this last year, the status updates on social media, and the pictures I took. These help me remember the pain, the good times, and the accomplishments. My hope in sharing these with you is that in some way, my blog helps you.
Why do I want to remember the pain? This is really very simple for me. I want to remember the heartache because it is from pain I have grown. It is how we all grow.
If I have learned anything this last year, it is to be grateful. It is “okay, to not be okay.” It is to find ways to be patient amidst trying times. It is to continue living and loving fully, with no regrets.
We have enjoyed all of the holiday cheer mailed to us, thank you! As we close out the year, I am going to share with you each day a gift 2017 brought. Stay tuned this week of Christmas to hear more about them. I will share a little cheer, some hope, and a lot of honesty.
Here is a preview of The Gifts of 2017 we were blessed with.
Survival was the biggest gift.
Support groups and grief counseling were the most helpful gifts.
New hobbies were the gifts that helped find joy.
Going back to work was the hardest gift to accept.
Organizing and starting the Minneapolis Cocktails and Chemo Chapter was the most rewarding gift.
Dating was the most unexpected gift.
Edward, Reginald, and Matilda were my favorite gifts!