It’s been a strange week. More accurately, it’s been a strange year. There was a lump in my wife’s chest. Mammogram: Inconclusive. Ultrasound: Inconclusive. Ultrasound guided biopsy done on Monday, January 8. Tuesday, January 9, I was in the middle of the 3rd quarter of coaching my daughter’s first 5th grade basketball game when I saw Chelsee run out of the gym with her phone in her hand. She re-entered the gym five minutes later and she didn’t have to say a word. It was obvious she had been crying. Stage 2 Breast Cancer. Both breasts.
After nearly three months, two surgeries, countless appointments, an entirely new vocabulary of medical terminology, and a seemingly non-stop roller coaster ride of test results she started chemo this week. I was ready for her to be flat on her back this weekend. I should know better than to underestimate her. Aside from needing a lot of sleep, she really seems no different. Do I believe for a second she feels as well as she says she does? Hell no. She’s still doing better than expected.
She was feeling well enough that I didn’t feel quite as guilty as I probably should have about leaving for a few hours to take my dog Belle out to the game farm for the last day of hunting season there on Saturday. A day out in the fresh air with dad, T-Bone, Kneecap, and Colin would be a welcomed break. The only drawback was missing out on the Tews family. They were stopping by to drop off dinner for us Saturday evening. At least that’s what I was told. I thought I might get back on time, but I know how the game farm goes. Two hours turns in to five hours quickly there.
It was a glorious day afield with the guys…one of those days we’ll still be talking about years from now. Belle is five years old now and she had her finest day on Saturday. This has nothing to do with the story, but I just wanted to point out how proud I am of my dog. She’s a good girl. Anyway, we spent some post-hunt time in the clubhouse having a soda, getting our birds cleaned, and saying our goodbyes to Steve and the gang at Wolf River knowing that we won’t see them again until fall. By the time we left I knew I was too late to see Tewses.
I walked in to the house with a well-rehearsed, “Sorry I’m late, but it was really nice out and we were having fun and the dog was awesome…” speech ready for Chelsee and I was immediately thrown off by the giant baskets full of gifts on our kitchen table. I mean a comically large pile of gifts. My initial thought was, “Damn, I leave for a few hours and Chels goes WAY OVERBOARD on Easter gifts for the kids. Plus, how did she explain the Easter Bunny coming on Saturday afternoon?” Then I looked at Chels and said, “What’s all this?” She immediately started crying. I don’t remember her exact response, but at some point she stopped sobbing long enough to explain to me that a group of our relatives and friends (I’m not naming names because I’m not 100% clear on exactly who it was and I don’t want to leave anyone out) has been contacting people to collect gifts for Chelsee. Tewses dropped them off. She didn’t open any gifts because she wanted me to be home. She did open cards because she wanted to know who got all of these gifts. Then she found out who:
Nearly everyone we know.
She handed me a pile of cards. Family. Friends. Co-workers. I now believe more than ever that those three groups are one in the same. I had no reaction. I was in shock. Speechless. I still am (at least as speechless as one can be in the midst of a 1,000-word blog post). This post is an attempt to show some gratitude for such a massive, generous gesture, and I am rambling because I have no idea how to say thank you. We spent the next half hour on the living room floor with the kids watching them open everything like it was Christmas morning, only with a lot of hard candy and Chap Stick. If you’re not aware (I wasn’t until recently), chemo apparently messes up your mouth. It somehow gets a lot of sores, slimy, and dry simultaneously. I guess you also get a nasty taste in your mouth and a it does a number on your taste buds to a point where nothing tastes good. Well…problem solved!
It was an amazing gesture from an overwhelming number of people. Chelsee spent much of the evening in tears. I spent most of the time trying to figure out two things. First, how did you ALL keep this a secret? Did you get one of those Men in Black neuralyzer things to wipe my dad’s brain so he wouldn’t spill it? Second, and more importantly, how you say thanks to a gesture so humbling. Most of these people are on Facebook, right? Well, in a recent moment of self-righteousness I decided to quit Facebook, so that’s out (yes, I’m out for good this time…probably). I honestly couldn’t sleep tonight because it’s all I’ve been thinking about for the past 30 hours or so. How does one say thanks?
Here’s my attempt: To our family, friends, our St. Mary’s family, our Tweet/Garot family, our Webster School family, and anyone else who has taken a moment out of their lives to do anything kind for my amazing wife and children, or me…THANK YOU! Your friendship means more to us than you’ll ever know. Your generosity over the past few months has brought so much light to an otherwise dark time. Whatever we did to deserve you, I hope we continue to do it. Also, if you need a Jolly Rancher, Life Saver, or a Werther’s Original, I’m your hookup.