Friday, June 2, 2017

Chemo Day 1 - Puzzles & Poisons

This was written late on Thursday night June 1st. I waited to post it so Nin could read it first:

Today went much better than expected. Nin, her mom Julie, and I had a pretty enjoyable day at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. It started with some focused puzzling while we waited for our pre-chemo Dr appointments. 

We can't decide if the puzzles in the waiting area are a good or bad thing. We have so much fun and get so into it that when the nurse walks out and says "Nicole?!" I just want to yell "Nope! You'll have to reschedule her!" Then we would finish the puzzle, the cancer would disappear, and the heavens would open to a chorus of angels praising our puzzle building abilities.

Unfortunately in our modern world, puzzles don't cure cancer. YET. Until that day comes we'll continue to rely on radioactive poisons injected directly into the bloodstream to kill cancer. Hopefully the puzzle cure happens soon.

We had all of these grand plans for her first chemo dose. We were going to play a new card game, watch a show, color in her adult coloring book and my children's coloring book, take a nap, and write thank you notes.

Instead, we mostly just talked, read our books, and Instagrammed/Insta'd/Grammed/Be'd Anti-Social", whatever the cool kids are calling it these days. I think we were all so buzzed with anticipation of the unknown that we all reverted to the easiest distractions. We had a great time though.

Nin, no surprise here, handled the day like a champ. The full chemo side effects haven't hit her yet but she's managed the fatigue and nausea with grace.  She would tell you that nausea is in her top two worst things ever category but you wouldn't have known it today.

We were able to go for a short walk and eat some grapes. She wasn't feeling the mushy grapes so she delicately requested that I only give her the grapes that were as firm as her temporary fake breasts, which are pretty rock solid at this point. I ate the less breasty grapes like a good husband should.

After our walk and a hot bath, one of our best friends and neighbor, Stephanie Brinkerhoff came by to hang out.

We talked of everything from how the day went, to reminiscing about our favorite parts of previous travels, to deep conversations of others losing loved ones. There is one thing that I wanted to share from the conversation. It is the story behind the butterflies on the giving tree that our friends gave Nin a few weeks ago.

I will include scanned copies of the Anything For a Friend, F2TF (Fight to the Finish), and the story of the butterfly at the bottom if you'd like to read it all.  The excerpt below is about the butterflies:

"A few days before Tyler Smith's death (a 15-year old with terminal liver cancer), his mother and older brother, Ann and Tanner were sitting with him and as one can only image, Tyler's mind and thoughts were directed towards things that most 15-year olds never have to think about, he was contemplating his own death.

In keeping with his character even in this most difficult and unbelievable hour, he found a way to find the positive.  Though there had to be a great deal of fear of the unknown, he stated that there was a part of him that was excited to die because he "would soon know for sure if it was all true!" (Referring to the things that he had been taught about life and death).

Ann sesnsing where her youngest son's heart must be and in her own anguish, commented back, "When you find out, let me know too".

"How?" Tyler questioned with a playful tone.  Ann thought for a moment and suggested that he could possibly send butterflies.

Tyler quipped, "A butterly, I'm not coming back as a dumb buttefly!"

They all giggled at Tyler's humor and her and Tanner lightheartedly talked about other options like a racoon or badger; a far more appropriate representative for this 15-year old powerhouse!

Ann recalls that the conversation ended without a conclusion and the three broken hearts moved on with their day, not knowing that they would have to face the ultimate nightmare of losing Tyler just days later.

The morning that Tyler died and after the mortuary had come to care for Tyler's mortal remains, the Smith's met out on the deck to find some peace before the onslaught surrounding Tyler's death hit.  They gathered around the patio table and talked and reminisced about the experiences that they had been through and spoke tenderly of Tyler. 

In the days leading up to Tyler's death the weather had been turbulent, with torrential rains and dark, threatening skies, but as a fitting tribue the sky was cloudless on this Sunday morning and perfect hues of pink, orange, and blue began to fill the western skyline waiting for the familiarity of the rising sun.  The emerging reverence for the passing of a truly incredible Son of God.

Symbolically, the first ray of the gentle sun peaked over the mountain range and illuminated the darkened canyon of the Rocky Mountains, just as a beautiful eagle flew through the beam of light.

Time had not stopped, the sun was still rising and the world was moving on despite the crushed hearts of the Smith family.  Where would they turn for peace?

As they visited, a big, beautfiul monarch butterly flew midst the family, creating a basis of a healing balm for their broken hearts.  Since that time, there have been some truly amazing stories about the butterflies and has come to serve as an additional symbol of hope and love that reaches beyond the grave.  We may never look at a butterfly in the same way...any maybe we shouldn't."

Nicole read Tyler's story late on the night that she received the giving tree. The next morning she woke up to a card from her Great Aunt. In this card her aunt described how Nin's Great Grandma Beckman loved butterflies. Inside the card was a beautifully knitted blue butterfly of her Grandma Beckman's that she wanted Nicole to have. When she read the card and saw the butterfly she cried tears of joy. Some things are too perfect to be coincidental.

We had a conversation the other day about how great our lives are and how happy and blessed we are. Of course these past two months have been completely devastating but at the same time they have been such a huge blessing. We see the Lord's hand in our lives daily and understand that we are becoming better people through these trials. We know the next few months are going to be difficult but recognizing how blessed we truly are puts it all into perspective.  We are so grateful for all we have, including our trials, including the cancer. We are so grateful for all of you and everything you do. You all know who you are. Pretend we actually took the time to write thank you notes during chemo today. Make sure you pretend that it was the sweetest thank you note you've ever received. You're welcome.

We just want you all to know that we love you and appreciate your support more than you know. We love our Heavenly Father and the knowledge and testimonies we have that families can be together forever. We can't imagine going through this without that knowledge.  Currently at this time (12:10am), I especially appreciate bedtime.

Sleep tight.