There is a line from the John Wayne movie In Harm’s Way: “All battles are fought by scared men who’d rather be someplace else.” It would seem that this statement can be applied to all sorts of situations, but it struck a chord with my heart. Even though I am not a man and the battle on the horizon is not mine to fight, but I am utterly scared to death.
Nearly a year ago my husband, Kevin, had a seemingly routine sinus infection. It was treated with the standard combination of antibiotics and steroids and it did get a little better. Several weeks later, it flared up again and the treatment was repeated, but it never completely resolved. Advil Cold and Sinus, Mucinex, Flonase were used relentlessly with little or no relief. Eventually, he was having such difficulty sleeping due to the chronic congestion he returned to the doctor, which resulted in a failed sleep study and a referral to an ENT. I would like to put it on the record that Kevin DOES NOT LIKE to go to the doctor, so he didn’t go to the ENT right away, he sniffled and blew and popped Advil Cold and Sinus for the sinus headaches. The congestion had progressed to the point of him not being able to breath from the right side of his nose. He was miserable and so he went.
I returned home from a business trip for my brand new job and Kevin reported to me that he had seen the ENT (who also happens to be our friend) and was sent for a CT scan. “A CT scan,” I had asked, “what does he think it is? Polyps?” Kevin told me, “He isn’t sure what it is, but he doesn’t think it is a polyp.” So what does any wife do in this situation? Of course, I Googled. The results of my ill-advised Googling actually made me feel better. I soon learned that the risk of having sinus cancer is extremely rare ( 1% of cancers are in the sinus cavity). I have one message for Google, “Screw you, Google and your false sense of wellbeing.”
The results of the CT scan revealed a mass in right sinus cavity. This was followed by a completely horrific MRI experience to rule out the erosion of the orbital bone and possible invasion of the brain. Much to our immense relief, this was not the case. The biopsy followed the next morning and after a brutal bloody retrieval, the tissue samples were sent off to pathology. I had already hung my hat on the sound medical advice rendered by Google and was confident that the results would be benign. So we settled in for the 2 or 3 days for the test to come back.
The results didn’t come. I started getting a little nervous and started texting our friend the ENT, “Hey, it’s me, have you heard anything yet?” After being told that the results were still not ready, my texts started to escalate from nervous to borderline hysterical. My nurse brain started to bully my Google brain a little and my worry was compounded by further delays. The biopsy was sent to a special ENT pathologist in Louisville and then more tissue slides were requested. I tried to stay positive, but I knew in my heart the news was not going to be good. Unfortunately, I was right.
Esthesioneuroblastoma, (aka olfactory neuroblastoma) was the official diagnosis. Have you ever heard of it? Well, if you have, then you are among a very small circle of either very smart or very unlucky people. As it turns out, it is one of the rarest types of cancers on the planet. Our big lovable Kevin had better odds of getting struck by lightning TWICE than developing this rare breed of cellular proliferation. I made it from the doctor’s office to the truck before I fell apart and my fear engulfed me. As we drove home, I looked over at Kevin through my tears and he sat quietly and bravely digesting the news. Par for the course he prevailed as the logical bulwark in the face of crisis and I remained his never failing maniacal ball of hysteria spewing sidekick.
It is hard to conceive how truly blessed one is until you find yourself in the valley and are simultaneously lifted up in love, support and prayers by family and friends. Holy cow! We are extremely lucky. But sharing the bad news with our kiddos and watching those sweet hearts break was almost more than I could stand. Our two oldest, Evan and Riley had been kept fairly abreast of the unfolding situation, but it still didn’t soften the blow. But Sophi is in Medical School in Kansas City, and we didn’t want to cause her any additional stress than she is already under. She came home and we were snuggling in bed with her late on the night of his diagnosis and while trying to be as positive as possible, Kevin told her he had cancer. I have been witness to few things I found more excruciating than watching a kid who loves her daddy like Sophi loves Kevin crumble under the weight of something so heavy.
So, this blog post sucks big fat hairy buffalo balls. Personally, at this point, I was floundering and didn’t really know what to do. My step-dad, Ron, found me hiding in the basement the day after his diagnosis, paralyzed by helplessness. He asked me what I was doing and I told me that everything was going to be okay. I promptly responded by bursting into tears and sobbing, “But he’s my best friend.” It was then Ron took the wheel and I have never felt such relief in my life (Ron and I have a long history of struggles over the proverbial wheel, but I have never been so willing to give him the controls). While I was hiding in the basement worrying about everything from possibly losing Kevin to affording treatment, he had researched hospitals, treatments, and specialist and was ready with a plan.
We will be leaving in a few days to travel to Houston, Texas to MD Anderson Cancer Center. They are one of the few places in the country who have treated this type of cancer. We are scared, but we are hopeful and ready to get him better. I have teetered on being angry at God and now I am lying. I have been really angry at God. Kevin is a much better person than I am, he’s a wonderful husband, the greatest dad to our children and my very best buddy. He lost both of his parents when they were much too young and he has endured a great deal. Kevin isn’t one to share his feelings or express himself quite as demonstratively as I do, but I know he is scared, as are all men heading into battle. A little over a year ago, I had a breast cancer scare that turned out not to be anything at all. During that time, he assured me that everything was going to be fine. However subdued, however subtle, this text exchange is just one example of how big he loves:
Please keep him in your prayers. We are expecting all kinds of miracles.