Sunday, August 30, 2015

Getting Ready for School

When Joe was diagnosed with his colon cancer in January 2010 we had found out a few days before that I was pregnant with our first child. He went through an emergency surgery and by the time his oncologist came by to speak with us it was Friday evening. While most of the conversation seemed like the scene out of 50/50 in which Joseph Gordon Levitt's character receives his own unbelievable diagnosis, the one thing I clearly remember her telling us was to not go on the internet and start searching WebMD for survival rates. She said there were new trials every day and lots of possibilities, but of course the first thing I did once I had a moment away from Joe's bedside was to google "web md stage 4 colon cancer prognosis".

I will never forget the way my stomach dropped as I scanned to the bottom of the page - past all the treatment protocols and lingo - straight to find that at 5 years the survival rate was 10%. In my mind, I pictured our child about to start school and me being the lone parent taking the first day photo and giving the goodbye hug and kiss. It was too much to bear. When I returned to Joe's hospital bed he was asleep, but I held his hand and cried to him about how I needed him to be there for my pregnancy and the birth, and for our child's first year and first day of school and holy fuck this is all so unfair.

Now here I am over 5 years later with a soon-to-be five year old and no Joe. School is about to start and for the first time Domani will be taking part in the festivities - heading off to pre-school. It is what I feared in that hospital room more than 5 years ago. 

I can already feel the feelings. Yesterday, the little guy and I decorated our windows with some school-themed Stik-ees and today we finished putting together everything he needs from his pre-school checklist. 

Domani showing off his Stik-ees

The back door decorated
August has been a tough month. It included my and Joe's anniversary, so much work, a family vacation, and all sorts of difficult news from many corners of my life. Each of these things has brought on me their own unique emotional and spiritual weight. I didn't realize just how much until I found myself in church this morning singing "My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less". By the start of the second verse I casually pulled my sunglasses down, mostly so my old lady eyes could read the words but also so the stream of tears that had started flowing would stay a little more private. 

When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace; In every high and stormy gale, My anchor holds within the veil. 
On Christ the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand, All other ground is sinking sand.
His oath, His covenant, His blood Support me in the whelming flood; When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.
On Christ the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand, All other ground is sinking sand.

Then there were parts of the message that especially sat with me. God meets us where we are but doesn't leave us there... We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses... How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? Don't be afraid to risk yourself and your deepest longings by bringing them to God... Accept what God pours back.

By the time the service was over, I felt some measure of peace - at least enough to know I will make it through this week. September is not quite as scary now (and not only because the Mets are still in first place!) And what was too much to bear five years ago is sad, but definitely manageable. 

I know that Tuesday will be both exciting and hard. Domani is more than ready. I'll probably need to tuck some extra tissues in my purse before we leave the house. But no matter what, I know that we will get through it together.

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