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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

And The Fight Goes On

In a bizarre coincidence today I had an appointment at Wilford Hall Hospital, where Andrea had her chemo. I had not been there since Andrea had her last chemo, and it was just a little strange as I drove across town on this of all days, Dec 16th the day before Andrea died.

I remember hearing Andrea's first Doctor tell us she had cancer, I think I wrote about it in one of my first blogs, but then we heard that a second time in North Carolina, when cancer's seriousness was taken up a notch. I remember it very well because Dr. Atkins recorded it for us, knowing most of what he said that day would never be heard. Today I listened to that tape as I drove to Wilford Hall. I keep that tape in the cassette deck in my car, cued to the same spot in the conversation, where Andrea talks. Dr. Atkins says, "She won't remember most of what I'm saying today because I just hit he over the head with a two by four." How true. At the end he asks if Andrea has any questions. You can hear her voice, very faintly, as she tries to gather the strength to talk. Her voice is weak, and slowly she gets out her question, "Can you please not give me so much Dexamethasone?" Dexamethasone is a steroid used to limit reactions to the chemo and it's side effects were hard during Andrea's first treatment. By the time we had it adjusted she was getting 1/10 of her original dose. For those who were never blessed to know Andrea I will tell you she was pretty small, 4'11" and around 95lbs, usually most 11 yr old girls were her size. So the adult dosage was always way too much for her. Andrea's voice is cracking and I hear the dread in her voice as she begins to cry, a rare event for Andrea in the doctor's office. It strikes me that of all Andrea faced that day her concern was over that drug. She could have been worried about 1000 other things and maybe she was and it was just this that came out, it is hard to tell because in that moment your mind is racing as you try to process what the doctor just told you.

Soon I arrived at my appointment and it turned out I was early so I decided to visit a friend whose son is in treatment upstairs. I won't say his name since I have not asked them if it was okay to share but I found myself suddenly on the other side of chemo. I was not the one fighting I was the one visiting and as I stood there and made small talk I knew exactly how they must be feeling. It is strange well maybe difficult is a better word, to try to have a normal conversation when you are surrounded by such seriousness. As a patient all you want to do is not be there, for someone to walk in and say there has been a mistake your son's test was mixed up and he doesn't have cancer. So sometimes just talking about everyday things brings back a little of the normalcy of life that is lost when you are told you or someone you love has cancer. It shatters your life an as my friends said, "Normal is gone forever." So as we talked I tried to offer some escape from the reality of what was happening. I found myself praying under my breath as I tried to be a much of an encouragement to them as so many people were to Andrea and I.

After my appointment was over I decided to go to the old chemo room where Andrea had her treatment, and re walk the hallways we took. I looked on my iPhone and I had the pictures I took of Andrea during one of her last treatments. She sits smiling in her chair with her oxygen on and IV drip hooked up. I then went up to the 6th floor and said hello to her oncologist, Dr. Osswald. It was good to see him again and we had a nice talk. Having taken all I could I decided it was time to leave and as I walked out of the hospital and there walking towards me was Andrea's first ICU doctor, Dr Fry. If you read the blogs from Andrea's time in the ICU you might remember him as "Dr Doom and Gloom." Let's just say he did not have the best bed side manner.

I'm not sure what lies ahead for me tomorrow other then it will hurt. These past three weeks have been hard as I remembered Andrea's 21 days in ICU and the crazy ups and downs. But each day I read the blog I wrote that day last year and it helped me remember the emotions of those days. I was glad to have that record of what happened each day. I remember all of you who helped me through those days. Like Kathy who faithfully visited Andrea and massaged her hands and feet to help the swelling go down. Or Karl and Roger and others who decorated my house with Christmas lights to help bring a little normalcy to me and the boy's life. Or the digital picture frame they gave us, loaded with our pictures. It was the best gift ever and I will never forget holding it for Andrea and seeing her smile as we relived each moment of each picture. And there were so many others who came or called. All of you who left the comfort of your own life and stepped in to what I know was an uncomfortable situation, yet you did so and it gave us hope, and comfort that we were not alone. I will never forget that, and I hope I was able to repay that gift today for a little boy and his family.

It is one year ago tonight that I left Andrea's room a decision I regret to this day. And now as I look at the clock I realize it is past midnight. It is Dec 17th, the day has begun.


  1. Standing shoulder to shoulder with you in prayer today, dear Jim. May the Almighty Shepherd walk closely beside you, being your sustaining presence especially today.

  2. Psalm 147:3 "He heals up the broken-hearted and binds their wounds."

    I will always remember Andrea and the tremendous gift her friendship is to me. You are in my prayers.

  3. Andrea gave me a gift I will always treasure. Her strength gives me strength through the One in whom she always put her hope. I miss her. God bless you on this day.

  4. Thinking of you today and remembering Andrea. Praying for you all.

  5. This has been a day of both contemplation and prayer. Andrea brought such joy into our lives and the bottom line is we miss her terribly! My prayers have been for you, Jim, that our Lord comfort you and give you a sense of peace that only He can provide. I praise God for Andrea daily! She was such a strong and positive presence in my life and I would not be where I am today spiritually had it not been for her. She was truly my sister of the heart and one of my greatest blessings!