6 Months

Its absolutely amazing to me how fast time flies when you are having fun. Andrew is in Houston at MDAnderson again for his 6 month series of tests and scans, and I am at home holding down the fort and taking care of the kids and our zoo. To say that I felt absolutely sick to not leave the house with him at 4:05am this morning, is an understatement. Andrew is so strong, and he assured me (why the heck was he assuring ME?) that he would be fine on his own, and yet I feel strangely empty and scared tonight. And, yet, we both know and trust that his appointment with Dr. Swisher tomorrow will be cause for great celebration and a wonderful reminder of how fortunate and lucky we truly are.

The past 6 months have been a bit of a blur. Cancer is very strange that way. Time almost stands still at times, and yet when health returns, and normalcy appears, its easy to resume life as you knew it before and time begins to evaporate again. That said, its far too easy for me to talk about this, as I am NOT the one who has had cancer. I am NOT the one who has had massive thoracic surgery. I am NOT the one who has had part of his lung removed. I am NOT the one who has lost a father to the same cancer that I have had to fight. Its far too easy for me to talk about how the last 6 months have been. Quite frankly, its far too easy for me, as I am NOT the one fighting cancer. I am merely the spouse…

And, yet I will tell you that Andrew has been nothing short of amazing since his lung cancer diagnosis. He recovered from his surgery with such grace and such strength and as soon as he was able, he was walking the dogs, and hiking our local mountain, and then in short order, skiing at our local ski resort. And then before I knew it, he was skiing at altitude and pushing the limits of his lung capacity, and celebrating with quiet joy how far he had come in such a short time. All the while, feeling “different”, all the while knowing that his reality was forever changed. All the while, quietly aware that each day was a gift beyond anything he had ever been able to comprehend prior to last July.

Of course, we feel that tomorrow will bring nothing but great news. We have no reason to think otherwise, and yet cancer is this persistent shadow. Life goes on, and joy returns, and yet there is always this shadow. Sometimes its more noticeable, and sometimes, you can’t see it even if you try. Yet, its always there. A dull and sometimes even a dark shadow…

Just last week we lost a friend to cancer. A young father with an incredible zest and joy for life, and a very, very dear friend to two of our best friends. Why him? Why was this Steve’s story? Why is this Andrew’s story? Its been a horribly sad time to mourn the loss of Steve. And its also been another reminder of how fortunate we are…even if there is perhaps some guilt imbedded in our gratitude. Yet, our gratitude is DEEP. And we sincerely share in the collective grief for Steve’s passing.

So, I am here in Boulder, and Andrew is there in Houston. And I feel so far away from him, despite our consistent contact today. I know where he is. I can see it. I can feel it. I can smell it. And quite frankly, in all of MDA’s incredible amazingness  and magic, its a hard place to be, even worse alone. Cancer is not something I would wish on anyone, and I am also deeply grateful for our experience and journey with lung cancer, thus far. We are truly the lucky ones.

Love,

Brooke

 

 

Ode to Brooke

Brooke has been amazing over these last 2+ months.  I cannot imagine this journey without her by my side, supporting and loving me while also holding and supporting our 3 precious children. It has been an extraordinary time. Cancer is unlike anything I have previously experienced. It has been trying and stressful on all of us in many different and unexpected ways. And in many respects our journey has just begun. The love and connection we share as a family is the foundation that holds us strong.

Recently as Brooke’s  birthday approached she was very clear, with me and her friends, that she wanted a simple and quiet day, no fanfare. We exchanged a few presents, and the kids made some really special cards. I decided to also mark all that is special about Brooke and honor her through the written word. This is not award winning verse by any means, yet I have tried to capture and share her unique essence. With love and gratitude…

Bright rays of light

warm as the suns glow

expanding to fill the space.

Radiant smile, sharing warmth and ease.

Musical laugh, disarming and opening,

offering others to feel their own joy.

Quick to care for all,

action and deed manifesting a hearts calling.

A balm for you, a gift too so many.

Mama lioness, soft and fierce,

nurturing with firm resolve.

Driven with spirit, yielding with love.

Strength, commitment, focus, integrity.

Love, sister, partner.

Nourish the circle, feel your light

Holding…deep vulnerability

I was a horrible mom last night. I went to bed with a sick stomach and heavy heart after yelling at the girls and getting upset with Miller. I literally couldn’t get out of my own way. I watched myself getting upset, at the time feeling so justified in my frustration and angst. The clothes all over the floor of every room, the mess in every corner, the lack of respect for me nor listening to a word I say – a nd yet, no one deserves to be yelled at. No child deserves to have their sweet innocence poisoned by a mother who is so tired and so scared. You see, I am holding. At times I am not sure all that I am holding, yet I catch myself with my shoulders practically touching my ear lobes. I am so tired, and truth be told, I am scared. So scared. I have been scared for weeks and weeks now. And I haven’t wanted to say it out loud or to anyone with too much emphasis. Andrew’s surgery was a success, and I am still scared. Andrew’s prognosis is good, and I am still scared.

 

I feel weak. I work hard each day to have perspective and believe me, I KNOW how lucky we are. I KNOW how fortunate we are that Andrew’s lung cancer was found incidentally, and as such, his survival rate is far greater than it would have been if it hadn’t been found so early. And I am truly grateful. Deeply grateful, in fact. And yet, for some reason, I still feel this deep underlying fear. I pray, I give of myself to others, I pray some more, and I am still scared. It doesn’t consume my waking hours, and yet it has exhausted me.

 

It was my birthday earlier this week, and my gift to myself? NO plans. NO commitments. NO obligations. As graciously and as gracefully as possible, I declined the amazing and generous offers from dear friends to celebrate me, nurture me, give to me. And I spent much of my birthday sleeping. I am truly tired. I have napped every day this week and gone to bed early each night. I can’t seem to get enough sleep. While Andrew needs very little physically from me now (he is more than capable of making his own food, has started to drive his car, can help with the dishes, folding laundry, etc), there is still so much “holding” for me to do. When I am not home with him, he is never far from my thoughts and heart. I worry about him. I question my ability to be his best possible partner during this time. I lack confidence in how to best help him bridge this time between diagnosis and the current stage of remission and the future, as a cancer survivor. Apparently, there is a real deal psychic “holding” that goes on, that is quite taxing. At least for me. I am humbled by this process. I am also embarrassed that it seems to take so much out of me. I would like to think and believe that the sheer magnitude of gratitude that I feel each day for Andrew’s incredible story and long-term prognosis would be enough to carry me and fill me up. Yet, I am tired. And I am still scared.

I adore this man. He is courageous and marvelous. He is smart and beautiful. And he feels a tremendous sense of responsibility to be given this new lease on life, this “second chance”. He does not take it lightly. Nor do I. Yet, it is exhausting. I do not say that with an ounce of complaint. I am grateful for this deep exhaustion. I am grateful for the opportunity to feel so deeply, and to also feel so alive with my fears. Yet, I am tired. And scared

I was a horrible mother last night. I woke up with a clear head this morning and started my apologies with Lang, who is our first to rise. We sat on the floor of the kitchen while our tea water boiled. We hugged and hugged, and I whispered in her ear. I apologized for being harsh. I apologized for not being stronger, for not knowing when to walk away to sit with my fears, rather than project them onto her. I thanked her for being such an incredible light and embodiment of joy and love and for gracing me with the honor of being her mother. I did the same with Chase when she got up. And I had some time with Miller later in the morning to express my apologies. Lang and Chase could barely recall what I was so apologetic about and yet they hugged me with incredible vigor and strength and Miller responded with deep emotions. We are all holding a lot right now. We are vulnerable. I am FAR from perfect, and yet I hope that I am learning and growing.

I pray to surrender more to the vulnerability and magnificence of this time. I pray for strength. I pray for understanding. I pray for wisdom in how to best support my precious Andrew. I pray for courage as we go forward in this lifetime as changed individuals, as a changed couple, and as a changed family. I pray for patience in my parenting. I pray that Andrew remains in remission for many, many years to come.

We go to Houston on Monday  morning. Its time for Andrew’s surgical month follow-up and while I have great faith and trust in the grand plan, I am also scared.

 

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

-Brene  Brown

 

Good night. Today was a much better day. I believe that tomorrow will be even better.

Love,
Brooke

Coming home…

I have not shared since returning to Boulder from Houston, almost three weeks ago. Our last few days in Houston found me with complete trail head fever. I absolutely couldn’t wait to get our family home to Boulder and the kids back to school, and to get Andrew in our own bed, and in our own home, eating our own food, etc. I was craving some exercise, something so important to me, yet not possible since arriving in Houston. I was yearning for some “normalcy”, even if that meant normalcy at home in Boulder with a husband recovering from a massive thoracic surgery. I was looking forward to engaging with my girlfriends, who complete my family circle in Boulder. I couldn’t wait to pick up our two dogs from the training kennel they were at, a place new to them. We arrived home to Boulder on a Tuesday evening and it was raining and quite chilly. It felt so good. I went to bed with a feeling of  incredible relief. Relieved to be home. Relieved to know that Wednesday would be a day for Andrew and I to sit at home alone, while the kids got back into the swing of things at school. And rain was in the forecast, which for Boulder, is literally unheard of. Because it so rarely rains, we so appreciate days to “stay in”.

On Wednesday morning, I almost skipped down the stairs giddy with excitement to be making breakfasts, packing lunches, and getting the kids off to school. And it was raining. I am ashamed to admit this now, yet I was so grateful for the cold, rainy day. We sat on the couch for much of the day, watching tv, talking, listening to the rain. The rain felt so foreign, yet so welcome. I had a few friends comment on just how much the rain was our perfect homecoming. Of course, no one could imagine what the next 4 days would bring.

The calm and cozy quiet of our first day home came to an abrupt halt at 12:30am on Thursday morning. We all went to bed on Wednesday night to the sound of pounding rain. Again, never thinking a thing about it, other than how strange it was, yet also how welcome it was. The clap of thunder that struck our home at 12:30 was unlike any thunder I have ever experienced. We BOTH jolted upright, looked at each other and knew something wasn’t right. The storm cell was stuck overhead and the thunder and lightning were coming repeatedly every few seconds. The rain was hammering the house. I checked on the kids and they were fine. Chase was the only one that awoke, yet it was slight and she went right back to sleep. Soon enough, adrenaline overcame Andrew and he was determined to drive the neighborhood to make sure the creeks weren’t rising and to check out where all the sirens were coming from. I got online and social media was already blowing up. Then the texts started to roll in from friends who were also awake in their beds, wondering what was going on. While no one could predict what was already happening, and what was about to take over our precious town, it was as if we all DID know that this was just the beginning of a time that we would really come together, and really need each other. While Andrew was out (he definitely SHOULD NOT have been driving a car, yet I won’t focus on that discretion), he was calling and letting me know what he was seeing. It wasn’t good. And I was sharing with him what I was reading online and it also wasn’t good. School was cancelled by 6am and our relaxing homecoming was over. Thursday, Thursday night, Friday and Friday night were FAR from relaxing, nor nurturing, nor healing. Now our family medical crisis, had quickly merged into a community natural disaster crisis. The Boulder Flood of 2013 was truly the most remarkable community experience I have ever lived through…the good and the bad. Nursing a husband recovering from lung cancer surgery only served to heighten the experience.

Our street was one of the particularly hard hit city streets. At times, we literally had a white water river coursing down the street. No pavement could be seen. Our neighbors were outside around the clock building barriers, placing sandbags, and shoveling mud in efforts to save each other’s homes. One home on our street was a complete loss and became a spectacle for all the news outlets. We spent our days, working to keep the rising water and mud from flooding our home, keeping the kids busy, helping neighbors and friends who were in far worse shape than us, and feeling so grateful for our house that sits up a little higher than some others. There was plenty of drama and intensity in these days, and a lot of sadness. There was also such incredible generosity of spirit and kindness. People were out in the droves helping people they did not know. We got hit with a flow of mud that literally landed in our driveway and yard and one morning I caught three of our dear friends quietly shoveling and moving the mud as best they could….they were here for hours, in their boots and rain coats. Angels. True angels. Despite the destruction and devastation in Boulder, we also had home-made loving dinners delivered each night from our incredible community of friends. Andrew struggled to be so immobile during this time of incredible physical need and support, yet his one stretch of trying to shovel mud, put him back significantly in terms of his healing and recovery. I worked hard to “represent” for our family, in the absence of Andrew’s ability to help.

Now, despite the mud and mess that still consumes our part of town, life has certainly resumed routine and normalcy. School is in session, sports are on, Andrew is recovering a little bit more and more each day, and I am just beginning to feel some spaciousness. However, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t exhausted to the core. My cells even feel tired, and yet I am lifted each day by the courage and determination of my dear Andrew, and the resilience of our precious children, and the beautiful spirit of our blessed community of Boulder. I know that there is SO much learning going on each and every day — our family is certainly not the same family that we were in late July, as we were preparing to head east for my oldest sister’s 50th birthday celebration and family visit (a trip I still feel sadness about missing). I have faith that the difference is only positive, and from this place, we are stronger in our faith and dedication to each other, to our family and to God.

Love,

Brooke

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in.”

-Haruki Murakami

Coming home…Boulder’s 100 year flood

Coming home has been much harder than I imagined. In many ways the last 7 days have been the hardest, to date, of this ordeal. It has been 7 weeks since this journey began. 2 weeks to the day since the surgery. Upon reflection I did not imagine this would be the hard part, and yet physically, emotionally, and spiritually the last 7 days have tested me in a much more subtle and insidious manner than all of the other trials to date. Of course arriving back just as the 100 year flood was starting certainly did not help…

We arrived home late Tuesday evening on the 10th. We woke Wednesday morning to a cloudy and grey day. At first it seemed to be a perfect setting. Cozy and subdued, perfect for taking it easy and beginning the healing. I thought of it as a bit of a gift. Unlike  usual September days in Boulder it was not 87 degrees, beautiful, and sunny. I did not have to confront my physical infirmaties head on with the endless legions of cyclists passing our house, runners on every road, and hikers in all of the mountain parks. Brooke purposely kept her schedule open to be with me. So we dropped the kiddos back at school, after a 7 day hiatus, and came home, made some tea, got cozie and watched a movie.

Wednesday night around 12:15 Brooke and I awoke, as did most of Boulder, to the most amazing clap of thunder and immediate bolt/flash of lightening I have ever seen. I sleep like a rock, difficult to wake. When I heard this boom both Brooke and I bolted straight up, our hearts racing. You could feel the electrical charge permeating the air and our bodies. I sat and listened to the storm for a while. I quickly realized that in 15 years in Boulder I had never heard so much rain fall so quickly. As I listened it became increasingly clear to me that this was going to be trouble. And considering our house, like many parts of Boulder, lay in the 100 year flood plane, I felt a growing cause for concern. I climbed out of bed, and over Brooke’s protests, and the fog of pain killers, I went and got dressed, grabbed my rain jacket and a high powered flashlight and told Brooke that I was going to go and quickly scout the surrounding neighborhood to get a sense of what was going on.

As I left the drive I could barely see out my windshield the rain was falling so hard. I did my first pass around the area and could see that the roads and drains were already at capacity. 20 minutes later I almost went home when I saw the first real surge go down a major street. Brooke called and I gave her the update, and while on the phone I watched the situation change before my eyes. In less than 40 minutes the standing water was pooling so quickly that intersections I had just been through 20 minutes earlier were rapidly becoming impassable. Emergency vehicles, police, and fire trucks were starting to show up everywhere. I was driving a high clearance off road jeep with big tires and a lifted suspension…and the water was coming up to my headlights!

I went to check on the nearby creek bed, usually dry, and as I came close I saw another truck try to push through and get stuck, I reversed back out quickly and turned around. We did not sleep much that night. Two hours later we had a river flowing around our house, front and back, and a 3″+ lake growing behind our damned fence. All of our mulch, playground fill, and a rapidly growing mud stream, were preventing the water from flowing and slowly working its way up to our foundation line. I waded out into thigh deep water and started to clear the debris from the mesh fence, careful to only use my right arm and not lift anything over 10lbs. 45 minutes later the majority of the water drained and we dodged our first bullet of the flood.

The next 48 hours were a blur. The heavy rains continued, and the waters began to rise. The 100 year flood was announced and as we went into Thursday night a flooded first floor seemed like a very real possibility. Our section of North Boulder, and our street in particular became a serious battleground where many were fighting to save their homes from a continually growing river. We had whitewater rapids in the middle of our street on Thursday night.

So two days back, a natural disaster is declared, and I am incapable of doing much at all. Wednesday night and Thursday I already felt bad that I could not assist in the community and help all those around us who were in need. By Thursday night it looked as if we might not make it through the evening unscathed, and there was little to nothing I could do. The first floor of our house if filled with 200-300 year old antiques that we inherited when my mother died 3 years earlier. And if the water rose I was not going to be able to move them to safety. In light of the bigger picture, and the incredible loss of so many homes and even whole communities, like Lyons CO, losing some antiques would have been minor in comparison. And thankfully we received more blessings, our berms held, and only our crawl space took on 1.5′ of water. We were lucky again.

Yet the reality was not the potential loss of material possessions. The hard reality to accept was that I was in no position to help my family. God help us if it got so bad we had to evacuate. Instead of being the man of the house and protecting my family I was a physically lame dependent and that left Brooke as the only able adult in the house. I was directly confronted with, forced to accept, and in fact had to surrender to, my vulnerability. I did my best, and it did not sit well with me. In fact it took it’s toll. I did too much physically, and emotionally I was wrung out, neither of which our positive contributors to my healing. Another lesson in impermanence and letting go.

As the rains ended and the water subsided we learned of so many in our community who have suffered mightily from this disaster. From flooded basements to complete loss of homes thousands were impacted. Our hearts go out to all those struggling to put the pieces back together.

In the vein of “going and extra mile”, Brooke and several local women have started a collection of clothes for donation. In just a few days we are close to filling one of our garage bays. It is uplifting to see the community generosity and support from so many. Brooke and team have found 16 families who lost everything and they will come by this weekend to “shop” among the many goods we have collected. The remainder will be donated locally to the flood relief effort. Just one of many examples of members of the community coming together in support of each other, the subtle blessings of hardships.

Love is the Flowing, the Outpouring, the Rendering from the Heart and Soul of Emotional Goodness to Yourself First – and then to Others in Your Life.

– The Hoffman Institute

 

 

Roller Coaster.

It’s only Friday night. Surgery was just over a mere 48 hours ago, and yet I feel like I have lived a few lives since then. And yet tonight, I am feeling more relaxed than I have in weeks. Truly relaxed. Every night I think I will sleep and it evades me, yet I truly think tonight I will.

I know I could easily look to see when I last posted, yet its more complicated than that navigating on the iPad and working with different Wifi’s access codes….so suffice to say, I am not quite sure when I last wrote. Perhaps Wednesday night, perhaps last night. I don’t know.

Yet, its been a wild 48 hours since Andrew came out of surgery. Complete with super sweet relief from the sheer good news and results of his surgery, to the pain and sadness — watching him have the necessary ups and downs of recovery from a major thoracic surgery. Yesterday consisted of Andrew having a miserable morning for quite a few hours, complete with headaches and anxiety and general depression, to a better afternoon of up energy and optimism and relief from pain. Just to end the day with more intensity around his pain and mood and change of narcotic which brought more tubes and beeping machines — which greatly affected his mood and morale.

Fast forward to this morning when I was back in his room at 7am. He had already left for a chest X-ray and I was able to visit with his night nurse who let me know that he had slept well and was such a kind and gracious patient, making her “job so easy”. Andrew very quickly established wonderful report with all of his care providers, because that is who he is, and also because EVERYONE at MDA are truly angels in their own right.

When we met this morning at 7:30 upon his return from X-ray, Andrew looked amazing — great color in his cheeks, rested eyes, big, real deal smile. SO wonderful. I had left the kids sleeping at the hotel, so it was just the two of us and it was such a nice time of connecting. He came into his room and we decided to walk the halls. Yet, I asked to feed him some of the fresh fruit I had brought him before we walked. So, he sat on the edge of his bed, and I fed him  piece by piece…all the while, watching his face and demeanor change. His pain was changing, rapidly and was fast becoming acute and sharp. We put him back into bed, pushed more meds and I rubbed his feet with all hope that the pain would subside. It as 90 minutes before it released. He was tense, moaning, and scared. He had decided that he was going to do everything he needed to do within his power to get himself discharged by Saturday, and this was feeling like a major setback. Perhaps. Yet, I just wanted the pain to subside for him.

By 9:30, the pain released and his shoulders relaxed and his brow unfurrowed and he was tired again. Different nurses were coming in to talk about his care for the day and goals and plans for discharge. This fired him up again, and as soon as he felt up for it, we walked. And he ate, and he drank fluids and was totally on the program yet again, fairly pain free.

Hamilton and the kids arrived at 12:00 and we all visited for some time. I left with the kids by 12:40 to head back to the hotel to meet the sitter who was planning on spending the afternoon with the kids. They were full of energy and were so happy to have seen Daddy.

As soon as I got the kids set up with the sitter, Miller let me know that he wanted to come back to the hospital with me to “help support Dad”. Who is this kid? Clearly, Andrew’s son. So. the girls went to the Houston Zoo with Chelsea and Miller and I went back to MDA. We had a really nice, easy afternoon — with GREAT news. Andrew’s pain was totally under control, he was relaxed and in good spirits. Andrew went for another chest at about 2pm and once the positive results came back (that his air in his chest cavity was not increasing) from that, he was cleared to have his chest tube removed. Miller very deliberately stepped out of the room, and I held Andrew’s hand while Sonia (one of Dr. Swisher’s nurses, who had been with Andrew during the surgery) prepped Andrew for the removal, as well as talked to us about the surgery and the cancer they found. I will let Andrew be the one to talk about his cancer finding. Sonia was a true pro and with some breathing exercises and distraction had the foot and a half long chest tube out with no pain. MAGIC. And almost immediately, Andrew was like a new man. Incredible relief, incredible pain relief and discomfort abated…clearly no one is meant to have anything foreign in their bodies and the release of such foreign body (albeit necessary) is cause of somatic celebration! And then the removal of all wires and tubes/IV’s began. The beginning of the discharge process. So exciting and so exhilarating. And yet I felt I needed to caution Andrew to moderate his dancing around the room and fist pumping. You never know, right?

I left the room at 4:45pm to go relieve the sitter and pick up the girls to bring them back for a family dinner in the room. Hamilton was there to be with Andrew, and during my short time away informed me that he was struggling again. More pain and perhaps some disorientation from the switch to oral meds, versus the IV pain meds. Bottom line is that Andrew does NOT do well with narcotics. While they are a necessary means to an end in the pain management game, he does NOT like them. By the time we arrived, he was doing better and we had a super fun and lovely hour visit.

Soon after the kids and I left tonight, Andrew was joined by Hamilton and his other brother Lang (who flew in today from Portland, Oregon). The last text I got from him sounded happy and content. And LOVED.

Its been a fairly manic 48 hours — a roller coaster of emotions and thoughts, yet the end result is that the odds are VERY much in Andrew’s favor to have a discharge tomorrow afternoon. If his morning chest X-ray is good, he will be joining us at the hotel by the afternoon.

The plan is to continue to rest and recover here at Hotel Zaza in Houston until Tuesday morning when we meet with Dr. Swisher again, and hopefully get a blessing to fly home….Tuesday afternoon/evening. AMAZING.

I will leave you with the pure amazement that I experienced today, that despite the roller coaster of ups and downs, and how hard it is to see the one you love the most in such desperate pain… that when Andrew felt relief, both mid-morning after 90 minutes of acute pain, as well as this afternoon once his chest tube was removed, he chose to direct conversation immediately to how this blog would evolve once his more immediate fight with cancer ended. He was most concerned with how to really direct his energies to giving back and not only marking the incredible gratitude he feels for so many in his path right now, yet also for how he wants to pay his good fortune and grace forward. Is this man for real?

I am not worthy. Yet I am inspired to meet him in this incredible place…and work that much harder to keep going an extra mile in every thing we do, both individually and collectively.

Love,
Brooke

I’ll Be Waiting….

I was awake early today sitting on the bathroom floor while Andrew and the kids slept.  At first it felt like I had hours until we would be leaving the hotel for MDA at 9am. And then time compressed – Lang got up and wanted to visit (she has a lot to talk about from the moment she gets up each day), and then Chase appeared with her precious sleepy eyes looking for her brush (she loves to brush her hair these days). Andrew was up quite a few times, attempting to clear his sinuses and expressing a lot of concern that this cold/sinus infection was still lingering. I just focused on calmness, and a peaceful energy in our room. And then, Andrew had a big cry in my arms. It was deep from his core…and real and I was so glad he was weeping with me. He has cried quite a few times in past weeks, yet this morning was a real deal cry from his heart. He is such a very sweet and tender man. Its really quite beautiful, if you ask me.

Then, before we knew it, it was time to go to MDA. Andrew hugged the children and off we went down the hall. Very strange, very surreal, and very out of body. There is something very wild about a planned surgery.  We have known about this day for weeks now, we have been planning for it, basing our days around it, planning all events around it, and today it was here….and we were slightly terrified. As much as I was trying to be a rock for Andrew, I also think he could see deep into my eyes that I was very scared.

Andrew’s brother, Hamilton, was waiting for us in the lobby wearing a bright red shirt (GO BEARS!) and  cowboy boots. That was good for a light moment — why didn’t I think of that?!!! Oh, that’s right, I don’t own cowboy boots. But I love his!

We arrived at MDA at 9:15 and began the check in process. The three of us were taken back to the surgical holding area. It was there that we spent a good 90 minutes, meeting all of Andrew’s different and respective nurses for the day, all of whom we loved. And, let me tell you, they loved Andrew. Hamilton and Andrew were making jokes, keeping the atmosphere light and easy, despite the intense and sterile nature of the holding tank. At about 10:45am, Dr. Swisher came in with a blow of wind and asked if he was ready to go…this was our first bump of the day. Andrew’s day was to consist of  two parts – 1) interventional radiology was first up with a hookwire placement in the tumor to act a marker for the thoracic surgical team, and 2) then the big surgery would occur with Dr. Swisher, Andrew’s thoracic surgeon.  #1 needed to occur before #2 could start. Ugh. We were taken downstairs to IR and waited for another 1.5 hours before Andrew was taken back. During this time, we giggled quite a bit, I rubbed Andrew’s legs and feet, and just tried to keep him calm. Waiting…waiting…waiting.

I think he went back for his interventional radiology piece of today at 12:45ish. Hamilton had gone back to the hotel to be with the kids, so I was alone with my tears and my iPad and music in the IR waiting room. Before I knew it, 2pm rolled around and I was called to the hallway to join Andrew for the walk upstairs to the OR for his next surgery. While this walk was brief, it was so much harder than I expected it to be. Andrew was lucid, complaining of pain and pressure in his chest, where his hookwire had been placed and I could see that he was scared. I wondered if he would remember this time together (he later told me he did)…and before I knew what was happening, Andrew’s nurse Stacy who I was pushing the gurney with, announced that as soon as the elevator doors opened, I would be walking off one direction and she and Andrew would be going the other. It was a quick and rushed kiss goodbye. The doors shut and it very quickly became the strangest most surreal moment. I felt scared, sad…and yet, I also had this feeling of “get over yourself, Brooke”. You see, SO many people at MDA have far more severe cases than Andrew. SO many people at MDA have true reasons to feel scared and true reasons to feel sad. I felt like an imposter or an intruder in their space. I mean, Andrew’s case is clear (we hoped), and Andrew’s prognosis was excellent (we prayed). SO, why was I so scared and why was I so sad. And yet, I was. Big time. I found a bathroom, locked myself inside and fell to pieces for a short while. A wise friend told me recently that if I really, truly let myself cry, it will only last 90 seconds, and who can’t let go for 90 seconds….I did. And I felt better and ready to take on the next few surreal hours of waiting.

The surgical waiting area at MDA is very nice and very accommodating. I was told that I would have an update from the nurse liaison in about 2 hours, so I rushed back to the hotel to check on the kids and mobilize the gang to head back to the hospital to hold the space while Andrew was in surgery. As much as I thought I was going to like having a break from the hospital, I didn’t like the feeling of being far away from Andrew. I rushed back to the hospital and Hamilton kindly followed with the kids when everyone was ready.

We waited for our 4pm nurse update with great hope, and at about 4:30 (?) were told that the doctor was ready to talk to us. I was concerned that it meant bad news if he was coming out in the middle of surgery to talk to us. However, it was Dr. Swisher (I could kiss him) letting Hamilton and I know that surgery had gone well, Andrew was on his way to recovery and the cancer was out. Not only did he get the cancer out with clean, generous margins, yet Andrew’s lymph had also biopsied negative. GREAT news. Best possible outcome, in my opinion. I didn’t need to hear anything else and asked if he could spare 30 more seconds so I could run and get the kids, who were dying to meet this infamous man. I walked the kids into the room and introduced each of them, and Dr. Swisher, said, “Hi, I’m Steve”. Followed by, “You kids get your dad back out on his bike soon, ok?”. Good stuff. I love this man….and will forever be indebted to him.

Andrew is doing great. He is exhausted, and in quite a bit of pain, yet as of 9pm tonight was in his own room for the duration of his hospital stay. At 10:30pm, we took his first walk together around the nurses island. He made it two laps and broke out in a massive sweat. Its so hard to have your lung cut out. But who cares. Andrew is cancer-free. He is sleeping now, and I am going to do my best to do the same.

THANK YOU. xoxoxo