We've been told all along that the second week of Patrick's 3-week treatment cycle would be the hardest of them all. And it seems that the proverbial "they" weren't lying. It's a doozy, I tell you. Patrick's steroid-induced energy, optimism, border-line mania of last week crested and crashed into waves of fatigue, mood-swings, irritation, indigestion, constipation, flu-like aches, and just about any other potential harrowing "side-effect" one might read about on a prescription label. The poor guy is a trooper, though, and we're holding our breath that the 3rd and final week will be a wee bit more "normal", before he begins the chemo cycle yet again.
Somewhat foolishly, we made this hard week even harder by deciding it was the "best" time to move. So, our house is officially no longer a home. Labeled boxes are stacked where framed pictures once hung. Piles of bubble wrap are hanging out in my empty fruit bowl. Moving is always hard. Moving with a chatty toddler is doubly hard. Moving with a chatty toddler and a husband with brain cancer is especially hard. (And moving three times in one year is just plain insane.) We moved Patrick over to our new place in Great Falls this week, since the ensuing chaos was getting too much for him. I'll join him later this week, once everything is packed up in our Alexandria house. The Pod arrives Thursday night, and the movers come Friday morning. So long cherished belongings - I'll see you in a few/many (?) months, when I unpack you into a house, somewhere tbd. By then, Patrick will be done with his treatments. By then I hope he'll have a clean bill of health. By then, I hope our life will make sense again: because right now, frankly, it makes no sense at all.
Friends from near and far have been absolutely amazing through all of this. Kristin Lane Mack flew in from Chicago for 24 hours to listen to me cry and ramble, and to cheer me up in the special way only she can. Dear "old" DC friends took me out to dinner, former colleagues of Patrick's wrapped up all of our art last night, while others took a few loads of our stuff over to the new place. Kate Berman packed up my spices and seminary books. Others brought meals, cut our grass, played with Ceci, and sent tear-inducing reminders on facebook that we.are.not.alone. We feel overwhelmingly blessed and grateful for all of your prayers, generosity and support. I hate hate hate that Patrick has brain cancer. But in the midst of that hate, I am seeing God's love poured out a-fresh from each of you. So, thank you.
During my seminary CPE training (Clinical Pastoral Education - i.e. hospital chaplaincy training) at Duke Univ. Hospital, we talked and read and thought a lot about how to craft a thoughtful, empathetic response to the dying patient in a hospital bed, and their mourning/fearful family members surrounding them. I often longed to offer promising hope that they would surely be fine in just a day or two (and some were). But more often than not, they wouldn't be, and we all knew it. Probably the most authentic answer to the problem of pain and the question of theodicy is something like "I know, this really stinks, I don't know why a loving, merciful God would allow something as awful as this to happen." And yet God still allows it to happen, and for some reason is allowing it to happen to us. I don't think God created cancer. I don't believe God would wish it on anyone. I do believe God grieves with us when we have cancer. I trust that God hates Patrick's brain cancer as much as I do. And I'm trying to trust in God to heal him from it, or at least give us a few more happy cancer-free years together....
I've had to recall the painful reality of Patrick's illness and the painful reality that is now our life to so many friends and strangers this week. (I'd really rather pretend that I'm packing up and moving us onward and upward into some new, fabulously cute home of our own.) Instead, when I call our utility companies, and request a stop of service at the end of the month...they always inquire as to why we're moving, and why they're losing my patronage. (I want to say: Does it really matter!?) There's really not an easy or gentile way of saying "My husband has brain cancer", even to a stranger. But I've had to say it, over and over and over again...and each time it becomes more real to me. "Best wishes" they seem to all flatly say. When potential renters walk through our house, and ask why we're moving out, and brain cancer is my answer, I'm greeted with the (now) redundant "....oh, best wishes". Best wishes on your new job or new orchid plant, but not on our "new" life! (But, thanks for the thought.)
(How should one respond to such sudden, sad news? How should I respond to the daily reminder of that news? How does Patrick respond to the tumor hanging out in his brain? How will Cecilia respond when she remembers her early years in DC?) Perhaps I'll learn to respond with a grateful heart and steadfast faith in a merciful, loving, grieving God, who hates this cancer as much as I do, and who promises never to glibly say "best wishes", before moving into the next room.