Day 111 – Life on Hold
Two words you do not want to hear when it comes to living or dying. Two words. Two small little words. I sit and laugh to myself at times thinking about how things mean so much more to me now than they ever did in the past.
A project is “on hold” – cool, time to move on to the next one. Something ordered is “on hold” – no problem, I’ll just wait until it comes in (I probably didn’t need it anyway). But when you say your fight to live is now “on hold” the reaction is no longer a simple shoulder shrug. No, the reaction is one of anger, sadness, doubt and hopelessness.
This is where we are on Day 111. We are on hold. On hold because Sean’s body needs a little break from the intense chemotherapy that he has been on the last twelve weeks. Sean’s platelet counts are too low to continue. His count is at 60 and you need to be at 75 or higher to continue chemo (normal platelet count is 150). You are probably thinking, “hey, that’s great guys. A little break is perfect. Let’s let Sean’s body rest and get ready to fight the next rounds needed to kill this nasty disease.” And you know analytically, yes, that is correct. Sean has been fighting the toughest battle of his life these past three months and a break should be welcomed. But unfortunately, a break for us feels like we are put in a penalty box, while the enemy continues to grow stronger, ready to pounce as soon as we step out.
It’s hard to explain what this waiting feels like. Even “penalty box” doesn’t seem to encapsulate the terror that comes with waiting. I have been talking about being on a rollercoaster and that feels like a more accurate description. But this waiting is not just any rollercoaster. This waiting feels like the only roller coaster that I have never ridden due to fear. I have ridden every rollercoaster I have been in front of except this one. The honor of this award goes to Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. To this day, that ride terrifies me more than any other (and yes, I know there are faster accelerator coasters out there today but I have never physically seen them). You may be asking yourself, what makes Top Thrill so scary? It’s called the Rollback. Yep, just like the words imply, there is a chance your coaster car does not make it over the top of the extremely huge hill you are launched at and you rollback down to where you started. When I first saw this with my own eyes, I know I physically uttered the words “what the hell?” I watched this coaster launch from zero to something like a hundred miles an hour, go straight up this giant steel structure, start slowing down right at the top, the very front car just slightly hanging over the peak of the hill, the train came to a full stop for what seemed like a thousand minutes and then the entire train started moving the opposite direction, and came down, backwards, into the same launching system that I just saw shoot this monstrosity into orbit. My brain was in shock and I’m looking around and people are cheering and clapping. What the F**K?!? Why is everyone clapping a roller coaster mistake. I’m ready to dial 911 and they are cheering. Apparently, according to these people standing around me, you want this “rollback thing” to happen. Well it may be the best “free ride” but my brain said no way, no how am I getting on that death trap. Coasters are not suppose to come back. They are meant to go on their merry way and come back in the station on the opposite side that you left.
That mind bend that I experienced at Cedar Point is the exact place we are in today, except this time, we are strapped in that coaster. Chemotherapy has launched us up a hill at a hundred miles an hour. A hill so large that the top can barely be seen through the clouds. We are right there. We are cresting the peak. The sun is shining and we are hanging over the top of the hill, looking down at the future that may still be possible, and then PAUSE. We are now teetering on the top of this giant hill. Will we go forward or will we go backwards? Will the numbers increase with this break or will they not? Will Sean have to endure another “free ride” round of chemotherapy to fix this misstep? These questions run through our heads every second of the day. And you know that feeling when you are going up the lift hill of any coaster. The anxiety thoughts of “why did I get on here? do you think my harness is secure enough? did my harness click before we left? is this thing going to kill me?” Multiply that anxiety by a thousand and you are there with us.
BUT this is not the end. You better believe that Sean and I are not just sitting in that coaster looking down thinking we have no shot at this. Ha! Nope we are right there trying to rock that coaster to go forward. And we are rocking with all of our might. We have researched all the things that can help increase platelet counts. The best foods and the best vitamins. I’m about to open ‘Stef’s Beans & Greens Restaurant’ in the kitchen. Sean is on a vitamin shot therapy at our hydration lounge. Vitamin K, D, C, Folate, B-12, B Complex. We are trying to get outside and exercise as much as possible. If it helps, Sean is taking it, eating it or doing it.
So here we are on Day 111 dangling over a monstrous hill wondering which way we will fall. If we fall forward, the coaster will continue. If we fall back, just like on Top Thrill, the ride will not be over. We will launch ourselves once again up the new hill that is in front of us. Hopefully that hill will be smaller and easier to climb and we will soar over the next crest without a single hesitation. Sean has been a fighter so far and he will continue to fight. My eyes tear up with happiness when I think about coming back into that coaster station. I know it will happen and I know Sean and I will walk off that coaster hand in hand.