So after the birth of our baby boy Brock life went on as it always does. Sometimes I wish it would stop even for just a moment to let me catch my breath. Justin’s chemo continued and the next week he had 2 short treatments and 1 short treatment the third week. Each cycle was 21 days long and he would have 3 of them.
New Years eve was low-key to say the least….we had a 2 week old. I remember us laying on the couch together barely making it to midnight. I was exhausted from round the clock feedings and Justin was exhausted from recovering from his first round of chemo treatments. He had bought us some champagne and ice cream to share that evening. At midnight we toasted to our future. How things were going to be different come summer time. How once again we would spend endless hours at the beach with all our children. We were looking forward with so much hope. Hope is good thing but right now it is gut wrenching at times. I feel like now I miss and mourn him but also mourn what our lives should have been. I wish I could have had our future…I don’t know where to go from here.
His next cycle started on January 3rd. He had five 8 hour treatments that week. Brock and I would bring him lunch and sit with him until time to go pick up the kids from school. Brock is such a good baby…incrediable happy! Even sitting for hours at the oncology office he was good. Justin would sit in his recliner hooked up to the IV and I would sit next to him nursing our son. Those moments were definitely moments where I thought to myself…how did we get here??? How am I nursing a newborn at chemo? How could I not…if Justin was there so was I.
Justin went for a cat scan after the second cycle of treatment was over….they wanted to see what, if any effect on the tumors had been made. This was on Wednesday January 18th, my birthday. I remember him walking up to me that day and embracing me…taking my breath away. When we parted I looked at him kind of puzzled, what was going on??? He just smiled and said “Happy Birthday.” I could tell by the look on his face he was anxious for the results of the scan that would come in a couple of days. Please let the poison they were putting in his body be working…please!
The following Monday we went in to see Dr. Mahmood for the results…there was good news and bad news. The good news was there was significant shrinkage in the tumors in his chest and abdomnen…much more then they had expected! Bad news was they were recommending a 4th cycle of chemo but by doing that 4th cycle it would significantly cut down on the possibility that he would have to have lymph nodes surgically removed. It is such a balancing act. He opted for the 4th cycle. It felt like such a victory that day…he was beating the cancer! After the second 21 day cycle was over was the only weekend Justin really felt good again. Let me just say he did not lay in bed on the days he felt like compete garbage. He fed, bathed and loved on his children. He continued to function on every level…everyday! He was RISING everyday even though most would have given in to the self-pity of the cancer. He had a valid reason but continued….he did not give an excuse.
That weekend he was SO aggravating because he felt SO good! I remember jokingly saying to him if this is the new you…feeling so good I am not sure I can handle it! 😉 Again, it was a glimpse of the future…a future that never came.
After this cycle the 2nd one he started coughing…intially we thought he had a cold. Maybe he did or was the beginning signs of how the chemo had effected his lungs? We will never know for sure. Every time he went in for a treatment he had to fill out a “How I feel Today” sheet. He put the usual stuff…fatigued, no appetite, metallic taste in his mouth and now a cough. He would go through bags of cough drops everyday. He would leave the wrappers everywhere! I still find cough drops and wrappers places…the car, my purse, the diaper bag, beside the bed. I love the reminders of him even if I feel the effects of them to my core. They make me ache for him. Talking at times became difficult for him and he would cough until he was drenched in sweat and at times vomiting. The way Justin approached anything was you just push through it and that is what he was doing…pushing through all of this.
At the beginning of his 3rd cycle he woke up with a sore neck which having aches and pains was nothing new anymore but he said his neck felt puffy also. As the evening went on the stiffness kept increasing. The next morning his neck was extremely swollen…he called his oncologist. He had developed a blood clot around his port cath in his chest. Over the weekend he gave himself blood thinner shots that he called horse needles. I remember watching his give himself these injections in his abdomen and thinking how just a few short months ago he had never even had surgery. No matter what he faced he took in on fulling and so bravely. The blood thinners did not work and the port had to be removed. The remainder of his treatments for this cycle were done by IV and they said he would have a PIC line put in his arm for the final cycle.
Justin sent me this picture of him “relaxing” at one of his final treatments. Quite a view wouldn’t you say?!?
When he told me about the blood clots, port removal, PIC line while still trying to not cough I jokingly told him why can’t you just be a “normal” cancer patient without colds and clots?!? Of course I was joking…you have to laugh, remember! What else could we do at this point???
Brock looks thrilled to be flying for the first time!
Between his 3rd and 4th cycle we went to his visit his family in New Jersey. He talked about all this food we would eat, people and places we would visit. To say he was excited when the airplane touched down was an understatement. Seeing him in his element surrounded by the people who loved his unconditionally was such a blessing. All his brothers and sisters were able to come in and be together. everything happens for a reason and we were all meant to get together that last time in Feburary…little did we all know that most of us would be gathered again soon to celebrate his life.
This was his Final Treatment…this shirt is also the shirt he wore the last time he held Brock outside of the hospital in. I have it saved in a ziplock baggie..it smells like him still. It is the little things that mean so much now.
His final round of chemo was so exciting…who is excited to feel like garbage again? Justin was…it was the last time he would have to go through this. We were so thankful and optimistic. This cycle was like the past 3 except now he had the PIC line in his upper left arm for treatment. His final treatment on March 8th 2011 at 10am. I remember sitting next to him so proud of him and what he had accomplished….waiting for his IV bag to be done. His FINAL IV bag! They were going to remove his PIC line and he wanted me to record it for him. It is the only recording I have of him…his voice. This was a day of celebration!
Today is a gift and tomorrow is not guarantee. We were looking forward to our future with such hope and excitement. Justin had done everything he had to do heal his body but we did not know his body was only getting ready to make him have to fight once again. When is enough, enough?? The future…our plans were out of our hands. We would be praying for a miracle…