Archive | August, 2015

A Blessing in Disguise: My Postponed Petscan and Our Difficult Summer

15 Aug

WIN_20131105_064915If you’re doing the math and paying scrupulous attention to my scanning schedule, then you’ve probably noticed that I am a few months behind on my biannual scanathon (scansation, scancapade?).  In truth, if you are doing the math and paying attention to those kinds of details, you probably need to develop some hobbies to pass your time more pleasantly….but I digress.  Over the spring, several friends and family suggested I ask the oncologist if I really needed to be seen twice a year, or could we move to an annual scan schedule.  He did not go for it, and suggested I have the PET in August instead of June.  At the time a two month reprieve felt like a pretty lame consolation prize, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. 

As some of you know, May and June were an incredibly difficult time for the West Coast Greenbergs. July and much of August were no picnic either, but May and June were brutal. For those who have followed our family’s comings and goings on Facebook, you know that Amy was terribly ill with pancreatitis, a brutally painful condition that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.  Seriously, over the course of my life I have only witnessed three people suffer tremendous physical pain. I have a friend who went through extended and unbelievable suffering with some slipped discs in his lower back.  In my father’s last days he suffered greatly from pressure in his brain brought on by a relentless advance of melanoma, and then there’s Amy’s suffering brought on by an inflamed pancreas whose own enzymes were eating away at its tissue.  Just awful. Her’s may have been the worst suffering I have ever witnessed.  

Amy’s illness required a lengthy and arduous recovery. She had two extended stays in hospital, one for four days and one for ten. Both stays required lengthy fasts (the cure for pancreatitis is to give your pancreas a rest, and so Amy was on nothing but IV fluids for four or five days at a time).   She was forced to radically change her diet, dramatically reducing her fat intake and eliminating alcohol altogether.  She lost about 10% of her body weight, and she was out of work for more than a month. Her suffering was heartbreaking, her recovery slow and tense, and the whole experience has left both of us depleted and even a little depressed. There really are no words to express what it’s like to see the women you have spent the better part of your life with, the person you watched bring life into this world, be taken down so powerfully and painfully.  The first morning she was in the hospital, I burst into tears, and I have felt pretty unsteady ever since.  Naturally Amy felt even worse! The whole experience defies explanation, which may be why I have been so reluctant to blog about it.  Only now, over two months after her initial attack, has our family and its routines begun the return to normalcy (whatever that is).

Truth is, nothing about this summer has been normal. We entered this season knowing that towards its close Emma would leave us for a lengthy gap year program in Israel (9 months to be exact).  I am simultaneously thrilled and sad about this.  Thrilled because I think it is a wonderful opportunity for her to strike out on her own so far away from home, to learn new things, meet new people, and to understand what it’s like to live in what I have found to be a wonderful but difficult and frustrating country.  I am sad for a number of reasons, including the fact that the physical distance between us will make all things more difficult, from being able to help her in a time of emergency to just talking on the phone.  I am sadder still because her departure signals the end of an era in our lives.  No matter what happens when Emma returns, if she stays with us for a few more years, or if she heads off to a school a great distance from us, we are fast approaching the moment when our daughter’s interests, employment, and commitments will become more pressing to her than time spent with us.  To be clear, I am not saying that Emma will not dedicate time to her parents, maybe even a lot of time.  Still, I’ve been where she is now.  So many things compete for our attention and interest as we become adults—friends, partners, school, work schedules, children.  These things become all-consuming and make demands of us that often tear us away from our closest and most immediate family. I miss the days when Amy and I were Emma’s whole world—her teachers, protectors, and caretakers, her most hilarious entertainment, her tour guides through life, and her most comforting security blankets. No doubt our relationship began to change years ago, but her upcoming departure (less than two weeks from the time I wrote this piece) has reinforced just how fluid and uncertain our roles in Emma’s life have become.

Ultimately, not having my scan in June turned out to be a blessing.  I can’t imagine what it would have been like to add the stress and worry that invariably accompanies my scan (no matter how confident I am of its positive outcome) with the tremendous stress and worry we all felt about and for Amy and the difficult mix of joy, sadness, and uncertainty that surrounds Emma’s trip to Israel.  Nevertheless it has to be done, and it will be soon enough.  Per his request, I recently texted my oncologist. The imaging office called me a few days later to set up the appointment.  September 2nd is my carb free day, and my scan takes place early on the 3rd.  The results show happens sometime the following week, and shortly thereafter, God willing, Scantasia, our semiannual celebration of what I hope will be continued good news.  

By that time, Amy, Emma, and I will be about a week into our new lives, each of us trying to adapt to the significant shift in our family dynamic.  The one thing that I know that will not change is our love for each other.  When I told Emma of my impending scan, she insisted that I call her the minute I get the results.  That request was extremely comforting, and naturally I will reach out to her and the rest of my family the minute I hear the news.  Shortly after that, I will tell all of you.  Your continued prayers and words of support mean a great deal to me.  Now, more than ever, everyone in my family could use some good wishes and positive vibes. 

As always….stay tuned.