The News

I had been thinking I would wait until I was ready to write this all out in saga form. But who knows when I’ll get to that. My creative/expressive energy feels dried up, and y’all have been patient enough.

Two and a half weeks ago we found that My Man had testicular cancer. There followed a week and a half of crying, research, tests, waiting, surgery to remove the tumor, slogging through the ridiculously bad New Orleans hospital system, more waiting and research, and eventually a very good prognosis.

As far as cancer goes, testicular cancer is one of the most curable. Even before we had the test results back, the statistics were 95% cure rate. It all depended on what kind it was, and whether it had spread. If it had, chances dropped to 80%. Which, I mean, those are great odds if you are horse racing. Pretty fucking terrifying when it’s the life of your husband and father of your children.

I did shockingly well. In fact, I can hardly believe how well I held my shit together. But I see now how that works, how people with such terror keep it together. Because what the fuck else are you going to do?

I have been, in my past, a sit right down in the middle of it kind of griever. When I’m sad I like to play Leonard Cohen’s Famous Blue Raincoat and really wallow. But, when all this hit, the chasm of fear/grief was simply too big. I was physically incapable of sitting around all day crying, it was too terrifying. I could barely peek over the edge into that depth, some kind of internal self-protection held me back.

And for any of you who’ve not yet broken your cherry on the banana seat of circumstance, let me tell you that all the cliches are true. As My Man said, right at the beginning, “This is just life, just what happens all the time to people everywhere.” He’s right, of course. I guess it just marks us as lucky that we hadn’t seen even the shadow of death yet in our 35-odd years. As I reached out into my community everyone seemed to have their story, their brush. Which didn’t really surprise me I guess. Ever since I met My Man, and we fell in love and everything went right and we started our happy little family, I have been waiting for that movie drama. The other shoe dropping. I guess I had looked at it like, if everything is going good, then something bad will happen soon. In a vindictive kind of way. But really it’s just that life is change. Whatever is going on now won’t be going on later.

Another true cliche is the incredible gratitude to one’s supporting web of family and friends. It cannot really be overstated. To know that whatever happened, we would not be alone, we would have help. Especially as a mama, oh my. To know that our families would rally for whatever we needed, no hesitation. And to know that people all around the country (and a few overseas) were thinking of us. Even the smallest lines sent by email mean so much. I felt a tangible spreading, like wildfire, as soon as we started telling people. The vibrating heat of love and worry for love that sprang up overnight.

But back to the news. Finally, after a week and a half of 95%/80% plastered inside my brain, there was the day. Sitting in the doctor’s office, waiting for two hours, because that’s how they roll here. Finally the intern telling us the results, and the way they could hardly sink in. Best possible outcome. Pure seminoma, the slowest growing, most treatable kind of cancer. And no spread. Every indication it had been entirely contained in the testicle, and was now therefore gone.

They recommended a few rounds of radiation, in case any stray cancer cells were lurking. After that, just very close monitoring for years to come. Given the results, his chance of cure is over 99%.

And that’s it. Abrupt stop. Time to get off the roller coaster, I guess. Buck up to business as usual. Back to the dishes, laundry, daily dozen spills for wiping. Kind of anti-climactic to be honest. As a friend who’s been there put it, “When you’ve been fighting for your life, no other work can measure up.”

Except that, predictably after two weeks of such intense stress, I got sick. We all got sick, actually, but me and the Babe got it worst. For four days, I couldn’t conceive of any kind of mothering. I put my kids in front of a line-up of movies, fed them ramen for lunch, boxed mac n cheese for dinner, and ice cream to placate any fights. I fled to the other room with a book and a cup of tea. I needed it, and I don’t regret it. But what we have at the end of such degeneration is a filthy house, a stack of dirty dishes (despite my first ever purchase of paper plates), and two kids on Doracrack in need of an intervention.

We’re not exactly out of the woods. Radiation sounds much better than chemo, but still looks to pack a punch. They zap five days a week for three weeks, if I remember right. Which, even just logistically will be rough. Let alone putting My Man out of commission as Papa for a good long time. Hopefully he will still be able to do school stuff, and graduate in the spring.

Furthermore, we have been appalled by the sloppiness here in the New Orleans hospital system. Starting with the doctor visit in which My Man was assured that the weird, tight way his ball felt was just fine, and not to worry. But if he wanted to put his mind at ease, they could do a sonogram.

Thank fuck he wanted to put his mind at ease!

Yeah. Freaky right? Turns out that testicular cancer, although it is relatively rare, is most common in young men, and we are pretty sure that not recommending a sonogram was just irresponsible.

There were a few other disturbing mistakes made, that My Man only caught because he was smart and paying close attention. I guess this is just another proven cliche– the American medical model sucks. It’s been said before, and now we understand it. But I think it really does especially suck here in New Orleans, home of the bumper sticker “Third World and Proud.”

At any rate, given the quality of care, My Man is going up to see a specialist in Indiana next week. Just to make sure. We don’t want to let down our guard and then find out they read the tests wrong or something. Also, although the doctor here arrogantly acted as though there were only one possible course of action, we aren’t entirely sure that that’s true. Radiation has it’s own dangers, and we want to get someone who actually knows something about cancer to weigh in on the subject.

So, friends. That’s the news. I am gathering my wits. I don’t know how long it will be before I come back here in full force. Honestly, my creative energies feel depleted to zero. I don’t feel much like waxing eloquent about biscuits and budgets these days. If you want me back, you might have to beg.

45 thoughts on “The News

  1. Got a small amount of info from A so I was one of the ones sending good thoughts your way! Hang in there. Wish I lived closer.

  2. Sending all positive, healing thoughts & prayers your way for the whole family. Not going into details here, but I know what you’re going thru’ to a ceratin extent – my first husband had naso-phergyeal cancer…I was 30 & scared out of my mind. You are strong & brave, powerful, creative, & an amazing Mama. Take a deep breath. Your Man is right – this is just life & it sucks sometimes. Wishing you much love, strength, & blessings now.

  3. $!%#!!!!!! My heart was in my mouth reading your post. My prayers for shalom in your household as you come down off the adrenaline and figure out the best course of action from here… This got my blood boiling about your medical system all over again. Thank god you guys pushed. Xxxx

  4. dearest CJ. what a great relief. i am so happy for you and of course still praying that everything works out right til the end.
    But it’s so good to know that nothing worse happened; it reminds us as you said that life is always changing. blessings change soon…makes us want to hold onto something more lasting than all this temporariness…we try….
    Your Man is lucky to have a wonderful support like you! i always have felt that – he is lucky to have you for all the wonderful housewife and mom stuff you do and are; but especially in this trying time, how comforting to have a pillar of solidity and concern at one’s side.
    and i love the insights you were still able to come out of this experience with, and that you shared them! thank you.

    love you! in a strange way, i really do. (even though i have never really met you….!)

    take care!

  5. Oh, no, I thought it was your husband… the first message said you & the kids were well… didn’t mention him. I was going to email, but I worried you’d think I was prying, or that you’d have to respond to me. Please know I was thinking & worrying about your family. I am so sorry you’ve been through this, and yes, shit happens… to the best of people… but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an awful situation to go through, oh and then to be sick… you poor, poor things. I so hope you all have time to recover and get healthy again, esp. if radiation is in order. Good luck to your husband with further treatment and tests, and thank goodness he listened to what his balls were saying and had that sonogram!

  6. I think you said it best: your man *had* cancer…fortunately it’s not as scary a prognosis as it used to be…that being said when they told me my mother had uterine cancer it felt like somebody kicked me in the gut and didn’t bother to remove their foot for the rest of the month. But, like your husband her situation was easily treated with surgery and since then she’s been great. So I know how horrible and incapacitating that news is, but just hear it from someone who’s come through the other side, that it does get better!

  7. PLeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaase! I want you back. Because even in the middle of your awful time you are still incredibly funny and smart (“Doracrack in need of an intervention”)

    But also, because I reckon it helps you – when it does. And by this, I mean, please come back when it feels good for you, and give it the swerve when it doesn’t.

    Much love to you. You are in my thoughts and wishes and weird, wonky prayers that I do in spiritual confusion. Your times are hard, all slack is allowed.

  8. woman, i wish i’d known the deets – i went through this with an ex about 10 years ago. it is indeed the best sort of cancer to get, if you’re looking to have cancer and all. all the best to you both, and i promise to shoot you an email soonish – not that you need email from rando interweb stalkers just now ;).

    speaking of irrelevant distractions, a) i just burnt my dinner cos i was looking (again. yes, every search on your stats for yer dam’ apple pie is me. sigh.) for your apple pie squish, when b) one of the first hits was THIS: http://www.apronstringsblog.com/frugal-tips/easy-pie-crust-recipe/ – “Easy Never-Fail Pie Crust Recipe that You Don’t Roll – You Just Pat in the Pan!” – dated 23 sept this year…

    what the shit?

    (i hope that doesn’t track back. bastard weemyn.)

      1. no, it’s there, i just had cabbage and onions frying and the shortest distance between two points seemed like googling ‘apron strings apple pie’ =)

        cos i’m an idiot, and cos i never remember whether the Z is in both the title and the url and all. but still. the interwebs are smart, and it usually works. prior to weird imitators.

        you’ve probably already discovered the Testicular Cancer Resource Center and TC-Net, but in case you haven’t, and for anyone else reading this who has testicles or loves someone who has testicles – http://tcrc.acor.org/ – this was a lifesaver for us in 2000. Ex skipped the radiation and the chemo (and other nasties), just had the ball out and did surveillance for 5 years – something he wouldn’t have had the info to insist on (or be comfortable with) unless we’d had that resource. All well.

        It will take a while to return to anything like normal after this. Go easy on yourself. Lower your expectations. Hold each other tight. Good luck in Indiana.

  9. “And for any of you who’ve not yet broken your cherry on the banana seat of circumstance…”

    You could wax eloquent about anything, I believe. I’m glad to hear the prognosis is so good, and that everyone’s still alive. Good luck over the next few weeks.

  10. Dearest CJ: I know EXACTLY what you meant about waiting for the shoe to drop. I went through that too after meeting hubby, marrying, having two beautiful healthy boys and enjoying being a stay-at-home mom to a 1st grader and 4 year old. Then one night my hubby went to bed with a cold and by 2 a.m. I had to call the paramedics. To make a long story short he ended up inn intensive care for three days without the Dr.s knowing if he would pull through or not (streptococcus pnemonia) at 38. That was the worst thing I’ve ever gone through in my life. You NEVER look at things the same again after going through such a traumatic event. You are in my prayers and thoughts. I know all about the “staying strong” side of things. People tell you that and inside you’re thinking “What other choice do I have?” You have two little ones who need you and a husband who’s probably just as scared as you are if not more. Just remember to allow yourself to lose it now and then. I’m glad to hear you’ve had friends (near and far) to help you through this.

    Please know you are never alone–all of us are here for you in spirit.

    Big Huge Hugs,
    Looking forward to a future when you feel semi-normal enough to write,
    Terri

  11. I haven’t checked out your blog for a while and first saw this post and scrolled back to see your other two. Gobsmacked. Sending my thoughts to both of you. And CJ, do what you have to do to get through it with sanity intact. Struggling to find something to say that is actually going to help, because I know that nothing I say is going to actually DO anything. I guess I just want you to know there is one more person rooting for you.

  12. Hey Gorgeous Woman. There’s not much I can say but to reflect what the rest of this community is saying, which kinda boils down to “we love you, we will miss you but we will wait”.

    I have another suggestion, but after writing it I think I’ll email it instead.

    Smooches for them golden and auburn heads. x

  13. Do take time, and you will slowly slowly gather your energies back, I follow you from far away, from Greece, and the least I could send you is some warm/sunny wishes to wrap you all over and make you feel how people form all over sympathize and just wished they could be there for you.Keep youself toogether, your great family needs you !

  14. Take time to regroup, but don’t stop writing all together, you and your family stories bring a smile and laugh into our lives.

    My thoughts and heartfelt wishes are with you and your family. All will be well.

  15. Oh CJ, what a rollercoaster! I’m glad the future looks good, that you found out how many great friends you have, and that you guys are wise 30-somethin’s getting a second opinion.

    And… I do want you back! But only if you want to be here and it’s good for you. I can say, that you are good for me… you make me want to work harder to be a better person… in every way. Thanks for that… most people leave me feeling judged, and that doesn’t make me want to do better. But you… write beautifully, are funny and eloquent… and you are honest about where you’re at… and really… I don’t think I have a bigger blog crush anywhere! ;)

    You and your family are in my crazy mashed-up prayers…

  16. Glad to hear that the outlook is good for your hubby. Still keeping you guys in my prayers though! I will look forward to you coming back but I wouldn’t want you to rush yourself, take as much time as you need. I’ll leave the begging for a few weeks when I’m going through withdrawal.

  17. I’m thinking after the specialist, follow up with a Naturopath, and not one who wants to flog you lots of supplements and way out eating restrictions, just a good wholeistic common sense approach. Sometimes the medical system leaves me nervous (and I work in it!). Cancer is cellular change, we want to make sure he deals with whatever is short circuiting in his body. That’s just what I’m thinking.

  18. Dear CJ, I’ve looked at many blogs, but yours is the only one I have regularly followed. You have a unique and vibrant voice, and it’s been a lot of fun reading your posts. In fact, your blog inspired me finally to start a blog of my own (one post and counting)!

    I’m so sorry to hear of your recent troubles, but I do hope you will come back when you are ready. In the meantime, take care of yourself and do what you need to do to recover.

  19. I’m so happy things are better. It’s OK to let chores go and put your energies on what’s most important. It will all come back into balance in time. And I’m proud you are wary enough of our medical system to watch out for your own best interests. Sometimes, when we ask how much a certain treatment actually improves results, the answer is “very little if at all”.

    My Dad had prostate cancer, was dramatically improving under one course of treatment, and then the doctor schedules cryo for no reason. IMO, Dad’s fabulous insurance was the reason. So wary is good.

    You all remain in my prayers.

    love,
    brenda from arkansas

  20. I cannot believe what a startling direction your life has taken in just a few short weeks. Take good care, lose the guilt and feel the love coming from England to amazing you, your brave husband and your beautiful kids.

  21. Thanks so much for sharing. Sending healing and positive thoughts your way! A good reminder to all of us to take care of our loved ones and to push for a more thorough examination when something doesn’t feel right. Especially with our men, who don’t always admit when something is wrong (glad your guy knew better). Take care of your family and yourself and take a break for as long as you need to. I sure hope you’ll come back to us when you are ready; all of us mamas out here love you dearly and appreciate your voice so much, you always know just how to say what we would love to say but don’t have the words to say.

  22. Takes your breath away, huh? And for me, the words. Never much good at saying things right, but know that I’m still thinking about you and your family, and looking forward to having you back, when you’re ready. Love to you.

  23. hey, thanks everyone for your kind words and thoughts. i am thinking about you all plenty. last night as i fell asleep i was composing a post in my mind. first time that’s happened in almost a month. sign of good things to come, i hope.

  24. Hi CJ, sorry, I’m slow off the mark here but I have been thinking of you and wishing, dreaming, hoping that you are making your way though this process with your customary strength and wisdom and humour. Tough, tough times. But on the other side, I hope – relief and deepened appreciation for the amazing family unit you have created. Come back when you can and only if you want. We love you but you don’t owe us anything. Much love, xRach

  25. I’ve lived this.

    My husband was 31 years old when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. We had been married for 1.5 years. We had a 6 month old son. And that was that.

    He also saw a specialist in Indiana (I assume you’re speaking of Einhorn, the best of the best when it comes to TC). My husband had surgery, but we found some months later that the cancer had spread and he was placed on 3 rounds of chemo.

    9 years later he’s healthy as a horse, less one ball. Meh, who needs ’em? And while he and I divorced 6 years ago, it’s an experience that we lived through together and I’m thankful every. fucking. day. that he made it… WE made it. And we were blessed, by some crazy miracle, to conceive a child that theoretically the drs have no idea how it was able to happen.

    Rock on. This shit will pass.

  26. Strangely enough (it seems like a distant bad dream now), I can relate. My man had a melanoma diagnosis and surgery to remove a lesion from his face, and damn that was really scary and heavy. It is gone now and hopefully for forever. Just a scar now.
    Best wishes to you and your family especially Mr. husband. I hope you are able to chase the Big C far far away. And that you find a babysitter.

  27. Holy crappola! My computer has been down for a week and I’m just catching up on my reading, so am hearing quite late. That is fucking scary, best-case prognosis or not. Even harder when you are far from family and have a dubious medical system to deal with. Lots of love and good energy for the four of you coming from Austin!

  28. Sorry it’s taken so long for me to reply. I’m glad that your man has a good prognosis. I am just in Oklahoma so if you need a hand with anything let me know, I could come down. Julie

  29. Sending lots of healing vibes your way. Take a deep breath and don’t worry about anything else except your family. We will be here waiting for you when you have the strength to return to your blog. Right now, concentrate on your family. Please keep us informed. Hugs xxx

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