Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Oh, Hello there, Hell.

This is part 3 in a series.  If you want to start at the beginning, go back and read part 1 or part 2.

At first, leading a double life didn't seem too hard.  The good thing about the internet is that people don't see you, they only know the information that you put out there, so as far as anyone knew, things were fine.

Fortunately John's health seemed to stabalize, somewhat.  He was still very sick, but there really is some comfort in knowing what you are dealing with, rather than the worry of the looming unknown. False starts, finding out what genotype he had, getting the right medication, applying to participate in medical studies, all delayed his treatment for months. In the meantime, we decided to pack as much fun and travel into the summer of 2011 as we could, before we had to face the reality of treatment.

First was the epic family road trip, then a week where John and I roared on through California on our motorbike, and finally I ended with #traversetrip, an epic journey with Tracey, Alexis, and Nicole to BlogHer in San Diego. It was bliss, all 32 days I spent in hotels over the course of two months, but by the end I was ready to be in my own bed and drinking my own coffee.

The email that blew my world apart arrived in my inbox only days before we were supposed to leave for Blogher.  I barely got past 'cancer', and 'I'm so sorry' before completely bursting into tears right there in my computer chair.  Kevin heard my wail and came running immediately.

"Mom, what's wrong? Are you okay?"

I was frantic, like a wild thing trapped, flailing my arms and shaking my head, pointing at the computer.

"She's, oh my god, she's...cancer.  Oh God Kevin, Anne has cancer.  Ovarian.  This can't be happening.  Why the hell is this happening?!" The last sentence came out with a shriek.

Hepatitis C, I could deal with.  Hepatitis C had statistics that didn't mean impending death. Sure, there was the possibility of complications, of later transplants or cancer, but it was all possibilities.  Ovarian cancer's statistics are grim, and when I read that most people don't even make it past five years, I knew right then and there what the outcome would be.

Anne was dying. I could try to deny it, ignore it, hope for the best, but in my heart, I just knew.

My first impulse was not to go to Blogher, cancel the entire trip and stay home.  Anne wouldn't hear of it.

"What are you going to do, sit around at home with a sick husband and best friend? Watch me have chemo? Go. Have fun. You are in for months of hell, and you need this. I'll live vicariously through you.  Just GO."

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Tracey, Alexis, Nicole and I San Diego bound! 

Soon I was riding along the highway, nibbling good cheese and laughing, but really I was running. Just for a little while, a little escapism was exactly what I needed. Anne was so right.

Summer soon gave way to fall, where I began a new job, Kevin began school online, Anne continued chemo, and we were all introduced to hell in the form of John's hepatitis C treatment.

I'm not sure how else to describe what it's like for someone on ribavirin and interferon, the most common drugs used to treat Hepatitis C.  John literally took his first dose and within 30 minutes was shaking, achy, and laying on the couch.  The amount of drugs one has to take to fight this disease involves a massive amount of pills on a daily basis, and an injection once a week.  Think of your worse flu - one that makes you ache to your core, sucks all your energy, makes you cranky, you sleep all the time, and times it by 10,000.  Now you know what it's like to begin Hepatitis C treatment.

Some people, we were told, could work and have the treatment.  John tried at first, but became too sick to even get off the couch some days and soon, had to take medical leave altogether.  Even Anne and Scott, both enduring chemo, began to sympathize with John.

"At least with chemo, you have a few days where they give you drugs to reduce the side effects," they explained.  We affectionately named those drugs rocket fuel, as they made Anne feel almost normal.  "Once those wear off, it's smack down that leaves you whimpering for any kind of relief. It sounds like John is in permanent smack down, and THAT isn't good."

Nope. Not good at all.

And things were about to get worse.

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As I've begun writing, people have sent me messages worried that we are going through this in real time with my blog posts.  I am writing this a year later, so please know, John and I are okay.  You can catch up with part one and part two here.


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