The Living Without Series

This is a series of posts that I wrote back in 2006 on living with less stuff. Check them out: liv011Living #2liv031liv04

Coal Creek Farm on Facebook

The Chicken Doctor

April

The Architect

Clay

Clay and April’s Most Amazing Summer Ever!

Hello Friends,

I apologize for the long recess I’ve taken from Coal Creek Farm.  I’ve got a hand full of drafts that I wrote, but I just can’t seem to finish any of them when I start writing about Clay.  Clay read this post and said, “It does seem that you’ll write about anything, but the cancer.”  It’s just too hard, I can’t do it yet.

Clay is well.  He is recovering and the cancer is gone.  We are so thankful.  I still feel pretty numb about all of it.  It feels like years have passed since we first found out he had cancer, it is such a weird feeling.

So,  would you like to join me in a little summer show and tell?  It’s about cancer, but not really.

Summer 2013

IMG_1350This was two weeks into treatment for Clay.  We were celebrating my dad’s 70th birthday.  Clay still had energy and his wicked sense of humor.

IMG_1365This was later in July.  Isaac went to camp for the first time.  He clung to me in fear and dread.  I had to peel him off me.  He was so miserable.  He cried, moaned, wailed, and said, “I love you so much, don’t leave me!  I’m just a tiny baby, you can’t do this!”  Don’t let his smile fool you, he was an absolute mess of snot and tears.  Clay took this photo and then we went straight to the hospital, which was our daily routine for seven weeks.

IMG_1353That is the true color of Clay and I.  He’s pink, I’m yellow.  It’s weird.  I look like the sick one here.  I want to write about what it’s like to watch the person you love more than yourself suffer, but every time I think about it, I sob…deeply.  I’m not sure how long it will take me to get past that feeling.  Consider this my hug to all of you who know what I mean and if you lost your loved one, I am still hugging you.

 

 

IMG_1381My summer looked a lot like this.  I was a single parent to our four amazing kids.  I can’t say enough great things about them.  We all linked arms and marched along with life.  Nobody complained about what they needed.  My older two kids really showed their true character and did a great job of taking care of their little brothers when I was taking care of their dad.

IMG_1420Ellen stepped in and became my running partner for the half marathon training.   I would call her up and she would drop everything to go run with me.  Many times those runs didn’t happen until late at night when Clay was sleeping and I felt okay to leave.  Several times I had to hug her and tell her how much it meant to me to have her by my side.  She would stop to walk when I needed to and never complained that I was too slow. This is a girl who had just finished a year of college level track training.  She was in such great shape and she pulled the reigns back to lope along with her old mom.  Her level of compassion, patience and love for her parents is beyond what I’d ever expect.  Again, if I think about what she did…I sob, blah!  I wish I could sell a manual on how to raise this great of a kid, cuz I would be a billionaire.  But, this child it truly a gift to me from God.  It’s true.

IMG_1429The love I held in my heart for him before he got sick is just a small dent in comparison to the trench that has been dug deep into my being for him now.  I’ve known this man for 25 years of my life.  I’ve lived with him longer than any other person.  I hope I never have to live without him.

 

 

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We had unexpected appointments like getting his hearing checked on days when I was spray painting drawer pulls.

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And an unexpected accident.  Ellen was t-boned in an intersection while driving to work.  That was a long day. And a lot of phone calls and a lot of searching for a new/used truck.

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We had family come and love on Clay.  This is his father praying and anointing him with oil.  It’s nice to have a priest in the family.

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Clay’s work sent love in the form of a Vitamix so we could blend up food for him. My fridge and pantry were the healthiest place in town.

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I grew a pretty nice garden.  I sold veggies at a small farmer’s market until Clay’s treatment schedule got too heavy and I had to stop.  It was a great experience and I’ll do it again this year.

IMG_1558Every single morning Monday through Friday he went to the hospital.  Then we would have about two hours to run any kind of errands before he would get too sick and need to go home to crash.  And then we would do it all again the next day and the next day and the next day….

IMG_1568We sent Seth to public school to finish his Senior year.  I can barely remember enrolling him, but I know we did it sometime during the summer.  This was his first day and he’s doing great this year.  He’s growing up really fast.  I can’t believe he will be done with high school.  MY BABY SETHY BOY!

IMG_1606At the end of Clay’s treatment, when he was really sick.  I was running with Ellen late at night and pretty much body slammed myself on the road.  It was not pretty.  I thought for sure I had broken my ankle and I cried not because it hurt like Hell, but because I thought I wasn’t going to get to run the half marathon.  And it hurt like Hell.

IMG_1622But, it wasn’t broken, just badly sprained and I recovered in time to run the race.  When I got home that night Clay woke up and saw that I had hurt myself.  He had to cut the dangling skin off my knee….shudder….and wrap my ankle.  He took good care of me even thought he was sick.  It was pretty sweet to see him trying to make me feel better.  I felt really stupid.  I’ll spare you from the gory pictures.

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In September we accompanied Clay on his first business trip back to St. Louis.  I worried that he might over do it.  I took my two little boys along with us and let them have some fun.  I was feeling a little guilty that I hadn’t taken them anywhere all summer, so we toured around St. Louis and had a great time.  This picture is at The City Museum.  Isaac obviously is holding an L up because he Loves me.

 

 

IMG_1663This is the view from Clay’s office building.  That’s Busch Stadium, it is an amazing view!  And seeing my husband standing there post treatment with his two little boys staring longingly at the home of the Cardinals is the most beautiful view I could have.

It is Well with My Soul

 120588-620-010hWe have felt pain.

We have feared loss.

We have prayed.

We have cried.

We have pleaded.

We have questioned.

We embraced what was given.

We have praised.

We are blessed, beyond measure.

We are loved.

October 19th, we ran a half marathon.  Just six weeks after Clay had finished his last cancer treatment.  Ellen and I had trained for this run all summer.  We would meet late at night after I knew Clay was asleep and unlikely to need me.  We would run, talk, cry, and maybe reward ourselves with an iced coffee.  Running became therapeutic for us as we watched Clay become weaker and sicker from the treatments.  We were very focused on running and it became something we needed to do.  Just run from it, flee, get away from what was happening.  Run!  Run!  Run!

I never wanted to say he wasn’t going to run with us, but deep down I never thought he would be able to.  His doctors weren’t optimistic that he would be able to run. They told him he needed several months to recover.  He probably wouldn’t have the strength to run.

We logged at least four runs a week, increasing our miles and speed.  There was no way Clay would be able to do this.  The longest run he’d ever completed in the training plan was four miles.  Believe me, there is a big difference between four miles and thirteen miles.  There is a big difference between four miles and five miles!  It’s all miles!!!

Guess what?

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He did it.  He didn’t run all 13.1 miles, but he finished.  By mile 10 he was starting to feel the pain and by mile 12 he needed Ellen and I to support him as his knee began to fail.  Together we crossed the finish line.  He did it!

On race day I found myself no longer running from something, but running for someone.  I never thought I would feel such joy watching my husband put one foot in front of the other, running!  Thank God, he was running!

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Thank you for praying for our sweet Clay.  Thank you for the kindness you all have shown my family.  Thank you for emailing me and leaving comments to let me know you were thinking of us and praying for us.  Thank you all for showing this goofy Kansas family that love and kindness is alive and well in this world.  It is well with my soul.

It Makes Life More Beautiful

What kind of blogger tells you her husband has cancer and then disappears for over a month?  Yeah, that’s me.  It took me 30 minutes just to log into this blog because my brain is so fried, but not quite as fried as Clay is from radiation.  Oh, lord that was a horrible joke.  Who laughs about cancer?  Yeah, that would be us.  Don’t worry, we’ve cried a lot too.  If we aren’t laughing or crying about it then we’re just staring into space, those are really the only options at this point.

The mobile PET/CT scanner Clay spent 45 minutes with his arms above his head.  He tells a funny story of having two giant carps flapping from his shoulders.

The mobile PET/CT scanner Clay spent 45 minutes with his arms above his head. He tells a funny story of having two giant carps flapping from his shoulders.

I don’t know where the summer has gone.  I felt bad that I wasn’t able to take my kids to the lake or to a swimming pool or on any little vacation.  Instead, we went to the hospital everyday.  Some days we went to doctor’s appointments after we went to the hospital and some days we came home and went right to bed or flopped on the couch and coped with the after effects of chemotherapy, radiation and the constant concern of what ugly effect might crop up next for Clay.

The fanciest Chemotherapy chair that Clay never got to use.

The fanciest Chemotherapy chair that Clay never got to use.

Clay has finished treatment.  The recovery hasn’t quite started, but we haven’t seen or spoken to a doctor for four entire days and that seems like the best vacation ever.

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One thing that I’ve found strange during the past few months is that not much upsets me.  I don’t know if I will continue to have this strange numbness, but I imagine that my view on a lot of things will be quite different for a long time.  Stuff just doesn’t matter to me, and by stuff I mean just about everything.

I called this our synchronized waiting room routine.  We got really good at it.

I called this our synchronized waiting room routine. We got really good at it.

I think we were four weeks into chemotherapy when we got a phone call from Ellen as we drove to the hospital.  She had been in a wreck, it was bad, she wasn’t hurt, could we get there.  Turns out she was on our way, so we were able to get to her quickly.  A man driving a truck had run a red light and t-boned her.  Luckily, she was driving our truck and it took the impact well, both trucks collided with three other vehicles that were sitting across the intersection at the red light.  Our truck was a total loss. Clay left me with Ellen and he went on to the hospital to have his radiation treatment. The whole time all I could think of was CLAY, YOU NEED TO GET OUT OF THE SUN!!!  I never got upset about the wreck or losing a vehicle, it was just so minor.  Nobody was hurt beyond scrapes and sore muscles and that was the main concern. We still don’t have another truck, but we will.  Insurance has paid for all the damages, Ellen’s minor injuries, time off work, blah, blah, blah.  I do wish they would just deliver another vehicle to my door, that would be mighty convenient, but at least looking for a truck gives Clay a little something to do.  Although, twice now we have driven out of town to look at trucks only to come back home empty handed because he doesn’t have enough strength to be out for more than a few hours.  Even that doesn’t irritate me.  Seriously, it’s like I’ve been dipped in Novocaine.

Ole' Red is Dead.

Ole’ Red is Dead.

I’ve continued to train for the half-marathon.  I know running has helped me cope.  There have been times when I’m done running and if I’m by myself I will take a few minutes to cry because that’s when I don’t have anymore energy to keep my chin up.

Our family has been well-loved over the last couple of months.  People have dropped off meals, taken care of my kids, delivered gifts and sent cards.  My sweet mom has come over the past few weeks and cleaned my house, she is exhausted when she’s done.  It’s been so lovely to get to see her every week and scrub my house with her as she bosses me around like I’m still a teenager and the crazy thing is that I totally listen to her and then I don’t want her to leave.  She’s the only person that folds my laundry correctly and knows what needs to be done without me having to say anything.

One of our pastors dropped in during chemo and prayed with Clay.  The blanket was made by one of Ellen's friends because Clay would get so cold when the fluids entered his body.

One of our pastors dropped in during chemo and prayed with Clay. The blanket was made by one of Ellen’s friends because Clay would get so cold when the fluids entered his body.

I know I’m going to forget to thank people and that is just now starting to concern me.  Time has been such a strange thing.  Clay was only in treatments for seven weeks, but it felt like years.  I can only remember one date and that’s the date of his first doctor’s appointment.  I’ll never forget how our doctor was not in any way going to let us think that what Clay had was just some silly swollen gland.  I’ve never seen her so serious and to the point and from the second she examined him life turned into a sprint.  Clay went down the hall to get blood drawn and I was on the phone with the insurance company making sure they would cover PET and CT scans.  Before we left the office we had two more appointments with other doctors and our heads were spinning because we had no name to give his lump except…it’s a lump, please don’t let it be cancer.

I have to stop here.  I didn’t think this would be so hard to write, but I’m struggling to get through this.

I don’t want to down play anyone else out there that is battling a life threatening disease.  Right now Clay’s cancer is not terminal and chances are he will beat his cancer and never see it again, I wish all cancers were like that.  My heart goes out to all of you that have battled a disease or taken care of a loved one while they have suffered.  It does make us better, it makes life more beautiful.