It is day three of our first weeks treatment. Zack had a much better night. He woke up at 5 am to take more of his anti nausea medicine and went back to bed for another hour or so. Our appointment today is at 8:30 am. I roll out of bed, (Frank is already getting dressed for his full day of work) I do the dishes from last night, make the bed, get ready and head out the door to open the office.
Once the office is ready for business I head out, pick up Zack and we are on the road to Asheville for our last visit of the week. He is starting to feel nauseous again. The ride there doesn't help much. I try and take the turns slowly, hit the railroad tracks slower than my usual Mario Andretti speed, brake lightly at the 25 red lights that stop us. On the way there I get a call from Jessica, my side kick at work. She is able to cover the office this morning, she doesn't want me to even think of the office, she can handle it all. Suddenly I am relieved. I know the Docs can handle everything, I just don't like it when they "have to". Jessica is an angel, She "tolerates" my Taurus attitude as her husband too is a Taurus. We laugh at the similarities, the OCD, the times when she "gets too close to my space", all the little things that make us "unique" and sometimes, not so easy to get along with. Jess is the ONLY one besides the Docs that I work well with. She is detail oriented, gets the job done and so sweet, everyone loves her.
We arrive to the staff's smiling faces. One of the nurses is Angie, she is a petite blonde with tight long curly hair. She wears several bright colored necklaces. She is the greeter, always smiling, she loves Zack and is sad to see him react so badly to the chemo treatment. She puts us in a bright room with a large window (different from our first room). This room has a soft bench, bed and massage recliner. Zack lays in the bed and she immediately starts him on iv fluids and anti nausea medicine. This is the third kind they are trying. She explains that this will make him sleepy and almost on cue, he falls into a deep sleep. She sits on the couch with me and tells me how wonderful it was to watch his and Franks relationship. She said "in the beginning your husband was very tough, strong".. ( I say he is the alpha male!), she laughs and agrees. She tells me that as Zack started to feel worse, Frank got up and was wiping his head with the damp washcloth, holding the bucket for him and rubbing his back. She said that he didn't even want to leave to get lunch. Being a teenager and father, they have had their share of arguments of late ( they BOTH can't be right you know!). It touched my heart to hear this. I'm sure this experience will bring them closer than ever before.
Angie shares her "story" of her father. He is fighting his own cancer battle right now, but the prognosis is not good. I ask how she can work with small children with this "disease", she says sometimes it gets to her, but she loves being with them and the what you get in return is amazing. She tells me that it is hard for her being the nurse in the family, "sometimes I just want to be the daughter", but she admits, with her knowledge she has been able to help her family through the tough times. I tell her my belief that we are all here for a reason, and we all "sign up" to either be the teacher or student, (or sometimes both) many times at our own expense. Zack is my teacher and the teacher of many. The lives that he has already touched is amazing!
Angie leaves the room after a great big hug and I plug in my Kindle Fire and continue watching "Grey's Anatomy". At least "McSteamy" (Eric Dane) and "McDreamy" (Patrick Dempsey) can keep my mind off of our current reality. (Hey I'm married, not dead!)
An hour or so later, Karen (our case worker) comes into the room to offer more suggestions on where to file for additional financial assistance. So far between the tests and two surgeries, the statements that have come are over $20,000.00 . I am not worried, I know that everything we need will be provided for one way or another, but then again I was raised that way and it has always been so. While Karen and I are talking (very softly.. which for me is a miracle in and of itself) Angie comes in and says "don't you guys bother him, he needs rest!!" I LOVE that she is protective of Zack, I know that if I am not there she will take very good care of him. I tell Karen, I need to rest a bit before we head back home and work, so she leaves.
Zack starts to wake up, his color comes back in his face. He sits up and asks for his ginger ale. He is thirsty and hungry. Good signs! I get him some crackers and peanut butter from the snack area down the hall. The counters are filled with crackers, both saltine and graham, peanut butter in individual packets, fresh coffee and two small refrigerators with ginger ale, apple, orange juice and water bottles. They try to make it as easy on the children and parents alike.
Angie comes in and tells him he is ready for his shot. This is the one that helps the white blood cells. She asks "where do you want it?", his response " anywhere but the butt!!!", she laughs and sticks the needle in his arm. He doesn't even flinch. We discuss whether or not we may need to return tomorrow. She explains that if he can't keep food or water down the rest of the day and tonight, he will have to return tomorrow for more fluids, IF he continues as he has been he would have to be admitted into the hospital. He looks are her and says "I will be fine!" You won't see us tomorrow. They agree to remove the IV line from his chest, this way he can shower, swim ( if up to it) and go back to "normal" life.
We say our goodbyes and set up our next appointment for Tuesday at 10:30 am, with a promise that the next treatment will not make him sick and will be a shorter day. On the drive home we drive through and get some lunch, he is able to keep it down and sleeps a bit more in the car. I drop him off at home, he lays on the couch and promises to call me if he needs anything. I feel comfortable leaving him for the afternoon. I work 10 minutes away and Franks next work project is also 10 minutes from the house.
I return to work and right when I was getting settled in the phone rings, it's Zack! "Are you okay honey?", "Yes Mom... uh.... did you forget to pay Directv?, we don't have TV". SHIT... "Yup, I probably did Buddy, give me five minutes and it will be back on" "Okay, sorry, bye"... At this point I have to laugh... I go online, pay the bill and resume with my work, Zack texts me and says "Thank you!!". I know he is feeling better.. he is watching his shows! It's a good sign!
As I'm working, patients come in and ask how he is doing. It is so great to be able to report all the good news. They are so supportive, offering me their phone numbers should we ever need anything, including us in their church prayer list. In walks a lady holding a loaf of bread. I look at her, smile, greet her thinking "okay is this lady selling bread?", she looks at me with a smile and says "I'm K. R.", ( I know that name, but from where?) she looks at me again and says "I was Zack's math teacher from last year", I laugh and say "oh my, YOU!!!" (We had some issues last year with Zack not completing his work and various emails back and forth, he did manage to pass the class though and I gained a couple more grey hairs in the process.) She came closer to the counter and said she did not mean to upset me at work, but she just heard from one of the teachers about Zack and HAD to stop by and give her Love to him. She said "I know I wanted to give him a swift kick in the pants a couple of times, but he is such a sweet young man, and I had to see how he is doing". I tell her what is going on, and how it is treatable and curable. She tells me that she is a two year survivor from cancer and though she didn't share it with all her students, she wanted Zack to know that he is strong and will be just fine. Before she leaves I give her the blog address and she asks if she can share this with the other teachers. I tell her she is free to share it with anyone. She shares that other teachers and staff want to keep up with his progress and she is sad he won't be returning to school, but is thrilled to learn he will graduate with his friends.
I finish my day at work, touching base with Zack off and on. Frank got home early because of the storms so I worried less. When I returned home Frank tell me that Zack went up to his friend Drake's house for about ten minutes and then returned home feeling queasy again. He had taken a couple more of his meds and was asleep. I went in to give him a hug and kiss, he woke up saying he felt horrible. I notice his MP3 player vibrating, check it and tell him that I see he had two new emails, he checks and it's a man he has been waiting to hear from about a car. (he is trading or selling his truck for an automatic since he was advised not to drive a stick shift with his port). He sits up, reads the emails, gets excited and comes into the home office to make arrangements to go and see it on Saturday. It was good to see him excited, he said "I still feel like crap" but I have something to look forward to". I share that I don't care what makes him feel better, it's just good to see him smile! He looks at me with the sweetest look and says "stand up!", he then gives me the best hug!, then runs to Frank to tell him about the appointment to see the car.
He can finally shower since the IV was removed and is ready again for bed. We made it through the first week. At least now we know (sort of) what we are in for. With each other, our family, amazing friends and the tremendous community support we have it made! We are truly so very blessed!
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