Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Hard Things...a guest post by Thalassa

This post was written by Thalassa as an essay for school. She brought both Eric and I to tears as she shed light into moments of how this experience has affected her. I think she should consider starting a blog of her own! But in the very least, she is always welcome here. :)

Hard Things  
            This summer, I was exited for my whole world to change as an 8th grader, but my world changed in a whole new way no one would ever suspect. One Sabbath Day (day of rest and relaxation), I was woken up in the middle of the cold dark night to see my parents worried faces looking down at me. “Is something wrong?” I asked startled. “Dad is going to the hospital,” mom replied, “he is having some stomach pain, he will be fine. Nana and Poppie will be here soon.” (Nana and Poppie are our grandparents.) This comment was met with my brother’s wide eyes starring up into my anxious parents’ faces, and both of us held on tight to them. In a few minuets, they were off in the car and my brother and I were waiting in an empty dark home. A few days later, Eric (my brother) and I were sitting in a bland but clean hospital room, the kind that smells of strong disinfectant, next to my dad in the bed. I was staring in horror at the wall next to my dad, as my mom, in a heartbreaking tone, explained that my dad was just diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer which had spread to his liver, and he maybe had 5 years to live.

            Immediately, my mom sprung into action, and in a little while, had a fully functioning plan with the cancer center at UCSD. Dad was going to have lots of chemo and then, if all went well, a liver resection. A plan was in place, and dad could leave the hospital but our lives were changed forever. We began to cherish every moment we spent together, we began to pray more to God for healing, and whenever we could we would use our new annual passes to go to Disneyland. But even at Disneyland, the feeling of loss never truly went away. In everyday life between trips to Disneyland there was still work to get done. My math bar kept growing, and schoolwork from school kept piling up. The everyday challenge of getting in the right mindset to do school was hard. I wanted to shrink away and hide, to cry and dwell in self pity. Instead I ran to God, Whose grace and mercy held me and washed away my fears. Then the first chemo day came. My mom and dad sadly trudged out the door into the cold of dawn to get poked with needles, and to be filled to the brim with poison. Eric and I were left at the house, to do school alone while our grandparents looked on. But, God was with us. Dad came home from chemo tired, and feeling drowsy; we never knew if he needed to sleep or could stay awake for a little longer. And I, a scared little girl, could just wait. Still, I got some little goals done. I sang my heart out in musical theater, trying to escape the icy grip of fear but mostly failing. Also, I learned how to ride a bike which has been a goal of mine for five years. 

            Cancer is one of those things that you have to take on day by day. Sometimes we just cried, sometimes we got a lot of things done but as long as we had God we were just fine. Pretty much nothing I thought would happen this year went the way I thought it would. 8th grade I think is safe to say, was the worst year of my life. Despite that, I still kept my grades up in the A range. And I learned how to deal with hard things - pray and love the people that are around you instead of attacking them, even if you feel like it. I still shared my “world famous coloratura” in the theater, and pedaled faster then everyone else in my bike class on two wheels. Working through difficult things is hard, especially when it keeps going with no end in sight. And it’s still going - the newest update is that my dad’s tumors in his liver are getting bigger so liver resection might be thrown out the window, and that the chemo has stopped working. Even with this news, my family still has hope. I have learned to, even through hard things, truly pray, have faith, and love others.

LOST...and Afraid

It has again been a while since I’ve written…I’ve had a number of posts cross my mind, but I’m finding that the energy and concentration/creativity it takes to flush them out into something cohesive and understandable doesn’t come easily when I’m fighting fear. And these past few months have been quite consumed with fighting fear.

What I have been more diligent about is shows. There have been many evenings where the most the four of us could muster after engaging in our respective battles of the day was a solid session of binge watching. I’m certainly not claiming that this is the very best coping method, but it is one we’ve employed. We’ve traveled the world with the Amazing Race, uncovered the mysteries of time and space alongside the Dr. in his TARDIS, and most recently found ourselves LOST.

I’m the only one of the four of us who watched this during it’s first go-round; the kids were so little when it originally ran, and Eric was still steadily advancing his drinking career. One thing that, oddly, caught my attention from the pilot episode all those years ago was how Jack handled fear. 

          Well, fear's sort of an odd thing…the terror was just so crazy. So real. And I knew I had to deal with it. So I just made a choice. I'd let the fear in, let it take over, let it do its thing, but only for five seconds, that's all I was going to give it. So I started to count: one, two, three, four, five. Then it was gone. I went back to work...
                                                                                                                                               —Jack   ”

Over the years that somehow stuck with me, and in scattered situations I tried this method out - take it in, feel the fear, then force it out. I don’t know that it has ever worked all that well for me, but what I’m recently finding is that when given even the slightest bit of reign, fear is a frightful adversary capable of lightening fast exponential growth. Through these last months, it feels there has been so much lost and so many things to fear…the time frame we had hoped for Eric’s surgery was pushed back somewhat indefinitely and chemo was extended, we lost access to the medical system that had become Eric’s “home base” and were moved back into the system and oncologist that had originally told us there were not many options available to him, we’ve lost large portions of any semblance of “normal” in our day to day living, and I fear for how that wears on every single one of us in unique ways, I’ve lost the dreams and plans I had for my last year fully homeschooling my daughter, and just last week we received news that the maintenance chemo that Eric has been on for the last two months has lost it’s effectiveness. That one more than anything, given even just the slightest number of seconds, can bring me to growing afraid.

But if that’s all that I focus on from the events of the last few months, I’ve also lost perspective…for many, many things have been gained. Memories of laughter and family walks and days at Disney, watching our children perform in their fantastic school musical, experiencing the swelling joy of our daughter accomplishing a goal she set for herself this year and finally learning to ride a two wheel bike, the kindness and generosity of both strangers and friends, five precious years of sobriety, and only just yesterday the addition of another year to our son’s running life count.

What I have been finding to be true for me in handling fear is that while it may be natural, understandable, and in many cases even seem fully reasonable…I have to let it go. And this isn’t just a random release into the ether, but a moment by moment invitation for Perfect Love to cast out all fear. The two cannot coexist. In the places where I find myself so fiercely clutching fear, rather than giving it seconds to grow I have to ask for it to be released and I look for the love. Or, I look for how I can love

And do you know what happens? I begin to lose things again…my narrowing of perspective and full insistence on how something (or everything!) must be done, my lack of patience with everyone around me, and my bitterness, however entitled I feel I am to it. Only then are these lost things replaced with a growing love and wonder. Only then am I even able to begin to clearly hear and respond to God’s direction for me. Only then can I be effective, and know true peace regardless of circumstance.

This week there will be many opportunities to continue to hone this growing realization and practice. We will get results from CT scans to show us if the cancer has spread beyond Eric’s liver. We will meet with multiple surgeons to discuss options (which will be greatly influenced by the results of said scan), and with the oncologist to discuss non-surgical options. I will make many, many phone calls to continue the campaign for Eric’s access and insurance coverage, and the kids and I will do our best to begin tying up loose ends so we can finish out this school year learned and intact. 

Learned and intact. In my opinion that sounds so much better than lost and afraid.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Happy Fifth Birthday!!!

So this year, on May 2nd in the middle of it all, Eric turned five. Here, in his words, is how he got to five years of sobriety. I love you, My Husband, and am so very proud of you.

Eric's Five year celebration...our good friend, Ken, gave him his cake and the most generous chip I have seen to date. (Will post Eric's share separately.) So proud of you My Love!!
Posted by Sara Trickey on Sunday, May 17, 2015

Here are Eric's own words on five years of sobriety. Simply put, he's amazing.Eric was also celebrated today at Church...five years of sobriety embraced in a place where he has pastored for twelve. That simple equation shows me that while God's Grace is wholly sufficient, it's an incredible thing to experience His people living grace saturated lives as well.
Posted by Sara Trickey on Monday, May 18, 2015