>Get the FUNK OUT (of my face).

18 Nov

>I just sat here making a spreadsheet of the meds the hubby has been prescribed over the last five months. That it literally takes a spreadsheet to decipher and track what he is putting in his body. Well.

I am so, so bone tired right now. My mind and heart are heavy with sadness. It seems like just when I think I can’t possibly ever feel more tired. Well there you have it.

It’s been a few weeks since I last took the time to sit down and write. I sorely needed to catch up with work and give my stupid old lady arm a break from the computer before I get carpal tunnel. Damnation. Instead of a kitchen re-model, I’m thinking we should blow out a wall to install his and hers built in medicine cabinets.

So even though I was poised to write up a full page of no-complaints-here. Well, we’ve hit week four of radiation/chemo cocktails. And a friend of ours died on Monday. Which means this week FUCKING SUCKS.

The friend, Jeff Jewell, was one of the most positive, happy and full-of-life people I’ve known. You’d think that his passing after fighting a valiant fight against stage IV brain cancer — for 21 months — would light a fire under my ass. Make me so GD thankful for highly curable stage III rectal cancer. But instead, it took my slippery slope of mental stability and coated it with a solid sheet of arctic ice. The super thick solid kind. You feel me?

Sunday, we gathered on the tarmac at Jeffco airport, watching as the ambulance jet taxied towards us, with the waiting ambulance at our backs. Sixty of us. Huddled in the cold. Waiting for Jeff to come home. Back to his beloved Colorado after over three months at UCLA Med Center. I could never have prepared myself for seeing his wife, Sherry, emerge from that plane. Seeing her face. Anguish so clear it was palpable. Then watching her make her way through the crowd as the tears gushed forth. She looked so little. So alone. And there was not a dry eye on the runway.

When it was my turn? Well. She gave the head tilt. Said, “Oh girl.” And we exchanged our secret husbands-with-cancer mental handshake. I thought my insides would become my outsides. Inside-out-ness. I managed to thank her for their recent emailed support. Especially in light of all they were facing. And after a moment she said, “I never thought I’d be here.” Yes. I know that thought too too well.

After all of the equipment and paramedics were done doing their thing, the stretcher with Jeff’s prone body emerged. Head bandaged from way too much tinkering. Silent. Not Jeff. Everyone fell quiet though our intention had been huge cheers of WELCOME HOME. WE LOVE YOU. I think seeing someone who’d inspired us all to LIVE LIVE LIVE now lying there lifeless…well.

The plan was hospice at Balfour. Then hospice at home. We were waiting for the home phase to go visit. And it never happened. He arrived home and then left again within 24 hours.

Even though they are friends that we know mainly through friends, he always had a big hug for each of our girls. Always remembered their names. I don’t know how he did it. But that was who he was. We weren’t in the main circle, just outside of it. Sharing probably eight BFFs in common. Close enough to be painfully aware of what the world just lost.

Friends arrived at Balfour just after his departure. Sherry-baby had just placed a note in his hand. During their two minutes of alone time all day. And then he flew away. The planned beer for his lips was still in Jamie’s hand as he walked in, so they decided to do it any way. Then sat there and toasted him and laughed and told stories until the wee hours. While Jeff rested at long, long last. That moment is one of the most beautiful I’ve heard in a while. A celebration of a life well-lived by some of those who loved him most.

One of my favorite repeated stories is from when he was in the hospital after one of his 4 or 5 brain surgeries. He’d just been watching television when the doc came in and asked him his name. He looked at the doc and said, “Mr. Kibbles.” I guess he’d just seen a commercial for Kibbles and Bits.

Fond farewell, Mr. Kibbles. I’m not quite sure what we’ll do without you. Don’t you know that 41 is far too young to leave when you clearly had so much left to do?

If you have $20 extra in your pocket, I know that Sherry could really use some help paying for the parking fee at DIA that stretched over three months without anyone realizing it. Or for the two months of Marriott stays that haven’t yet been funded by friends. It’s amazing how expensive it gets trying to save someone’s life. Visit the Jewell Fundraiser page for more info. Jimmy-hat set it up. (We love us some Jimmy-JR.)

So back to us and our sad-sack-story. We’ve been trudging through the ritual of daily radiation and mountains of pills. Though the hubby still maintains that oral chemo is so much more preferred over wearing the poison-spewing-but-oh-so-fashionable fanny pack. He takes about 13 pills on a good day and shoots foam up his ass to ease the blisters from the radiation about four times a day. He has been shitting about every hour and sometimes through the night (on a good day), but that seems to be easing off now that I went to the white bread and canned fruit aisle. (They make that shit in ORGANIC form. What an oxymoron.)

He spends a lot of time cocooned on the couch in the Cronin’s afghan that we never returned (I used to think that word was African and it seemed really odd that people would wrap up in an African. But what did I know?) or crouched on the toilet. It’s like having a newborn at times. Like I should really try to nap when he does. But someone’s got to mind those kids.

We also have at least two doctor appointments a week (on a good week) at which we usually receive at least one or two new prescriptions for some new ailment that has cropped up due to the treatments. So my usual gameplan is: drop the hubby off at home so he can jump from the couch to the potty, head to Pharmaca and hang out while they fill the new Rx (usually shopping for more makeup that I never wear), then head to Little Whole (the smaller Whole Foods closest to our house) to shop for anything that doesn’t have beans, grains, skins, nuts, fresh ingredients, or taste in it. Most likely I then go back to Pharmaca again for whatever new thing has cropped up since I left for the store. Then it’s home to decipher the new drugs, unpack all of my new makeup and grab a can of something to slop on white bread for dinner.

Early on he felt well enough for us to bike to Cafe Aion for a date night and dinner (after a one night delay). But that was only the first week and by the next day, he couldn’t get off of the couch long enough to participate in Halloween with the angel and Spiderman/Dash/Eeyore (bean was all three at some point in the day). Suck-tastic.

Since then, it’s been minute to minute. We’ll go. We’ll do. We’ll be. Then we won’t. Just like that.

This week, he hit bottom. Even though I had JJ Strong songs dancing in my head. I kept trying to impart that to him. “Remember when Jeff spent the weekend cross country skiing while he was on chemo?” So not helpful. I’d hoped to inspire. Ignite. Instead, I bottomed out too. Jeff was strong, positive, hopeful and, well, HEROIC. As was Sherry. Throughout their entire ordeal. They both beamed out to us as role models when we got our diagnosis. Facing cancer with dignity and grace. And I was trying to figure out how they were possibly able to maintain that. Heather reminded me that he didn’t have any side effects from any of the treatments (and they sometimes wished he would so they could know it was WORKING). But still.

And I guess what I thought of is with a diagnosis as dire as theirs was, hope is all you have. You can’t AFFORD to wallow in self-pity. It’s chin up or go down in flames. Because for us, there is a tangible end in sight. Once we are through this shit-pile of treatments, once we get a few weeks’ break for the holidays, once we get through January and February of chemo. Once THAT is all over. THEN we can be done. Really, truly DONE — with only five more years of doctor’s appointments while we hold our breath and pray-pray-pray that it hasn’t come back to go.

They would have a surgery and get a nugget of hope back. A treatment and another nugget. For us, it’s heads-down and get through this for seven months straight. No breather or hope nugget. Just DO IT. And no soup for you.

But you can’t really compare. We all get dealt a hand. No matter how shitty. And we deal the best way we can.

What we can learn from all of this? The Matthews are a HOT MESS. We’ve been dealt a hand that reeks so badly that I often can’t breathe for many days in a row. But we have so much optimism mixed in with our realism, that it balances out from time to time. And, for us, getting out all that’s true and hard in this makes us feel stronger.

Besides, now we have this new angel up there with Mima keeping an eye on us all for extra luck.

TODAY’S THEME SONG: Hot Mess. Uncle Kracker. I like tequila on my sunrise. A little black around my blue eyes. Walkin’ on wire. Let it ride.


One Response to “>Get the FUNK OUT (of my face).”

  1. Shannah November 19, 2010 at 10:28 pm #

    >Thank you for this post, Cass. It was a gift to all of us who knew Jeff, and to all of us who love you and Kenny.


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