Select Page

What The Hell Happened?

cancer love storyWe met when we were twelve. My wife Kimmy was always healthy. She never smoked, only occasionally drank, she exercised and ate all the right foods. She hadn’t seen a doctor in six years, always joking, “I’m waiting for the big one!”

She went in for gall bladder surgery on 10/19/10. I assured her she’d be fine. My wife passed away fifty-five blurry days later on 12/13/2010.

When I realized how sick Kimmy really was, I told her, “Dammit Kimmy, why couldn’t you be a mean, bitchy woman? Then I could be rejoicing right now!” But she couldn’t be mean or bitchy. Not her nature. She was so sweet, so positive, right up until she died in my arms.

miss her so much. I was a train wreck that she’d lovingly pulled out of the gutter, cleaned up, and helped exercise my demons. She made me what I am today.

And now, in my new, traumatic, bizarro world, I can no longer keep track of time or what day it is. I walk around feeling stoned. I question; I second guess myself. Did I kill Kimmy? I go back and forth, replaying this in my head.

St. Patrick’s Day last year, we lost our ten-year old Lab/Aussie pup, Zona. That dog was part of the family. Our kids adored her as much as she loved them. That dog allowed them to ride her, use her as a pillow; anything the kids wanted. We took her to the vet. She had to be put down. My children were inconsolable. Kim and I looked at each other and she said, “you go, you held Cajun while she passed on. I’ll stay with Zona.” An autopsy revealed wide-spread cancer. My stoic Zona never let on.

Now, looking back I wonder, did Zona’s cancer (in some crazy way) pass to Kimmy? What if I had stayed in that room?

———–

I regret that I was so uptight about money and our financial situation. Kimmy would say, “I’d love to go to the beach.” I’d show her our bills, explaining that, “It’s not a good time.” Kimmy wanted a beach cruiser, and I’d nod, knowing we didn’t have the money. Kimmy wanted to replace the broken stereo in her car, and I explained that we could not afford that either.

Not right now.

When she died, the community helped with bills and groceries and medical expenses. Now we can go to the beach, only Kimmy’s not here to go with us. Dammit, I feel responsible for being so focused on money problems. I should have just taken her to the beach.

————-

While Kimmy was so sick, I did everything I could to help: showers, dressing her, feeding her, doing the cleaning, even giving her a Lovenox injection twice a day; to combat the blood clotting issues caused by the demon cancer. She called me her knight in shining armor. She told me that I was saving her. But I wasn’t, I couldn’t; I wanted to believe I could.

I wonder, did the Lovenox help? Or was I making it worse?

I don’t know.

I do know that Kimmy was an incredible wife, mother and friend; the type of person you wanted to be around. Positive, upbeat, energetic. She was an excellent cook, such a nurturing mother – and I can’t help but think of how sad, how tragic this is for them. Cody 13, Autumn 10 and Antonio, especially Antonio, 7; all motherless.

What the hell happened?

Now, our family is closer than ever, although it’s out of necessity. Our glue, our mentor, the love of my life, the mother of my children, our motivator is gone – ripped from our lives so quickly – but we try to remember her positivity. We comfort each other because we know she believed she was going to Heaven. I tell the kids, “we need to smile and remember the wonderful times.” These little ones have responded so beautifully and remarkably, standing up for each other, and for me. They try to keep our morale up and her memory alive.

In the dark of night when I cannot sleep, I replay the whole nightmare, over and over:

What could I have done differently? I should have seen that she was sick. I should have. I could have…why didn’t I?

And, I cannot shake this feeling. I was not Kimmy’s knight…I did not ride off into the sunset. I did not save the girl.

I’m the bad guy.

HAVE YOUR OWN STORY YOU WANT TO TELL?
CLICK HERE TO CONTRIBUTE! TO THE BAND BACK TOGETHER PROJECT!

The Great Pandemic: Funerals Are For The Living

We at The Band Back Together Project are looking for your stories of what you’re going through in the time of the great pandemic. Please share your stories with us. You can use this to login, or you can send your story to becky@bandbacktogether.com or stacey@bandbacktogether.com.

Please share this around – we are none of us alone; we are all connected. You never know who’s lives you’ll change with your words.

 

Funerals are not for the dead; they are for the living.

If we are to believe in the afterlife, we believe that they are already in a better place, A place where the beauty of the flowers, the churches, and the songs pale by comparison. The love they feel far outweighs the love they feel from those in attendance of their comital.

Funerals are not for the dead; they are for the living.

If we are to believe that there is no afterlife, then they are already gone. The end. Fin. They will not feel the love, appreciate the flowers, or hear the songs. Those in attendance will tell stories, feel the sweet release of a good cry, and maybe – just maybe – gain some semblance of closure. But those who have died will reap nothing.

Funerals are not for the dead; they are for the living. 

Today, we gather to celebrate their contributions to the enrichment of our lives. We are there to comfort each other; to try to make sense of the loss of their light in our world. We fortify ourselves against the pain of their passing with hugs and sweet words of our loved ones, and words of our faiths.

Funerals are not for the dead; they are for the living.

My aunt passed away today and amidst the concerns for the containment of CoVID-19, we are not permitted to attend the funeral. We want everyone to be safe.

Funerals are not for the dead; they are for the living.

I love you, Aunt Netta, and I will always miss your light.

Love,

Tonya.

 

Cancer: A Love Story

His name is John; hers is Yvonne. He is 76 and she is 74. They dated all through high school. Then they broke up and married other people, had kids and grandkids, and all was well.

Then John’s wife got cancer – ovarian or cervical – either way, doesn’t matter. He took care of her, always believing he could do more. Then she died.

John got on with his life. He was sad, but dealing.

One day, John’s son looked up Yvonne and found out she lived only 30 minutes away. She was married to someone and had kids and grandkids and even a great-grandkid.

Some time later, John’s son showed him the obituaries. Yvonne’s husband had passed. Cancer. John went to pay his respects. After all, he and Yvonne had once dated. They talked a bit and promised to keep in touch.

John and Yvonne were married two years later.

They have been married about six years now.

cancer love story

Two years ago, Yvonne was diagnosed with cancer, cervical or ovarian – doesn’t matter. It was the same cancer that killed John’s first wife.

John said NO!

He wanted to fight the cancer. He wouldn’t let cancer take his wife again.

John goes to every doctor appointment. He keeps track of every medication and dosage and when and how she is supposed to take it. He sat with her while she went through chemo. He shaved her head – and his – when she started to lose her hair. He isn’t letting her go without a fight.

They don’t know what the future holds, or if the cancer has spread.

Cancer sucks…but it also made them stronger.

Cancer brought them together.

Katy: Addiction and Leukemia

Part I Katy: Addiction and Cancer 

Leukemia sucks.

This type of cancer affects your blood, your bone marrow and then… everything else. Know what sucks even more? The chemotherapy treatment for leukemia. It is so long, so complex that the medical team taking care of Katy wouldn’t even give her the whole plan at once – they had to wait to see if she responded.The first 4-week phase actually lasted for five weeks.

She received two types of IV chemo: an oral chemo, and a spinal chemo. To check the progress of the treatments, she underwent regular bone marrow biopsies and ended up in intensive care more than once.

During the first treatment, Katy asked for palliative care to begin as she wanted to stop all treatment. She’d never really wanted treatment – she had seen her grandpa die of lung cancer and didn’t want to be sick like he had been.

The doctors pulled out all the stops to convince her to continue – brought a therapy dog up to her intensive care bed and let it get up on the bed with her. She got involved in art therapy, music therapy, and had a psychiatrist, psychologist and a pain management team.

She continued with the treatment.

During the first few weeks that she was in the hospital, I developed cellulitis in my ankles that was spreading up my legs and I popped into the ER twice to get treated. During my second bout, the doctors wanted to admit me for IV antibiotics. I needed to be with Katy and declined. Instead, I just put my feet up whenever we were hanging out in her room.

Too weak to walk any real distance, she was pushed in a wheelchair while we roamed the halls, often popping outside to have a smoke. Katy, of course, made two great friends in the smoking area – a transsexual who had heart problems and a pregnant woman, just like she’d made friends on her leukemia floor.

The ICU nurse became a friend of the family and after a particularly nasty side effects of chemotherapy – the lining of her colon separated and shed, leaving her to poop blood for a week. Katy was then put onto a liquid diet, and being my food loving child, our old neighbor made her “stringy roast” which Katy happily ate.

Oh boy, her doctor was pissed.

Katy hated that doctor and refused to speak to her, so he and I had conferences in the hallway. Thankfully this doctor was only rotating through the leukemia ward and she wasn’t stuck with him.

When Katy was discharged the first time into her husband’s care, this doctor ordered the removal of the PICC line without discussing it with us which turned out to be a major pain..

When we returned for her first outpatient treatment, they, of course, didn’t get a vein and she had to be readmitted to the hospital. The PICC line became permanent to help treat the leukemia.

The staff at The Clinic was great! Originally, one of the nurses who had a strong personality (and Katy didn’t like) started her chemo treatment but they began to open up and bonded.

The medical assistants were also good friends of Katy’s, and once, her favorite aide (who wore a wig like Katy did), so the medical assistant put on one of the wigs while Katy put on the other. They giggled and took pictures that night.

The same aide on another night made a video of the clocks turning back and Katy wanted to see it. She asked to see the video, but he misunderstood (haha!), so we had to spell out c.l.o.c.k video.

Because nothing comes easy, my husband was diagnosed with throat cancer, living in an AirBnB near The Clinic so that he was able to complete his seven week outpatient radiation treatment. He had been taking care of Rae while we were in the hospital.

cancer leukemia

While he was away getting his treatment, Katy came home and we decided that we could take care of Rae ourselves. With the neighbors help, we could go to Katy’s long treatment appointments without worry.

My stepkids saw my devotion to Katy and her treatment and felt that I should be there for their father, my husband. I felt that he wasn’t nearly as sick as she and could spend time alone while Katy couldn’t. We’ve only recently mended bridges.

More and more, Katy caught infection after infection and had to spend more time in the hospital. Her beloved PICC line was replaced she got a port placed instead. Unfortunately that too became infected and it had to be removed.

Pain was a major issue for her and while she was in the hospital, she had a morphine pump and a fentanyl patch. I was the one doling out her meds and occasionally she overdosed, necessitating Narcan.

She was in the hospital during Thanksgiving weekend and my brothers (her uncles) came to visit, which she loved. I’d given her a pain pill before they got there and was nodding off. The Sunday after Thanksgiving, my husband brought Rae – who was now ten! – to see her as well.

After that visit, the nurses administered Narcan again after questioning me – and lecturing me – about giving her extra pain medications. They were very nice about it but I felt awful.

Katy then developed a serious fungal infection and was moved from the leukemia unit to intensive care.

One of her ICU nurses made friends with her and visited when she could. That night, when her favorite nurse came by to visit, she told Katy, “see you tomorrow!” to which Katy replied, “you’d better!”

Those were the last words she ever spoke.

Her brother came up for a visit and while he was there the medical staff had to remove her port. Hospice stopped by as they were putting in another line which was very painful, but I’d told hospice that I’d given the go-ahead so that she could get some pain medication.

We spoke to hospice and the hospice staff said it would be hours to days before she passed.

We asked that she could move to a room down in the leukemia unit, where the staff began to say goodbye. We saw them often as they came in to administer medication to make her feel more comfortable.

A sign was put on the door to see the nurse before entering the room; I always wondered what those signs were for. My son and I slept in the room, talking to her and holding her hand before we went to sleep.

When I got up in the morning, I said, “Good morning, Katy” and went down for coffee and a smoke When I returned. I could tell she was gone.

She was so very still.

And like that, she was gone.

addiction cancer

I was so glad that our relationship was good during the months that she was sick, but I am devastated that she had had such a rough life and such a tough struggle with addiction.

I felt everything. All of it.

Later, I had to go home and tell Rae that her Mommy died.

That was the worst thing ever.

My grieving is a whole other story

Dose of Happy: Monday’s Miracle

Since March 2019, my loving friends, you’ve prayed, danced, fallen to your knees, helped us, looked for help, cooked meals, picked up meds or groceries, bought shirts, made bracelets, hugged, cried. Laughed. Sent positive vibes. Kept us your thoughts & hearts. We are so grateful,

You’ve sorted shirts, made posters, given rides, offered beds. You’ve arranged cow, horse, and dog petting.

You’ve helped my son by being there, taking him places, or letting him hang out. I am forever grateful.

You’ve answered the late night calls.

Deciphered my illegible texts.

You’ve heard the screams, sobs, panic, and silence. You’ve hit every emoji Facebook has to offer. You’ve followed along, shared posts, sent links, looked for help, given directions, suggestions.

You’ve donated your hard earned money, time, friendship and love.

rocks with the word grateful

THANK YOU is not big enough.

GRATEFUL is am understatement.

We simply could not do this without support of EACH any EVERY ONE of you.

Through the multiple hospitalizations, close calls, bad news, car accidents, weekly travel to and from Houston Texas so my beautiful daughter could participate in a trial to save everyone after her diagnosed with TNBC.

Last week when we arrived for our weekly chemo on Wednesday, they told us we had to stay. A lot of tests everyday, all day.

Today we “OFFICIALLY” received the news: Dr Twong informed us that Samantha has had a reduction in the tumor they have been tracking. The tumor that grew on A&C chemo [ the red devil]. The invasive, aggressive, metaplastic cancer invading her body has reduced in size.

There could not be better news or better timing.

Yes we still have a very long road ahead, but now there is a a clearly defined road. A brightly lit road that she is paving for everyone after her.

We have three new types of doctors to meet and consult with: Surgical, Radiation, and Plastics. We are so grateful. 

This Wednesday she will receive her chemo in Texas and by Thursday we’ll be making our way back to Mississippi. Next Tuesday we’ll return to Texas.

Then we won’t return until a couple days before surgery – probably the first part of October to complete pre-op testing and surgery.

That’s IF all goes well.

In mid to late November, she will start daily radiation at home, on the Mississippi gulf coast.

So my loving friends, you wonderful people. No matter what. Every single second was worth it and we could not have done it without you.

 Stay with us.

There’s a lot of, “if this goes this way” type tests and procedures. Please keep doing exactly what you’ve been doing; we still desperately need you. I wanted you to know that you’ve made a major difference in our lives and the lives of every family who hears the diagnosis of Triple Negative Metastatic Breast Cancer. 

Thank you.

 

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling

Katy: Addiction and Cancer

Having addiction run in your family is one of the hardest thing to shield our children from. Sometimes, we just can’t help our children.

This is part one of a three part series from one of our amazing Facebook friends.

If you want to submit something to us and would rather use email, please email becky@bandbacktogether.com or stacey@bandbacktogether.com. Remember, your story matters too.

My daughter Katy was always a challenge – she’d not left the Terrible Twos – and when she got older, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). As much of a challenge as she could be, she was also very pretty, smart, and funny. One of my favorite memories is how she loved to eat so much that she’d eat in her sleep – sometimes she’d fall asleep and wake up and continue chewing. No one came between her and her food.

My very favorite Katy moment was right after she was born, they laid her on me, and she lifted her head and looked right at me. Crazy, right?

I still hold that moment close to my heart – has gotten me through a lot of tough times.

Addiction runs in the family, her father was an addict, and by the time she was five, we divorced. He was a terrible, mean person, but never did anything that kept him from seeing his kids. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t just pack up the kids and leave.

By the seventh grade, Katy had begun doing drugs and skipping school.

We fought a lot and when Katy was 16,  she told me that she wanted to go live with her dad. Instead of my usual, “you can go when the judge says so,” I said,

“You can go and you can come back if you change your mind, but if you do this again, you cannot come back to live with me. I can’t keep doing this back and forth.”

And that was exactly what happened, she stayed a few weeks and came home. Her father moved in with Katy’s grandfather, who was dying of cancer, and Katy helped out with him and the problems caused by cancer. She decided to stay with her dad and go to school there.

Her grandpa was on hospice which meant that he had a lot of morphine around. Later, I realized that her dad was taking his father’s morphine and giving it to Katy.

addiction

Morphine turned into methamphetamines and our relationship began to crumble.

By then, I’d gotten remarried and my new husband didn’t want her to live with us when she asked to move back in. I enforced my previous statement, telling her that she couldn’t come home.

Shortly thereafter, she moved back in with her dad.

In 2007, she married a nice guy; one who complemented Katy well. She was very manipulative and he was able to deal with it. Unfortunately, after he joined the Army Reserves and was deployed to Egypt, which left Katy alone with my newborn granddaughter, Rae. Her daughter’s birth, of course, was crippled with complications; she developed a uterine infection and a week after discharge, her uterus burst.

After her major surgery, the doctors told Katy that she probably couldn’t have any more kids.

Katy was a fierce mom. She was a good mother – very firm but fair. Rae still has excellent manners and is very well-behaved because of her amazing mother. During her ten day hospital stay, she fought the nurses to make sure she could nurse Rae. Once home, she was in huge amounts of pain. This is when I believe her addiction to opiates began.

With her husband away in Egypt, Katy got involved with an old friend and with her pain pill prescriptions used up, she turned to heroin. Our relationship was still very shaky – when I told her she wasn’t allowed to come to Easter, we didn’t speak for over a year. Even still, she let me see my granddaughter.

Drugs had rotted her teeth and beautiful smile. The poor thing had to have them extracted and get dentures. I was with her and it was gruesome.

For my own mental health, I had to distance myself from her. I couldn’t deal with the drama in her life – especially the drama with her father. He, and I believe Katy as well, had borderline personality disorder. She was a difficult person – always talking, needing help, wanting something, craving love, starved for attention, and it drained my husband and son. I’d try to avoid getting drawn into her drama, but she’d sense me pulling away and she’d draw me back in.

When Mike, her husband returned from Egypt, Mike began using heroin as well and the three of them moved in with my ex-husband.

On and off drugs, Katy was overwhelming.

At 56, her dad died due to multiple overdoses. He’d been a heavy drinker and drug abuser all of his life. As Katy had bought the drugs that killed him, so her half-brothers blamed her for their dad’s death. They became estranged, which broke Katy’s heart as she loved family above all.

Both Katy and my son, Chris were very relieved when their dad died because he was so cruel to them. Katy replied to someone who said that “he was in a better place” by saying that “no, he was in hell.”

In 2017, Katy began the process of getting clean and sober and had moved to a city with a friend to get away from her husband who was still using.

She’d gone to the hospital for something and called me afterward, stating that she’d been diagnosed with lymphoma – a kind of cancer.

I didn’t believe her.

I thought she was faking it and using the lymphoma as a way for us to take her in. We had a huge blowout and she turned around and left my house.

Thanks to the heroin, her husband Mike had a bad heart valve and needed open heart surgery, and, being a caregiver, she moved back in with him.

That summer, she ended up staying with us in our cabin in Pennsylvania and I noticed she was tired. Always so tired. She slept so much and so often that I wondered if she was on drugs.

Concerned, we took her to a hospital in Pittsburgh on Father’s Day 2017 where she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL).

cancer addiction

I remember staring at those three awful words written on a whiteboard in her room. She had been within days of dying. Days.

And I hadn’t believed her.

The hospital started her treatment and we had her transferred to the Cleveland Clinic closer to our house. From then on, I was on auto-pilot.

I was a caretaker too: my mom was bipolar which meant that I had to take care of her when I was a kid.

I was the oldest of four and my parents divorced when I was 15, so becoming her caretaker fell into my lap. She’d made numerous suicide attempts and was in and out of the inpatient psych ward multiple times a year.

My dad had a stroke 12 years ago and was in and out of the hospital and nursing homes for seven months before he died. I went multiple times a week to visit, it was nice to spend time with him.

I was raised to be a caretaker.

I stayed with Katy constantly from the moment she had been admitted until the day she died. There were a few nights that her friends would spend time with her so that I could rest. Otherwise, I slept on a chair that converted to a bed. I showered in the family showers and drank coffee from their family lounge

Katy’s first treatment course lasted five weeks and she was stuck in the hospital for the entirety of it. The staff was awesome. They didn’t even mention the track marks on her arms or asked if she’d done drugs.

And that was the beginning of the end for us all.