This is a post that I’ve not really wanted to do. I thought perhaps I could wait until I had updated information, but that won’t be for another 5 weeks or so. Here is the story – from the beginning.
Chris was feeling lousy. It was September, 2009 and he was congested and it wouldn’t clear up. Chris has asthma and allergies. I had started student teaching and life was crazy. Chris went to see the doctor, who prescribed something (can’t remember at this point) and told Chris to come back in 2 weeks if he wasn’t feeling better. In the meantime, Chris had his 41st birthday on September 30. On October 1, he went back to the doctor because he wasn’t feeling any better. She didn’t really know what else to do for him and wanted him to see a specialist for his asthma/allergies. She ordered a chest x-ray for him since he would need one when he saw the specialist.
On Friday, October 2, Chris went to the hospital to get the x-ray done. He went first thing in the morning and then drove to work. Most days it takes Chris about 20 minutes to get to work. But before he even got there, the hospital was calling and telling him that he needed to come back as the x-rays were showing he had fluid around his lung. They couldn’t tell him what that meant, at the time, because it could have been a lot of different things.
Chris called me at work, not on my cell phone, but the main office and told them that it was an emergency and that they should find me. I went to the office to get the phone and he asked me to come home to meet him to take him to the hospital. As I left the school, I called my mom. I needed my mom to track down my brother. My only brother, who is (of all things) a Pulmonologist at the University of Michigan. My mom must have heard panic in my voice because my brother was calling me before I made it to my car. There wasn’t much my brother could do at that point, except tell me not to panic. Apparently, fluid around the lung can be caused by a number of things. Cancer was only one of them.
I met Chris at home and then drove him to the hospital. We were told that they would insert a chest tube to drain the liquid and that he would be able to go home. But that isn’t what happened. They inserted the chest tube and started draining liquid and draining liquid and draining more liquid. They kept doing scans or x-rays (don’t remember which) to see if the area was clearing. It wasn’t. They finally admitted him to the hospital.
At this point, they were still telling us that it could be a lot of different things. They needed more time and to get more liquid out before they would be able to tell. I called my friend (former friend now, but that is for another blog) and she offered to get the boys from school and take them to dinner with her kids. The kids were all friends, so I thought this would be good for the boys. Then she would either bring them by the hospital or take them home (depending on where I was). I was concerned that the boys would freak out if they heard from her that Chris was in the hospital. So I went to visit them at school. David was in 6th grade and Michael was in 3rd. Both boys handled the news fairly well. They were concerned and upset, but not panicked.
They had dinner and were dropped at the hospital. They visited with Chris and went “exploring.” We were at Parker Adventist Hospital. It is a small community hospital and the boys quickly found their way around. We spent much of the day Saturday and Sunday at the hospital. Chris’ friends Mike and Carol (brother and sister – who Chris has known his whole life as their mothers have been friends since before they were all born) came to visit.
On Monday there were more scans. The boys went to school and I went to work. Same on Tuesday. Although, when I arrived at the hospital, with the boys, Chris sent them on an errand. And then he told me that the doctor had just left and that the fluid around the lung had drained enough to reveal a cancerous tumor. We managed to keep things together long enough to tell the boys and for Chris to call Mike and have him come to the hospital so Chris could tell him in person.
And we called my brother. It was after 7 pm in Michigan. All I remember my brother saying was, “let me see what I can do.” I don’t remember anything else. I know I spoke with my parents and two of my friends (one mentioned above – the second became a former friend also – and I promise to tell that story another time). I remember going into the public bathroom of the hospital and crying. And the boys cried.
We left the hospital to go home to sleep and were back at the hospital early the next day. I stayed home from work and didn’t send the boys to school.
More to follow in Part 2