Here’s Crosby! She is celebrating her 2-month birthday with some vaccination shots later today in preparation for her first trip to the Delta later this week. – Sheila
I so appreciate each of you taking the time to keep up with us and way more importantly, keep praying for Chip and our family. I didn’t mean to make everyone cry, but I have decided tears of joy are the very best kind to spill.
Chip went back to Johns Hopkins yesterday for a sonogram of his eye and a check-up with his ocular oncologist. The Dr. was extremely pleased with what he saw–or didn’t see rather! He reported the tumor is now teeny tiny and much of what was showing up on the MRI was actually fluid around the retina which should hopefully continue to go away.
On Monday, January 7th, Chip and I headed back to Johns Hopkins University for a check-up, where we learned the results of his MRI and PET/CT scan. The Saturday before, Smitty and another friend from both home and Colby, Trevor MacDonald, flew in to visit, distract Chip and accompany us to our appointment. Chip and I both love Smitty, and he is always welcome in our home, but boy, his flying back in for this big appointment was like deja vu. It took us back to two months earlier when Smitty had flown in to be with us when we received Chip’s pathology results from Dr. D and prognosis and treatment options from a couple of oncologists. For days leading up to this pivotal appointment, even though we were both optimistic and hopeful for positive results, we were also very emotional, nervous, on edge, overwhelmed, and flat out scared of what we might learn.
The fact that Chip had a horrible cough for three weeks prior didn’t really help things either. We both do a pretty damn good job of remaining positive, but when you have Stage IV lung cancer and then develop a horrible cough, it plays with your mind. If I have a cough, then I simply have a cough, but if Chip has one, it’s suddenly THE CANCER! Every time he would cough, it was a constant reminder to him and just made me cringe. Not being able to deal with the uncertainty any longer, Chip paid a visit to our beloved Dr. D. Luckily, a chest x-ray revealed he just had a nasty ol’ cough, so we were relieved she was able to put our minds at ease a bit.
After a long weekend, the big day finally rolled around, and we all made the drive to Baltimore. One of the first things we learned was Virginia Hospital Center had sent Dr. B a copy of the report written by their radiologist … but had failed to send the actual scans themselves. So the radiologists at JHU had nothing to read, and therefore couldn’t compare the second set of scans to the first, and Dr. B couldn’t tell us anything more than what she knew – which was things had improved.
Mistakes happen. I get it. I do, but we were so keyed up for this appointment and all we were really learning were things had improved?? Now don’t get me wrong, improved is a pretty awesome word. Improved is much better than worsened or stabilized but seriously, had we improved a little bit or a lot? On a scale of 1-10, where were we on the improvement scale? Had we improved way more than anticipated or not so much? Improved. I wanted numbers. I wanted to know that this particular tumor had shrunk from this to that. I wanted specifics. I wanted mother. fucking. details.
The appointment itself was … well, it was pretty underwhelming to say the least.
On our drive home, Chip called Dr. D to see if she, as our coordinating physician, had a copy of the scan results and could tell us anything more. Well, God bless that woman, she did. She asked if I was in the car, too, so Chip put her on speaker, Smitty pulled over on the side of the road, and Dr. D started telling us what we had so longed to hear:
The spot in Chip’s liver isn’t showing up at all, the tumors in his lymph nodes have stabilized, the tumors in his lungs have shrunk in size and the cells aren’t as active, the spots in his bones are simply showing up as a sclerosis–what one might see after a broken bone has healed, and the tumor in his eye had shown the least amount of progress but had still shrunk from 10 mm to 8 mm.
She described the results as being incredibly awesome and the best we could have hoped for. I hate to sell Smitty and Trevor out, but there wasn’t a dry eye in the car. Dr. D reminded us cancer is a terrible disease, Chip’s diagnosis was horrible, and the drug he was taking was very new but this day was a VICTORY for Team Kennett and to go home and celebrate. PTL!!
But celebrate we did not. We were both hugely relieved, but neither of us could find the joy in our victory that night. To steal one from my Mom, Lady Linda, we were both just “physically and emotionally drained.” I actually fell asleep on top of the bed like a kid who had just returned from a day spent at the Mid-South Fair, with my clothes still on and without having brushed my teeth or washed my face. I still didn’t feel joy the next day. Or the next. I simply felt emotionless and drained. Chip and I both kept asking each other why we weren’t any happier than we were. It turns out we had both, unconsciously, built these protective walls around ourselves in case the results were bad. We were not going to allow any negative news to fully penetrate or affect us, but likewise, the incredibly awesome news didn’t penetrate that wall either.
It has taken me awhile to be able to write about this, because I am a very deliberative person, and some may argue with me here, but I do actually think before I speak. Chip and I have been on such an emotional roller coaster over the past ten weeks that I had to wait for this particular ride to slow down and come to an eventual stop before I could open up about it. And ten weeks? Holy shit, it’s been a long ten weeks. SO much has happened in the last ten weeks that it’s still hard to take it all in. Sometimes I just have to sit and be still with it, listen to myself, regroup, and then slowly begin to put one foot in front of the other again. To remember how to just live in the moment. To breathe the JOY of today in. To be grateful for this very day.
Several days later, another of Chip’s friends from Colby, Nick Gaubinger, and his girlfriend flew in for the weekend. That Saturday night, we went to Restaurant Eve in Old Town for a celebratory dinner in their tasting room. Chip and I agreed he deserved one meal, void of any dietary restrictions, after incredibly awesome reports we hope to continue to receive every two months, so we treated ourselves to a seven-course dinner of the chef’s choosing accompanied with wine pairings. What an amazing meal we had.
I was worried Chip might not be able to allow himself to relax and enjoy eating “normally” again–you know, enjoy eating a normal meal of foie gras and sweetbreads–but he did relax that night. He even made us go to a dive bar on King Street afterwards for just one beer. He was smiling and laughing just like old times. Right before we left to go home, he gave me a big hug and whispered in my ear, “I don’t have cancer tonight.” For a brief moment, I had my Chip back, and I felt joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. Down in my heart to stay.
Miss Crosby Reynolds Kennett decided to arrive a week and half early, and I crawled into a blissful baby bubble for a few weeks afterwards followed by hosting Chip’s family for Christmas, so I apologize for my hiatus from the blog. I am slowly and begrudgingly re-entering the real world. Since so many have asked about her name, Crosby is Chip’s paternal great-grandfather’s name and Reynolds is my paternal great-grandmother’s maiden name and granddad and dad’s middle name.
So, HOW is Chip doing?? Physically, he is doing great and looks amazing. He has lost about 20 pounds, but it is due to our daily juicing regimen (By the way, I am not sure if it’s curing his cancer, but my skin looks amazing!) and sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-light, protein and leafy greens-packed diet. Chip went to Johns Hopkins in December for his monthly check-up and to receive his bone strengthening treatment. Since he had such a bad reaction to the infusion he received in November, they tried a different medication via injection this time, and he had no side effects so YEAH!! They also performed an EKG and blood work on him, and the great news is the Xalkori is not having a negative impact on his heart, kidney or liver functions, so he is able to continue taking the dosage originally prescribed.
On Wednesday, January 2nd, he is having a repeat MRI and PET/CT scan performed at Virginia Hospital Center. Those results will then be sent to Dr. B., our oncologist, at Hopkins. We meet with her on Monday, January 7th, to learn the results of those scans and repeat the EKG, blood work and receive another bone treatment. We are obviously quite anxious about this appointment, but since Chip is feeling so well physically and experiencing zero pain in his eye, we are very hopeful we will learn his body is responding positively to the treatment.
Days spent at the hospital are always difficult ones. It is hard to be positive and maintain that fighter mentality when you are sitting in a waiting room full of cancer patients. Most are old birds but there are always a few young children in there, too, which is simply heart wrenching. It is extremely difficult receiving your injection to keep your bones strong while sitting in a room looking at all of these people hooked up to IVs receiving traditional chemotherapy. It is next to impossible to keep your head in the game when you are lying completely still, naked and starving in a cold tube for an hour plus while your body is being scanned.
The mental game remains tough. Really tough. Tough for us both but especially for Chip. We have moments and days with each other or as a family that feel so completely and totally normal that you forget. I am so grateful for those moments, but they are also bittersweet, because when I remember that Chip has cancer, it is almost like learning it all over for the first time. I break out in a sweat, feel like I am going to throw up, tears rush to my eyes and I go numb for a moment, but thankfully, I have the uncanny ability to quickly turn my thoughts around and just be present in that moment, in that very day and be grateful for it. I find myself repeating our mantra–We are living with cancer and not dying from it.–to myself and to others on a daily basis.
The birth of Crosby triggered so many conflicting emotions for Chip–sheer and indescribable joy over her very existence, sadness that she will only know her Daddy with cancer, gratitude and thankfulness for her perfectness, disdain for other dads walking down the hall in the maternity ward, pride watching Joe meet and love all over “his” baby for the first time, fear that he may not live long enough for her to remember him, relieved that his treatment is a pill and not radiation that would have prevented him from even being present for her birth, pissed that he couldn’t pound Five Guys, pizza and milk shakes in the hospital with me like we did after Joe’s arrival, anger and guilt that he is putting the kids, his parents and me through this, and worry about our future. I guess I should have, but I just didn’t see any of that coming. It makes sense though as Crosby was born in the same hospital where Chip’s first scans and biopsy were performed, so cancer and new baby were all rolled in to one for him.
I was in a completely different mental state entirely. I was just relieved this nine pound, ten ounce baby was simply out of my body, so in awe of her precious little nose, her long, skinny fingers that look just like mine, her fat, fat CHEEKS, her pretty blue eyes, and how amazing it felt just to snuggle with her and breathe her in, my capacity to immediately love her so unconditionally just as I had with Joe, and that MY BODY had done all of this.
So many women struggle with their bodies during pregnancy and following birth, but for me, I have never had such body confidence. My body is simply amazing! I loved being pregnant, and maybe it was the little brown bottles filled with dolls I was taking every six hours, but I was ready to Baywatch it down the beach. Why had I ever wasted precious energy worrying about the size of my cankles, the dimples on my thighs (ok, maybe I am being a bit generous by referring to them as “dimples”), the moles on my face, etc. when my body was so perfect?? My body conceived this little girl, carried her for nine months, gave birth to her and was now feeding her. I have done it twice now, and I am still wowed by the awesomeness of it all.
But while my body was busy growing this perfect little baby girl, Chip’s body was busy growing cancerous tumors. The week before Crosby’s arrival, I was so uncomfortable. That child was everywhere–under my ribs, pushing against my lungs and stomach, and on top of my bladder. I felt pregnant all the way down to my toes. I started to complain to Chip one night about how he had no idea what it was like to have this thing growing inside of your body that was completely out of your control when I thankfully caught myself and slowly closed my mouth.
Why was this happening? Why were our bodies experiencing such different things? How did the kale I was eating know to make our baby grow big and strong but for the kale Chip was eating to balance the Ph levels in his blood and organs cutting off the oxygen supply to the cancer cells? How did the antioxidants in the occasional glass of red wine know to work their magic in Chip’s body but for the rest that eventually turned into sugar to stop it right there?
If my little ol’ body is capable of giving life, is Chip’s not capable of that very same thing? I think it is. I pray every day with every ounce of my being that Chip’s body will also perform the miracle of life.