Down in My Heart

16 Jan

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.

– Sheila

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14 Responses to “Down in My Heart”

  1. Kevin O'Neill January 16, 2013 at 12:58 PM #

    Awesome news. Keep on trucking.

  2. Deb January 16, 2013 at 1:00 PM #

    wow you guys….with tears in my eyes and goosebumps all over, I am so happy to read this. Thank you GOD for hearing all our prayers. We will continue to pray for you all. GOOD GOING CHIP! Keep up the good work with the foods, juices, etc. And Shelia, you are an angel sent from above for this family. Chip, his parents and the kids are so very fortunate to call you wife, daughter in law and mom! 🙂 God Bless all of you!

  3. Jennifer Dunlap January 16, 2013 at 1:31 PM #

    Wow and praise God is all I can say!! Tears of joy joy joy are in my heart as well! Can’t wait to share it with my SS class who is praying for y’all daily! Love you! Jen

  4. Susie Hall-Kennett January 16, 2013 at 1:34 PM #

    Best news I have heard in a long, long time…You made my heart sing !! Love to all, Cousin Susie

    • Jeanne Doherty January 16, 2013 at 4:32 PM #

      Dear Chip and Sheila: We are so happy to hear this great news. We continue to pray for you. Chip, you have always been amazing at everything you have done in your life. This is just one more challenge that you will overcome as well. Sheila, I don’t know you but in my heart, I know that you were sent from above to rescue Chip. Take care of each other and your babies. Live every day for all that it is. We all can take a lesson from you. Thank you for sharing with us. Love, The Dohertys.

    • sandy January 16, 2013 at 4:32 PM #

      Beautiful!!!

      • Shannon Davis January 16, 2013 at 9:17 PM #

        Note to self: do not start to read any entries by Sheila on the Team Kennett blog at a stoplight.

        Hazardous to the health of drivers around me – due to blurred vision from copious tears of gratitude – and mine having incurred the wrath of the dude behind me when I didn’t bolt on green.

        I was rifling for a balled up tissue in my purse that I KNEW I had in there.

        Oh Sheila. How much do I love this entry? A LOT. I love your transparency, your wit, you heart, your love for your husband, his for you and for his life.

        I am so stinkin’ grateful for this wonderful news of progress…this wonderfully detailed news of incredible TAKE THAT progress. Praise to the Lord, indeed, sweet girl.

        I pray that the coming days and weeks bring on more and more and more of this incredibly detailed progress.

        I pray that while test days will likely remain stressful and hard, that you will carve a little hole in your ‘wall’ so that you can feel our love and prayers follow you in the exam room.

        I pray that regardless of your wall, you will sense and feel that God is standing next to Chip’s exam table and the chair in which you wait….and that you can sleep the sleep of the exhausted afterward knowing that He watches over your every breath.

        Keep writing….I’ll keep praying.

        We love you dearly.

  5. Kim Warren Ellis January 16, 2013 at 10:41 PM #

    It is so wonderful to hear positive reports & I pray nightly for Chip to be the miracle survivor!

  6. Elizabeth Hadley January 16, 2013 at 10:46 PM #

    So incredibly happy for y’all!!! I am in tears– tears of joy–reading this. I can’t begin to imagine the roller coaster y’all have been on, but so grateful for some awesome news!! Praying so hard!!! Sending lots of love, hugs and prayers to Team Kennett!! xoxo

  7. Sarah montgomery January 17, 2013 at 8:43 AM #

    Man, every post you write gets me but this one, this one got me. So happy you guys had a “Night without Cancer”. You both so deserve it, keep it up you two. Xo

  8. Ray Marotta January 17, 2013 at 9:22 AM #

    Sheila, you are one of the strongest women I have ever met in my life. There is no better hands that Chip and the rest of your family could possibly be in. Chip, simply put, you are my hero. As a father, I will always look up to you. You have both become a symbol of pure strength in my life. We are absolutely elated with the news of your recent victory. You guys rock, stay strong and keep kickin’ ass!

  9. Jana Whealdon January 17, 2013 at 10:33 PM #

    That is really awesome and incredibly wonderful news! But, of course, prayers continue for you all as always.

  10. Brooke January 17, 2013 at 10:56 PM #

    I’m so glad I finally got to catch up on your blog. Y’all are rockstars, and you’re gonna kick cancer’s ass. Chippewa, I don’t see cancer when I see you. I see all of the things I love about you. You are a wonderful husband, a wonderful father and a wonderful friend.

    You introduced me to my husband! You know all the words to Beer For My Horses! You peed on my suitcase! You can do it all!

    We’re rooting for you like nobody’s business. TEAM KENNETT.

  11. Resa Kierstein January 29, 2013 at 10:49 AM #

    You are kicking cancers ass!!!! Go Team Kennett keep on rockin’

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