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The Power of Kelly Clarkson

8 Nov

The wait for the pathology report to come back was bittersweet.  Ignorance was bliss to a certain degree, but we also desperately needed to know what type of cancer Chip had in order to start fighting it.  Dr. D had urged us to stay off the internet, but we were so anxious and wondering what type of cancer to “hope” for yet we managed to refrain.

Chip’s best friend from childhood, Chris Smith, affectionately called “Smitty,” flew in over the weekend to accompany us to our appointments. On November 5th, we met with Dr. D to learn the pathology.  Chip’s exact diagnosis is non-smokers, non-small cell lung cancer subtype adenocarcinoma – which basically equals not good.  There is currently no cure for this type of cancer, and it most commonly appears in 55-65 year old adults, so WHY Chip has this at age 31 years old, we’ll just never know.  Many have asked, and he has no family history, does not smoke, and it is not from mold or exposure to a harmful, chemical substance.

I once again went into a state of shock.  How could there be NO cure??  This is 2012!  We were riding home just stunned when Chip finally broke the silence and said, “You know?  NOTHING has changed since my diagnosis.  I still have the exact same cancer in my body as I did last week, and I have the exact same reasons and will to live, so let’s just fight this with everything we’ve got.”  He was exactly right.  Once again, Chip was the one providing me with the strength and confidence I needed.

So, the three of us headed to the nicest restaurant in Old Town, Restaurant Eve, for lunch.  The lunch special included your choice of cocktail called “Bittersweet” or a glass of wine called “Wrongo Dongo.”  That, coupled with the poor server enthusiastically asking us how we were doing that day, provided us with the comic relief we needed.  We were SO close to inviting him to pull up a chair, but we decided to spare him.  Then, we got in the car to go pick up Joe and this awful Brad Paisley song came on the radio that started out with the lyrics, “You’re not supposed to say the word ‘cancer’ in a song.”  I can’t make this up!  Laughter definitely turned out to be the best medicine that day.

The next day, which was known to the rest of the world as Election Day, we saw an oncologist, Dr. C at Virginia Hospital Center, and another oncologist, Dr. B at Johns Hopkins University, to further discuss Chip’s prognosis and treatment options.  In addition, within adenocarcinoma, we learned there are often genetic cell mutations, so Chip’s test results had already been sent to The Mayo Clinic for further analysis.  Since Chip was still feeling totally fine, both oncologists agreed it was better to wait and start the appropriate treatment than to just simply start chemo.  So, the wait began again.  We quickly learned this whole new cancer language over a 24-hour period and were repeatedly told Chip is otherwise a young, fit and “healthy” person with no other medical conditions, so he should respond well to treatment.  Since Chip’s age and diagnosis remains such an anomaly, there are really no statistics out there for him.  Everything they quoted us was for 55-65 year olds. So even though it was harsh to hear three separate times there is no cure, we were also told this is our path to chart.  Sort of like promises, we believe prognoses were meant to be broken.

After a nine-hour day of driving and meeting with oncologists, we were all exhausted.  Chip asked if he could use my iPhone.  The next thing I knew, Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” was BLASTing in the car.  The three of us started to laugh and sing “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” at the top of our lungs while dancing as hard as we could with our seatbelts on.  I kind of like to think we looked like an SNL skit going down the road that day.  We were so caught up in our new theme song that we actually drove right past our house, but Smitty flipped a bitch and we safely got home.  I have never watched American Idol and am not the biggest fan of her music in general; however, looking back, Kelly has never failed me.  She and I actually go way back as “Since U Been Gone” was my anthem about eight or nine years ago.  I am happy to welcome the power of Kelly Clarkson back in my life.

– Sheila


Get Up Off the Couch

6 Nov

Chip and I spent those first couple of days trying to wrap our heads around his diagnosis, call our parents, siblings and close friends with the news and try to get a game plan together.  We knew Chip had cancer and it was aggressive, but we did not yet know what kind of cancer he had.  In order for treatment to be prescribed, the doctors had to learn the pathology of his cancer, so we went back to Virginia Hospital Center a couple of days later for a biopsy.  They removed a piece of bone from Chip’s hip and sent it off to the lab.

While waiting on the pathology report to come back, we grew stronger in our resolve to fight, and Chip asked me to start writing about this.  Specifically, to start writing a blog.  He liked my voice.  He liked my attitude.  He thought it would be a good outlet for me, but more than anything, he wanted our kids to see how their parents chose to handle life when this shit sandwich was suddenly served up on a silver platter.  Wow.  It was a pretty tall ask.

I once thought of becoming a travel writer.  I still aspire to be the female Anthony Bourdain, and no, I do not mean Samantha Brown.  I mean the female version of Anthony Bourdain.  I do have the mouth of a sailor and the love of travel, so I figure I am halfway there already.

I once entertained the idea of becoming a food critic and writer as I love to eat and share my unsolicited opinion.  At one point, after surviving a difficult time, I even fancied myself knowledgeable enough to write a self-help book titled Sometimes You Have to Ride on Gravel about the importance of self-discovery, but Katie left the Today Show and then Oprah went off the air, so I lost the motivation to follow through.  I mean, I know Oprah has her OWN network now, but raise your hand if you can actually find that anywhere on tv.

After I got pregnant with Joe, many friends urged me to write a blog about my pregnancy and motherhood, but seriously, who wants to read about constipation and cracked nipples??  Ewwwww…not me.  I honestly thought blogs were for SAHMs to brag about their DD and DS or their latest DIY project. I don’t make pancakes in the shape of Mickey Mouse.  I don’t “pin” things.  I doubt too many would be interested in re-pinning my Old El Paso hard n soft taco kit or frozen Indian dishes from Trader Joe’s.  I don’t even know how to iron and choose not to clean my own toilets.  I have no idea how to get a rust stain out of the bottom of my bathtub.

I am just your standard MILF in NoVA striving to achieve that perfect work/life balance and squeeze in a couple of sessions a month at the Pilates studio along the way.  I am the most irreverent believer you’ll ever meet, and I am a female cusser.  I have been since the 4th grade and am not ashamed to admit it.

So, me, now writing my very own blog.  About our life with CANCER of all things.  Well, here goes.  The Team Kennett blog promises to be candid and informative about our walk and decision we have made to live with cancer.

Anthony Bourdain’s final episode of “No Reservations” aired on November 5th with this final quote:

“If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. The extent to which you can walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food, it’s a plus for everybody. Open your mind, get up off the couch, move.”

I believe this advice is applicable to life in general.

– Sheila

Shit Sandwich

26 Oct

I know what to do when life hands you lemons, but when it hands you a big ol’ shit sandwich?  Well, that’s another story.

On October 26, 2012, our lives were changed forever.  A few weeks before that, Chip started to notice a “floater” in his right eye towards the end of the day.  Since it had been several years since his last eye exam, I suggested he schedule an appointment.  When the optomotrist dilated his eyes, she thought she detected his retina becoming detached so she immediately sent him to a retina specialist to have it repaired.  Later that afternoon, the retina specialist said that was not the case but confirmed there was a “spot” on his eye.  The following business day, he saw another retina specialist who identified the spot as what he thought looked like a melanoma, but since it’s dangerous to perform a biopsy on the retina and since cancer rarely starts in the eye, he sent Chip to our general practitioner for further testing.

A couple of days later, Chip met with our mutual and beloved doctor where she conducted a complete physical exam.  Everything appeared to be perfectly normal and Chip was feeling just fine.  As a matter of fact, about five weeks prior, Chip had just competed in his second Tough Mudder of the year.  But just to be safe, she sent him to the hospital for some lab work and wrote a Rx for an MRI and full body PET scan.  The following week, Chip had all of these tests performed and a couple of days later, Dr. D. called and asked us both to come in.  The first question she asked me was how far along I was.  I responded with 35 weeks, and I remember her being relieved I was as far along as I was, which soon made sense.  Sort of.

Dr. D. told us the MRI came back all clean, but the PET scan was “all lit up.”  Cancerous cells appear as pink and orange spots on the scan, and Chip had cancerours cells in both of his lungs, liver, lymph nodes, and bones plus his right eye.  I was in shock.  I was hearing the words come out of her mouth, but was she really telling us that my 31-year-old husband and father of my babies had Stage IV cancer all over his body?  I just kept saying “What? What?” over and over again.  Chip grabbed my hand, looked me dead in the eye and told me with all the confidence in the world, “We’ve got this.”  So, those are the words I chose to hold on to from that day instead.  We’ve got this.  We’ve GOT this.

So, what do you do when life unexpectedly hands you a shit sandwich?  Well, we chose to go to the zoo.

– Sheila