Thursday, December 30, 2010

D Day Minus 113: (November 15, 2009): A Wrinkle in Time

Dad and I had a bright idea to surprise you while you were working at Wegmans. Well mostly it was my bright idea. But I couldn’t help it. I missed you. Oh and remember when we were walking in Houston last month by the park near the zoo – you really wanted to show Dad how well you doing. You didn’t say you wanted to make him proud, but you didn’t need to.  I knew.  So that was the other reason why I thought it would be good to surprise you.  Plus, like I said, I missed you—a lot.

Both of us were busy. So it wasn’t anyone’s fault. I was working and trying to brush up on my drawing skills. I was inspired by all the late blooming artists and thought, why not?  You were working, romancing Katie, planning for the future,and just enjoying things we used to take for granted. 

Time was really flying by. But, why wouldn’t it?  Life was good.  The treatment was working.  The trips to MD Anderson were more manageable. You only had to fly to Houston every three weeks.  Your last trip was on the fifth.  You and Katie made the entire trip in less than twenty hours. I even got up at the crack of dawn so you could make the flight.  That was the first time you flew on Air Tran.

When you called to tell me you made it to Houston, you complained, “ The seats were like cardboard.”  I listened with compassion for a second.  I really felt bad the seats weren’t comfortable. But you couldn’t tell that from my response: “The price was right.  Dirt cheap! And you could fly out of Dulles early in the morning and fly back later in the day.”

When I picked you and Katie up at eleven, both of you looked like extras from the movie Dawn of the Dead.  Did I ever tell you about seeing that at the drive-in with Uncle Paul?  It doesn’t matter.  The point was you both looked like zombies.

“Don’t ever try to make the trip in a day. It is too much.” Katie nodded complementing your advice like an exclamation point.  But to be honest, it was a wimpy exclamation point.  I laughed and filed it in under “never again.”

You warned Dad and me not to come on opening day last Sunday. “It’s going to be crazy.” You said it seriously like you were the parent and we were the kids. It didn’t matter because it wasn’t going to happen anyway.  Dad and I spent that weekend in Basset raking leaves and catching up on chores. Besides you gave me a blow-by-blow of the day once you got off work. You called on your way to the Milk Truck, your white SCION, in the parking lot. So it was almost like I was there.

I was riding in the SUV with Dad, covered with blankets and crocheting my latest hat.  We were on our way back from Bassett. I mostly forgot what you said. But your excitement and enthusiasm was infectious. And I was grinning ear-to-ear. 

Dad asked, “Why are you smiling?” I ignored him because I was talking to you.

Dad exited off I-81 to make a pit-stop at Sheetz. You know the Mount Jackson exit, number 273 on I-81. The place where Dad always gets a lottery ticket and you always check out the Made to Order menu for your latest “snack.” You had to go because Katie was calling and you had plans with her plus you were almost to the house in Sterling.
After I hung up, I smiled really big at Dad for five or ten seconds and said, “Just because.”

Like I mentioned earlier, I had the bright idea to surprise you. Only the big surprise was that we couldn’t find you.

As soon as we got to Wegmans, I nudged Dad and channeled you, “The floor plan is the opposite of the Dulles store.” I recited all the details just like you told me. You would have been proud.  I did pay attention.

I pointed the bakery out to Dad and left him in the dust with the cart.  I peered into the bakery in search of you. But you were nowhere in sight.  I paced back and forth between breads and cakes so many times, the people in the bakery could have asked for a restraining order. And got it. I was just looking for you. 

Dad finally caught up with me.  He was all calm. Not like me.  I was the epitome of emotions – love, fear, pride, anxiety – on steroids cranked up on high in a Waring blender.

“Text him.” I said to Dad.  It was blend of a whine and a command. “Ask him if he can go to lunch.”

Dad gave me his “damnit Nance” look.  He knew better than to give me too much grief or he’d have me balling in the bakery at Wegmans.  And having shoppers think that he beats me.  Mostly, he knew how much I wanted to see you in your new habitat.  It was just as much for me as it was for you.

Dad hadn’t mastered texting on the Droid so we had to find a place to sit.  I didn't have room to talk though. I'd butt dialed you more times than I'll admit to with my Droid.

Anyhow, we ended up at the pretty nice upscale café you mentioned just outside the bakery.  I order tofu and vegetables that was less than three hundred calories. That way I could eat some cake later and not feel guilty.  Dad got some fish and started to play with his Droid.

Dad said, “My eyes are terrible.” I handed him a spare pair of reading glasses. I kept them in my purse just for these occasions. Then Dad complained a few minutes about the layout of the keyboard on the Droid.

I was afraid we’d have our food before Dad finally texted you.  But it finally happened. He hit send, talked to the phone like that made a difference, then waited for you to text him back.  But you didn’t answer.

I asked Dad if I should ask someone in the bakery to get you. All Dad said was, “If you want.” Of course I wanted.  That was so stupid of him to say, don’t you think?  I wanted him to say “he wanted.” You’d think after being together for over a quarter of a century, your Dad would get it.  Katie was sure lucky. I could coach you on how not to do stupid things.  Don’t you think?

After I made up my mind to track you down after lunch, I got to thinking about you and Thanksgiving and how many different ways I tried to control your holiday. I asked Dad. “Do you really think I’m Rainman?” It was the same time our lunch came. Dad shook his head yes, while he unwrapped his silverware from the napkin. I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t get pissed because it was what he thought.  So I did the next best thing.  I pretended to listen to Dad about what we should do the week we were off for Thanksgiving. 

I was really thinking about you and stupid Thanksgiving. Maybe I did ask you a lot about what your plans were for Thanksgiving, but it wasn’t because I cared if you were in Bassett.  I just didn’t want you to be alone for the holidays.

You got kind of grumpy when I suggested that you come down after work or that we postpone Thanksgiving Dinner so we could celebrate together. You just weren't saying for sure if you were going to Katie’s for Thanksgiving.  After the tenth time over the past few weeks when you said, “Mom, I can figure it out. They’ll be plenty of Thanksgivings. It’s not like I’m dying.”  I decided not to ask anymore, but that didn’t stop me from thinking about it.  Isn’t that obvious?

After lunch, I asked a lady in the bakery if you were in the back.  I said I was your mom.  Tears welled up while she looked for you. I wasn’t sure why.  But they did.  She found you within two minutes and said you’d be down soon. If she could have warped you to me, I think she would have. You said that you had a good team and that everyone was very supportive. I saw it in action.
You walked toward me from the back of the bakery. You moved in slow motion, but each step was like stop frame photography.
  • Frame One – It was today, you were at Wegmans, clad in black Dockers and a white Wegmans polo, clutching a clipboard wearing a Wegmans hat. A little hint of a smile sneaking from the corners of your mouth.
  • Frame Two – It was 1987, you were on the path at the Honolulu Zoo, running toward me in your gold tank top and blue shorts, with your fire-engine locks blowing in the wind. A carefree smile infecting all those on the path.  
  • Frame Three – It was back to now.
  • Frame Four – It was back to 1987.
At least a hundred frames alternating, between today and 1987, passed before you made it to Dad and me.

Remember the book, A Wrinkle in Time, when Meg and Calvin came back to see their mothers one last time before they went to rescue Meg’s father.  That is what it reminded me of.  I could see you through time, but you couldn’t see me.  You and Morgan loved the book.  Fiction was one thing, but reality or surreality was another.  Frankly, it was sort of freaking me out.

You and Dad talked about your day almost in animation. You were all about setting up production schedules and getting ready for the onslaught of activities you expected with the holidays. 

Did you know you really look a lot like Dad?  And you both get excited about the details?  I was mostly quiet taking in the moment.  I tried to enjoy the time like a celebration. Here you were talking shop with Dad.  Things were going smoothly at work. 

My mind should have been full of all your possibilities. Only thoughts of your grand entrance in stop frame kept sucking me back.  You looked tired.  It was in your eyes. Maybe it was from all the work and not getting rest, but your eyes were a little red on the lower rim.  Maybe there really was a Wrinkle in Time.  Maybe there was a man with red eyes just like in the book. A man who tried to take over your power and give it to IT—the main dude from Central Central Intelligence.  Maybe IT from the planet Camazot was really the cancer coming back.

 The only thing I knew was that I didn’t know.  I had my suspicions and it started with a Wrinkle in Time.

Monday, December 27, 2010

D Day Minus 130: (October 29, 2009): Time Flies (When Life is Good)

“It’s working.” You’d said it once, but that was the third time I made you say it. Morgan laughed in the background, probably in the waiting room by the fish tank across from the vending machine. The one where I bought the Diet Dr Pepper that I couldn’t drink because it tasted like cough syrup last week.  You know in the waiting room at MD Anderson Phase I Clinical Trials. You thought it was so funny.  I threatened to never buy you another pack of Skittles— the cure all for everything.  Well it used to cure everything.  But that threat, only made you laugh harder. 

Anyway, I waited and waited all day for the good news.  I even forced myself not to call you every ten minutes and go all ‘Rainman’ on you.  It was just after noon in Virginia, so it was a little after eleven in Houston. I was in the middle of some analysis of my latest technology metrics. Well not really – because in order for me to analyze something my frontal lobe had to be engaged.  What I was doing was more of an instinct, which was actually a good thing.  Because mentally I was with you and Morgan in Houston at MD Anderson:
  • walking the SkyBridge, dodging the golf carts filled with patients too sick to walk and staff too busy to walk;
  • eating at the WaterFall Café and Café Anderson;
  • waiting with Morgan while you got scanned and tested; 
  • sitting in the chair opposite Morgan with you in between us in the hospital bed, while the nurse monitored your blood and vitals during treatment; 
  • taking in all the other sights like volunteers in their blue striped seersucker jackets manning the Jolly Trolley handing out coffee, tea or juice to any and all; 
  • watching the juxtaposition of the new cancer patients in the main lobby with their new fears and hopes (looking a little lost and confused) next to the old patients with their old fears and hopes, navigating the maze of carpet maps, buildings, and elevators like professionals; and  
  • waiting with both of you for test results in the waiting room, while we talked about food, Wegmans, Tony Horton and P90x, and whether I should start Morgan's latest workout, Shaun T’s Insanity, after I finished with P90X.
I hollered, a happy holler, loud enough for someone two offices down to stop by just to make sure I was okay. I gave him two thumbs up and a big smile. But I already knew the trial was working. I knew it the weekend after our trip where we almost didn’t catch the plane. Does “Holy Hannah” ring a bell?

Do you want to know how I knew?  It was in your eyes. They were bright and sparkly like the time you got Super Nintendo for Christmas.  Remember how excited you were? You didn’t expect the game because I’d gone on and on about Santa not having many toys and he’d have to share with other kids, so you shouldn’t expect Super Nintendo. When you unwrapped it, you danced up and down.  You even screamed like a school girl.  Don’t worry your secret is safe with me. 

Morgan caught the Super Nintendo fever too. That Christmas break, she didn’t leave your side. She was your one person Super Nintendo fan club. Remember how you explained the intricacies of  the game to her.  Sort of like how you explained the intricacies of bread making to me now.  Did you ever know that you were Morgan’s hero?  I’m singing it in my head right now and thinking how much I annoyed you – sometimes.

I know I digress, but I just wanted to let you know how I knew you were going to be okay.  It was in your eyes – your beautiful green eyes. Hey, I think you have my eyes. Does that make me stuck up for saying your beautiful eyes?

So mostly you eyes gave it away. But, your energy level was another clue. It was higher than it had been in years. Two or three times you worked ten or eleven hours at Wegmans and came home to work on plans for inventory and how much bread to make. And that was nestled between our trips to Houston. When you worked all those hours, I asked if you were doing too much and if you needed to take it easy. You said, “The store in Leesburg is opening next month and I want to give my team the tools to succeed with or without me.”  Last week you even bounced down the stairs, like Tigger, and said, “I feel pretty good.”  

The final clue was how fast time went by the past two weeks.  It compressed and literally flew by since the trip before last.  I know somehow we went to Houston, worked full-time, and managed to stay in touch with everyone – you with your Wegmans entourage and me with the Utah entourage. The only thing I remember was hope and going with the flow. 

Don’t you think time expands and goes really really really slow when everything hits the fan? Remember how long it seemed before we got an answer on the trial? Remember how long it took to figure out the first round of treatment – way back in the beginning – just before you graduated from George Mason. Remember the year you were on Interferon – it was nearly an eternity. I felt it every single hour of every single day you were on it too.  Time was dragging then. Now it was flying. I guess it does, when life is good. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

On Haitus until Christmas Break

Zebra friends and D Day Minus Blog Followers,

I will be on a break until after Christmas. I will finish (or nearly finish) my labor of love during my Christmas vacation.  I've missed writing and sharing our story.  I've been down with a bug for nearly a week. Now I'm playing catch-up at work so I can take some time off for the holidays.  C'est la vie.

I hope you are finding something to appreciate every day during the holidays.  I know it can be hard with all of our daily demands and the dramas where we play center stage.  I started a daily tab of things I appreciate. I'm even using a lap counter to keep track. It helps me stay positive and not dwell on how much I miss Greg.

One thing, my Greg taught me was to find something to appreciate whenever possible -- especially when you don't think there is something to appreciate. :-) When you do, that is when the zebras and butterflies come out to play.

All my love,


Saturday, December 11, 2010


Hey all,

This is Morgan posting on behalf of my mom. She is out sick with the flu right now but will return to finish up the blog with about 5 more posts to go. She wants you to know she hasn't forgotten about any of you and is looking forward to sharing the rest of the story with you when she is well and able.

Much love,

Friday, December 3, 2010

D Day Minus - 144: (October 15, 2009): Chicken

I was nearly eight hours into my first day of your Clinical Trial. But it felt more like three or four days. Time at MD Anderson always expanded. Don't you think? It's like we're split between two realities -- Virginia and MD Anderson.  In Virginia, sometimes we forgot the cancer. Here, at the hospital going through another treatment,  you couldn't. Maybe it's because we were always waiting for an answer. And the stakes were always so high. I don't know. But all we had to do was look around us, here in the hospital, to know -- we weren't that special.

I was cold, like always. This time I dressed in layers and had my leather jacket. The room was dim because your head hurt a little. Even then, you offered to turn on the lights so I wouldn't be bored.  You didn't have to worry. I had a zeal of zebras disguised as an iPod, a Kindle, and a NetBook.

In between hourly vitals and blood draws every two or three hours, you'd doze off or ask what time it was so you could eat. Then you'd talk about all the food you wanted to try in Houston. Every once in awhile you'd start a text rampage with your Wegmans posse or Katie or your friends from George Mason. You didn't watch TV because they didn't have the Food Channel or the History Channel. So what was the point?

It was nearly five and you were dozing off again, so I walked the Sky Bridge. Partly for a change of scenery but mostly out of guilt because I couldn't do P90X. I didn't want to get fat. For lunch alone, I ate both of our jalapeno corn muffins and a three vegetable special. I figured that was nearly 1000 calories if you counted all the Dentyne. Besides, walking and burning calories was at least one thing I could control.

I "relistened" to Bruce Lipton's Biology of Belief on my iPod. Plus I mastered the obstacle course of doctors, patients, and crazy cart drivers who honked to clear a path.

Remember the book? Remember how much we talked about beliefs, the law of attraction, the The Secret, and all the connections between your thoughts and cells. But we stopped a few weeks ago. Or maybe I did.

I thought that you'd think, that I thought the cancer coming back was your fault. But I didn't. Mostly I didn't want any of my doubts to cloud your beliefs because I was scared. The only thing that mattered was how you felt and what you believed. Not what I thought or believed.

The more I listened to the Wisdom of Cells and the more I walked, the more I wanted to ask what you thought. And come clean about what I thought. This morning, I could have mentioned it. You asked, "What are you reading? Is it good?"

I lied and said I was reading a book on measuring the value of information technology and droned on about it long enough to make you close your eyes. Really, I was bouncing between two books on my Kindle. One was The Energy of Belief – Psychology's Power Tools to Focus Intention and Release Blocking Beliefs, by a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and PHD.  The other was The Human Antenna: Reading the Language of the Universe in the Songs of Our Cells. I didn't say because I was a big fat chicken.

I wanted to tell you just because we don't know how to measure or monitor the role that thoughts and beliefs play in our lives, with all the scientific data, doesn't make it any less valid. It only means, we haven't figured out how to measure it -- yet.

About the time I got comfortable with my logic, you called asking for something good to eat -- whatever that was. I brought you some pudding. I teased you about dressing up like Chewbacca at Wegmans for Halloween and getting fake fur in the dough. But we didn't talk about what I was really thinking.

I was chicken. A big fat chicken.