Thursday, 15 November 2012

Here I sit.  It's quiet and I'm on my own, and I'm thinking.   A week and a half ago we were out as a family, incredibly precious.  We saw Cirque  D'Eloise and it was amazing, but the sheer will it took for Kevin to go was awe inspiring.  It was a beautiful night, and I can't fathom that it was only a short time ago.  Here I sit.  It is the eve before I go to the funeral home for his visitation, the day before his funeral.  My heart is broken into a million pieces.  Peacefully and at home, Kevin Andrew Stem died with his mother and myself at his side.

My message is to him.

My darling Kev,

I made promises to you that night.  I promised that we would love you forever.  We will.  I promised that I would take care of our children and keep them safe.  I will.  Here's the promise that I didn't get a chance to say out loud.  I promise that Quin, Cian and Tadhgan will always feel the love from their daddy, that they will know how hard you fought to stay with us, how brave you were and how much you adored them and everything to do with them.  I miss you so very much.  Please be our guardian angel.  I need you to be our guardian angel.  I don't want to do this alone.

Rest well my love,


Thursday, 1 November 2012

Again, I can't believe how long it has been since my last post.  The summer seemed to go by so fast with school starting and Kevin back on chemo.  It was a crazy time, but it still hasn't prepared me for what the last few months have thrown at us.  The chemo that Kevin was on made him very sick and very weak, so he made the decision to go off of it to hopefully get stronger, to be able to take it again.    It didn't really work out that way.  By the time we went back to see his oncologist in August he was feeling awful and had lost another ton of weight.  His doctor was worried.  The gears had been changed, and the biological chemo they offered was to manage symptoms, not cure him.  The news was devastating to Kevin and to me.  It seems like we have been fighting for so long, I can't really remember living any other way.  All of this has been going on while the boys started school, Tadhgan went to daycare and I continued full time school.  To say that it has been crazy is a bit of an understatement. I am finding the juggling of not only the things to do, but the waves of heavy emotion to be crippling at times.  Kevin has not wavered in his belief that he will find a way to beat this.  It is his will to live that keeps him going, it is our boys smiling faces that keep him here.

Kevin continued on the biological chemo for three treatments.  It was administered every two weeks at the hospital, and just getting there was really hard on him.  He had started to retain a lot of fluid, mainly in his legs which made walking painful and difficult.  There was so much fluid that the skin on his legs started to give way to the liquid, causing tears and cuts on his shins.  It soon developed into cellulitis, an infection of the cells that he had to take meds for just to control it.  It was a huge hurdle for him.  Being immobile was not something he wanted to accept.  He went through anger and then sadness.  It was hard to be faced with all that these symptoms meant.  We were told that things were not going in the right direction, and that there was no way that they knew of to change the course.  The deep pit that had been living in my stomach made its way to my throat.  After all of this time I still can't believe that this is happening.

The biological chemo was stopped when it was evident that it was no longer even controlling symptoms.  Chemo is hard to take in the best of circumstances, but when it isn't helping anything, all that is left is how weak it makes him.  We went home that day quiet, pensive and with a sadness so deep that I don't know if I will ever be able to get to the surface again.

Kevin went up to his parents place after that.  He needed not only a change in scenery, but 24 hour care that wasn't in place at the house.  During his stay he went to the hospital for an appointment with  his doctor.  It was a Tuesday.  I called him from school to see how it had gone and he broke down on the phone.  Not much time they had said.  It could happen anytime.  His liver was failing and there was nothing they could do.  I left school immediately and met him at our house.  We sat together  and cried.  We cried for a long time.  He wasn't ready, didn't want to go, didn't want to leave me and the boys.  He just isn't finished doing what he wants to do.

Here we are, the beginnings of November, and the pit is still embedded in my stomach.  Most nights I am afraid to sleep, waking several times in the night just to listen to his steady breathing.  Most days I am afraid to leave, to be at school in case something happens.  As much as I have to be in school, to do well for the future of our children, I so wish I could just be home all the time with Kevin.  He is getting weaker every day, and the pain is increasing.  Through all of this he still has an enormous will to live, to survive.  He will never give up.  It is this incredible will that has us going to see Cirque Du Soleil on Friday.  Kevin is insistent that he will make it there.  He wants the boys to have this memory.  Here I am the night before wondering how we will in fact get there, but then I remember.  Sometimes you just have to believe.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

  Where has the time gone?  I can't believe it has been since February that I last sat down and was able to gather my thoughts.  As much as I try to take something from each day that passes, sometimes in the busy crazy mess that is life, it still manages to go by in a blurr.  I don't want it to. I remember telling my friend who recently got married to stop as she walked down the aisle and say to herself "remember this"....I find myself doing that several times throughout the day.

Kev's scan results in March were not great so we were led into the world of treatment options, chemo or what was called chemo beads.  The chemo beads are surgically implanted in the liver to give a more concentrated bout of chemo to the organ instead of travelling throughout the body.  It sounded good on paper until we found out that it would take the possibility of surgery off the table permanently as it would leave the bead casing in his liver.  Kev decided to go back on systemic chemo again, though this time a different drug, the neuropathic side effects of the last one still plaguing him.

There we were, back at chemo, familiar faces charmed by Tadhgan, at this time seven months old.  Most had not seen him since three months.  He did not disappoint, lighting a rather dark situation with his quick grin and mischievous nature.  Like he did in my belly, he kept me going those first months back, a bright spot to focus on.  kev was very ill right from the get go.  The second cycle he was sick in the middle of treatment with no respite for days.  He had five cycles before the last scan, and he bravely fought his way through them, scared but still so determined to beat this any way he can.

The last scan results were confusing.  Almost all of the tumours had shrunk, with the exception of one, which had minimal growth.  I don't know what this means exactly but I would be lying if I said that the word growth doesn't make me nervous.  Glass half full, I prefer to focus on all that had shrunk, to remember that this means that over all there is less cancer in his body.

We are now trying to see through the last few cycles of chemo, intertwined with the joy of what we call birthday season.  Quinlan turning 8, Cian turning 5 and Tadhgan turning 1.  It's all happening in the next three weeks culminating with my starting school on July 9th.  So much goodness to focus our thoughts on, just please don't be a blurr.....stop.  Remember this...........

Friday, 24 February 2012

Here we go again, on the merry-go-round that never seems to stop in the same place twice. Again my life has flipped over, or has it flipped back? I have lost track. All I really know is that I keep moving forward somehow.

It was some time after new years eve that Kev returned, to me and his family. He is back to being the Kevin I know, and for that I cannot express how grateful I am. We have put those two and a half months behind us, have decided together to move forward and leave that awful time in the past. I find it comforting that I have been able to forget so easily, but forgiveness comes easy when I know it wasn't really Kev making the decisions he did. Anyone who knows Kev could tell the difference between him and this other person he became for that period. The stranger is gone now, and that's all I care about.

With the return of my Kev came the realization that the cancer still exists. That has been a hard realization as it's almost like reliving it all over again. He has been off chemo since September, and the scans that were set for Feb. 6th were daunting to say the least. There was still the hope that things were o.k., and that the cancer had been held off somehow. We weren't in a dreamworld where we thought it was gone, but hoping for the best is just part of the game. I think without hope I wouldn't be able to handle the ride. There has always been hope, through it all. There still is. I truly did believe that the results would be good though, as we were to get them on Valentine's day. Love is supposed to win out isn't it?

The results weren't good. Though the cancer is still contained in his liver, the tumors have doubled in size, some even more so. His doctor was quick to point out however that he is not back at square one, the double measurement from their shrunken size, not their original size. Again I found myself in a hospital exam room with the breath sucked out of me, this time not holding my belly, but bouncing a beautiful baby on my lap. He was so beautifully unaware of his surroundings and of what was being said. I found myself listening, but staring at the baby, gravitating towards the pure goodness in the room. It made my heart hurt to watch Kev have to absorb this news. He looked so sad, but somehow not surprised. In some way he had been expecting it. He hasn't been feeling well, his right side causing him pain more often, his weight beginning to slip.

There are a few options chemo related that have to be discussed, new directions to be decided. It is another fork in the road and we are just hopeful that the right path will be chosen. In the mean time, we still focus on life. I have been accepted into teacher's college that starts this summer, a focus for the future. Most of all we focus on the present. If you don't, it becomes your past way too fast. This week marks our one year anniversary. A cancer anniversary. Bittersweet. Bitter because there is such a hard battle ahead of us, sweet because they gave him two months last year. Unlike last year, this week has been filled with family dinners, watching movies, spending time in the hot tub, laughing. We are spending our time better, cherishing this time always and will continue to do so.