I had the pleasure of spending time with our extended family over the weekend. It was the first time I have been ‘home’ to Ft. Lauderdale in almost 20 years. It’s the first time that I took my wife and daughter to that part of the world. I did the usual things people do when going home after such a long time. I drove around the old stomping grounds and pointed to this particular building or that particular bridge. I told stories of what I used to do while my wife and daughter patiently nodded and acted interested. We went all over and topped it off with a stop at the best pizza joint in the world. I honestly thought that would be the highlight of my trip, but it ended up being a footnote in what would be the best couple of days that we have had since diagnosis.
We got my only remaining uncle to come over and we ended up having four generations of our family in one place for the first time that I can remember. It was a once in a lifetime experience for us and I’m glad we made the time to do it.
There were some stories told that I’m pretty sure my daughter thought was a total scam because there is no way her straight as an arrow dad would ever do anything like almost burn a house down. She was also pretty surprised when her dad admitted taking the heat for it and making sure my younger cousin stayed out of it….. even though he was the primary culprit. Her expression was priceless when I admitted to it and said I’m not a rat! Isn’t that what family is there for? Taking care of each other. That’s what happened to me this weekend. I was taken care of. Four generations came together just to see me and to make me feel a little less alone in this fight.
I watched my daughter interact with cousins she didn’t even know existed because we’ve been from Virginia to Hawaii to Minnesota to where we now live which is about 5 hours away from the closest relatives. We never had time to just go to Ft. Lauderdale for a week. Either school, work, medical appointments or treatments just keep popping up to keep us here. She had the chance to act like a kid again. She’s had to carry a pretty big load for 2 years now. It was so nice to see her forget it for awhile.
I had a particular young cousin that reminded me of how I used to be. No fear and living life to the fullest. He got the biggest kick out of trying to push my buttons because he liked seeing the different ways that I could plant him in the ground. He actually asked me to get him one last time before he left. I’m going to have to keep my eye on him. I have a feeling he’s going to want to keep that up for a few more years…. and to tell the truth…. I’m looking forward to it, too.
I was able to gather everyone around and explain this mysterious disease that has gotten ahold of me. I think it helped them to understand what we have been going through and it made me feel better getting some of the things that I needed off my chest. Yes, I look great but I am 6 months post transplant with a newborn baby’s immune system and I have chemotherapy 21 days on and 7 days off for the rest of my life. I get my ass handed to me on a regular basis, but it’s because I’m so exhausted after treatments or chemo… not because I’m losing. I hope that I left them with the feeling that I’m in for a very long fight that I’m winning right now and I have no plans to change that any time soon.
Finally…. I learned a valuable lesson this weekend. I need to learn to make more time to do the things that are important. It’s not just for me, my wife and daughter, but it helps the rest of my family, too. They all have a right to know what’s going on and they have the right to try to be there for us as we face this beast. Family is everything in this fight. There are going to be memories made of this journey…. we should do what we can to make some positive ones.