At Sam’s appointment today, we got the last of his 6-month post transplant biopsy results. They're clean! (Cue major happy dance/freakout/bottle poppin'/etc.)
Dr. Longo told us we’re free to move back to Alaska AND they pulled Sam’s permanent IV line. (Called a PICC.) Basically, it’s a small implanted tube that went through the vein in his arm and ended right at his heart so that the chemo drugs would spread throughout the body immediately. The PICC line consisted of two “ports” that hung from his inner bicep this whole time – needing to be wrapped in saran wrap every time he took a shower, and flushed with Heparin every day. They are a pain, and a constant reminder of the state of life you’re in. That PICC line received drug after lifesaving drug, sometimes dozens of times a day, and getting it removed today was SUCH a big moment. ...I cried a little, not gonna’ lie.
Ever since this afternoon, I have been having flashbacks of this whole year – really vivid flashbacks. As Beth took out the PICC, I thought about how scared I was when he got it inserted back in June. I feared that he might never see the day of getting it taken out. I remember the room where they put it in, and I remember the breath-constricting fear I felt the whole day it happened. That whole first week, really. (Or maybe I never really breathed properly until Lindsey Bloom reminded me how to sometime this January.)
As we walked through the busy halls on the way to the car after his appointment this afternoon, I thought about roaming those same halls by myself in the evenings after dinner, knowing Sam was fast asleep up in B6/6, but not wanting to leave the hospital and be away from him. I thought about how I’ve cried more tears in that single building than any other I’ve ever inhabited. I thought about how freaking good it feels to cry happy tears today.
Exiting the doors, I remembered how much disdain I used to have entering the same ones so many times. Just disdain for that whole place where so many terrible things were happening. But how now, I feel nothing but awe for Sam’s team and amazed and incalculably grateful that they got him to this point… again. Dr. Longo and all the attending hematologists (Drs. Callendar, Hematti, Hall, Juckett, Kenkre, Mattison and of course, Linda and Blythe), and the nurses and NAs on B6/6 are smart, dedicated and just wonderful. They saved Sam’s life and so many other lives, and they do it so gracefully to people who are experiencing the worst days of their lives and are often not even that pleasant to be around. (Too many nurses & NAs to name, but I have to at least mention Beth, Dawn, Sara O and Kelly, who we love.) I also thought about how I sent my friends probably one million text messages to try to be part of the regular world or because I was freaking out, or because I was bored. (Sister, Hanna, Hannah, Shaina, Emily, Laura, and Amanda, you saved me.)
Then of course I thought about all the people who aren’t as lucky as Sam has been. For whatever reason, their body doesn’t handle the drugs or the stress or the misery. I will never understand why this is, and I do - and will - think about these people and their families every day for the rest of my life.
Walking to the car with Sam, making jokes and laughing about nothing in particular, I flashed back to dreading driving back to the hospital on Friday nights where there was no cracking a beer at the end of a long work week. It was just the same struggle that didn’t discern between days, or time of day, or weather, holidays or mood. I thought about instinctively rushing back to the hospital after a walk or grocery run out of panic that something bad happened to Sam even though there was zero indication for needing to think that. If you’re reading this, you probably helped calm me down in irrational moments like those, and you deserve to be mentioned by name too. But if I did that we’d be here for days and we plan to thank you all personally anyway. (Preferably over a beer, on a mountain, yea?)
Life is still far from normal, and won’t be for some time. But Sam and I celebrate his amazing progress as much as we can, and today was a big cause for celebration. Pulling out the PICC was like literally peeling all of that up and throwing it away. It was so pleasantly symbolic of being done with this phase. I know I’ll never completely throw this year away because I took a lot with me: the people, the outpouring of support and love we received from you, and the unbeatable, unbreakable bond Sam and I formed. But I am unbelievably glad to move on, too.
It’s hard to wrap all this up and sum it into a nice moral or conclusion. So I guess I’ll just try to remind myself how good life is every time I crack a beer on Friday afternoon, and how lucky we are to be alive together and laughing about nothing in particular.
Sayonara PICC-line, hello Alaska.