Category Archives: Cancer

365 Days (Times Four)

Today I observe a tradition that I started on AbbyGabs 3 years ago, at its inception. It started as a post to honor the battle my husband fought, and won, against a rare cancer that threatened to destroy our lives. It ended as one of the most honest, heartfelt things I’ve ever written.

I share it every year because it serves as a reminder of how far we’ve come since that devastating diagnosis. The “C” word doesn’t get used that much around here any more, and considering it filled our lives for so long, that’s a major accomplishment in itself. But more than any other reason, I share this post every year on the off chance that there’s someone out there in the webiverse who’s going through the exact same thing we went through 4 years ago. Maybe there’s someone looking for comfort, or words of wisdom, or a shred of hope. So I share our story, in case it brings comfort. Take it from one who knows–having a lifeline, no matter how thin, helps. Tremendously.

This is the story of the day we got our lives back.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *   *     *     *     *     *    *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    *     *     *     *     *

The alarm clock blares into the darkness. It is 4:15 a.m. We wake in the same position in which we fell asleep: flat on our backs, staring at the ceiling, our hands still clutched together between us. It brought enough comfort in the night to allow us to sleep, even for a few short hours.

My husband gets up without a word. The shower and the antimicrobial surgical soap are waiting.

I make the bed, wake his Aunt Tina, and start the coffee maker. I debate for 5 solid minutes over whether I should lay out his clothes for him. I decide to do it. This isn’t a normal day, so why should I act like it is?

Dressed and completely awake, we decide to get an early start to the hospital. The interstate is deserted. I’m unused to driving in the dark, and the empty highway startles me. Our headlights slice through the pitch black, and only road signs greet us along our asphalt path. For twenty minutes, we are silent. The radio plays quietly in the background. Tina asks me a question, I answer it. Brian sits in the seat next to me, hands folded in his lap. He tries to appear calm, but I can see the nerves dancing under his skin.

As we pull into the parking lot the sky just begins to turn pink. Morning has officially arrived. We gather our belongings–bags and afghans and books and sweaters. Changes of clothing. Warm socks. We trek to the sliding glass doors, a small caravan of modern day nomads.

The fluorescent lights are much too bright. I feel like I want sunglasses. Tina takes our stuff and makes a beeline for the waiting room “to get us comfy seats near the coffee maker.” I smile. Brian and I head the other direction. I stare at the dark blue veins under the skin of his hand as he signs his name and hands over his driver’s license. I rub my fingers down his back, feeling every bone in his spine. He smiles weakly.

We sit. We wait. It feels like days, but it’s only minutes. He plays Angry Birds. Tina and I make small talk. I want to stand up, pace, fidget. Finally, they call his name, and we walk back to finish the paperwork. I could let him go alone, but I can’t abide it. So I squeeze in to the little cubicle with him. I listen as he answers the same 25 questions he’s been asked so frequently these last few weeks. He jokes with the nurse who taps away on the keys of her computer. We sign where we’re told to sign.

They send us to another office. Here we go over how the surgery will happen. What the doctors will do. What we can expect. This nurse has less information for us than she likes. She keeps looking as his file, glancing at her computer monitor, swishing her mouse in search of more facts.

“Did the surgeons tell you what recovery was going to be like?” she asks gently.

No. We don’t know what to expect because they won’t know how bad it is, and they won’t until they open up my husband’s abdomen.

She nods once, plasters a smile on her face, and continues to walk us through the surgery plans she’s aware of.

At this point we are separated. They take him back to prep him. I can’t go. It’s the first time we’ve been separated since the cytoscopy. I feel the panic start to creep up and I stamp it down quickly. No time for that now. He kisses me, squeezes my hand, and disappears through the thick wooden doors.

Thirty five minutes later my parents arrive. Dad hugs me, Mom squeezes my arm. I tell them all that has happened. They ask if they will get to see him before the surgeons take him to the OR. I say yes, we should get to go back any minute. Moments later they come for me. We pick up our bags and afghans and books and sweaters and head to his room.

Brian lays on the gurney in his blue cotton gown. It looks so thin, I immediately want to ask for a blanket. He has a shower cap on his head, and blue booties on his feet. He’s already got an IV in each arm. His skin looks grey in the too-bright lights.

Mom goes over to him immediately and smooths back his hair. “How ya feelin’, kiddo?” she asks. She’s been so strong throughout this whole ordeal. My heart swells. Dad and Tina talk about everything but why we’re here. The C-word hasn’t been used once today. We’re denying its existence even as we are trying to eradicate it from my husband’s body.

One of Brian’s surgeons knocks and comes into the room. He is young and handsome and calm and kind. Brian and I share a secret smile–he’s known in our house as Dr. Superman. I can feel Brian’s nerves begin to settle as Dr. Superman walks us once again through the procedure. He reaches out a hand to me when he mentions how unsure they are of the outcome. “We won’t know how much the tumor has spread until we’re able to get a good look at it. It could be attached to his colon. It could be on his bladder. If it has infiltrated the wall of his bladder we will have to remove it. I don’t think that will happen, but you need to be prepared for that.” He gives my hand a squeeze. My heart is in my throat.

The activity in the room increases. There’s no room for us in there anymore as nurses and doctors hover over my husband. We’re allowed to kiss him goodbye. I lean over him and we lock eyes. A tear escapes even as I swallow a sob. “I love you to the moon and back,” we say. And we’re ushered back to the waiting room.

I can’t stand it. I can’t sit there and wait. So I leave Tina and my parents and I head to the financial aid office. I spend an hour asking questions, filling out paperwork, discussing our options with a social worker. I get a sense of calm knowing I’ve accomplished something. When there’s nothing left to do I go back to the waiting room.

I keep waiting for the phone at the nurse’s station to ring. It doesn’t. Why aren’t they calling? Shouldn’t they call for an update? It’s been nearly 2 hours and I’m beginning to worry. I’m contemplating getting up and asking the volunteer about it as Dr. Superman rounds the corner in his scrubs. He looks grim. My heart begins pounding so loudly I can’t hear anything else. He asks to speak to us in a private room. Episodes of ER and Grey’s Anatomy flash into my mind. The private rooms are bad. They only take you to the private rooms for bad news. My knees buckle. Someone steers me by the arm.

Dr. Superman turns the knob on the private room’s door and it is locked. “Well, I don’t have a key,” he says. “And I don’t want to keep you in the dark anymore. The surgery was a success. We got the entire tumor.”

I don’t realize I’m holding my breath until it all comes out at once. The tears that have been living behind my eyes for 3 weeks come out in a flood. My Dad is smiling, my Mom is crying, and Tina has a look of relief on her face I didn’t anticipate. She never looked worried for a second before this moment. Now I realize she’s been holding me up for days.

I hear only bits of everything else Dr. Superman says. The tumor was larger than they expected. His surgical scar will be about 10 inches long. The tumor was the size of a Nerf football and was only attached by a fiber to his colon.  Brian is going to be fine. He won’t even have to endure chemotherapy. Dr. Superman gathers me into a hug and his reputation as a superhero is solidified.

We flutter back into the waiting room like so many birds. We are light on our feet, there’s a song in our hearts. We each grab for a cell phone and begin the process of spreading the good news. I call Brian’s Dad first. Then my brother. Then Brian’s boss. I email and Facebook and text message. I could literally dance a jig in the middle of the hospital.

We’re told Brian is on his way from recovery to his room on the top floor. We grab our bags and afghans and books and sweaters and head for the elevator. We beat him up there. We stand in the hallway, afraid to occupy a room this isn’t rightfully ours yet. The nurses see our posse and begin rounding up chairs. It’s a private room, and we’re all impressed that Brian will be treated like a VIP while in house.

I hear the elevator doors open and a gurney coming down the hall. There is my husband, back in his blue cotton gown. The booties and shower cap are gone. They maneuver the bed into the room, plug in all his equipment, and retreat. I dash to his bedside, lean over him and say his name. I’m desperate to touch him, to connect with him, but there are so many wires.

Groggily, his eyelids open and I all see is ocean blue. He takes a moment to focus on me, and smiles weakly. “How’d I do?” he asks.

I run my fingers carefully through his hair, down his face, and smile at him, wanting him to see nothing but joy and excitement and exhilaration in my face. “They got it, baby. They got it all. You’re gonna be just fine.”

“That’s good,” he says, and drifts back to sleep.

My family talks quietly in the background. I watch my husband sleeping, and I allow myself to take in everything I see. I wrap my fingers around his bony wrist, stare at his chest as it rises and falls, wait for the pulse I can see in the vein of his neck. I’m no fool. I know recovery is going to be long and difficult. I know he’s going to wake up when the drugs wear off and he’s going to be in tremendous pain. I know we’re going to be living at this hospital for a week, maybe more.

But nothing could tramp down the feeling of good fortune in my heart. Brian was going to live.

It’s October 25, 2010.

Brian and his balloon

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Four years later…

The alarm clock goes off as sunlight peers through the blinds. It’s 8:00 a.m. I know what day it is immediately upon waking. I make the bed, yawning, then pad into the living room where my husband is playing a video game with headphones on. I smile and walk over to him, clearing my throat so I don’t startle him.

“Good morning, beautiful,” he says as I lean down to kiss him. Our eyes linger a little longer than usual. No words are needed.

I say them anyway.

“I love you. I’m grateful to have you.”

He smiles and kisses me again. “You’d better hit the showers. We’ve got a big day today.”

And so I leave him and follow through with my usual morning routine, knowing that later today, we will celebrate as two of our closest friends get married. We will celebrate love, and life, and happiness. It couldn’t be a more perfect way to spend the day.

It’s October 25, 2014.

us again

Three-Hundred and Sixty Five Days (Times Three)

Three years ago on this date, I was given a gift so profound that it changed my life. It taught me gratitude, patience, appreciation, and how to find my own grace under pressure. It was the kind of gift I never imagined I’d be asking for in my 30s, but one I went down on my knees to beg for behind closed doors.

That gift was my husband’s life.

After over a year of illness, a misdiagnosis that was almost catastrophic, and a three week period of waiting, Brian went under the knife to remove a life-threatening tumor from his colon: a tumor that was the size of a grapefruit. It had slowly been draining the life out of him, denying him the right to eat, withering him down to 120 pounds. Weak, sick, exhausted, we finally went for a third opinion and found the cancer that had been killing him. He was 30 years old. We were terrified.

It’s become a tradition of mine to remember that day here on AbbyGabs by sharing the post I wrote to celebrate Brian’s first year cancer free. It’s one of the hardest posts I’ve ever written, but it felt important to me to preserve those moments somehow, so I could look back on them one day when they begin to go fuzzy in my mind.

It’s three years later. We have moved on with our lives. The “C” word is rarely spoken in our home. We laugh all the time, we eat too much, and we enjoy the life we’ve built together. And it all hinged on the outcome of October 25, 2010. Here is our story.

The alarm clock blares into the darkness. It is 4:15 a.m. We wake in the same position in which we fell asleep: flat on our backs, staring at the ceiling, our hands still clutched together between us. It brought enough comfort in the night to allow us to sleep, even for a few short hours.

My husband gets up without a word. The shower and the antimicrobial surgical soap are waiting.

I make the bed, wake his Aunt Tina, start the coffee maker. I debate for 5 solid minutes over whether I should lay out his clothes for him. I decide to do it. This isn’t a normal day, so why should I act like it is?

Dressed and completely awake, we decide to get an early start to the hospital. The interstate is deserted. I’m unused to driving in the dark, and the empty highway startles me. Our headlights slice through the pitch black, and only road signs greet us along our asphalt path. For twenty minutes, we are silent. The radio plays quietly in the background. Tina asks me a question, I answer it. Brian sits in the seat next to me, hands folded in his lap. He tries to appear calm, but I can see the nerves dancing under his skin.

As we pull into the parking lot the sky just begins to turn pink. Morning has officially arrived. We gather our belongings–bags and afghans and books and sweaters. Changes of clothing. Warm socks. We trek to the sliding glass doors, a small caravan of modern day nomads.

The fluorescent lights are much too bright. I feel like I want sunglasses. Tina takes our stuff and makes a beeline for the waiting room “to get us comfy seats near the coffee maker.” I smile. Brian and I head the other direction. I stare at the dark blue veins under the skin of his hand as he signs his name and hands over his driver’s license. I rub my fingers down his back. He smiles weakly.

We sit. We wait. It feels like days, but it’s only minutes. He plays Angry Birds. Tina and I make small talk. I want to stand up, pace, fidget. Finally, they call his name. We walk back to finish the paperwork. I could let him go alone, but I can’t abide it. So I squeeze in to the little cubicle with him. I listen as he answers the same 25 questions he’s been asked so frequently these last few weeks. He jokes with the nurse who taps away on the keys of her computer. We sign where we’re told to sign.

They send us to another office. Here we go over how the surgery will happen. What the doctors will do. What we can expect. This nurse has less information for us than she likes. She keeps looking as his file, glancing at her computer monitor, swishing her mouse in search of more facts.

“Did the surgeons tell you what recovery was going to be like?” she asks gently.

No. We don’t know what to expect because they won’t know how bad it is, and they won’t until they open up my husband’s abdomen.

She nods once, plasters a smile on her face, and continues to walk us through the surgery plans she’s aware of.

At this point we are separated. They take him back to prep him. I can’t go. It’s the first time we’ve been separated since the cytoscopy. I feel the panic start to creep up and I stamp it down quickly. No time for that now. He kisses me, squeezes my hand, and disappears through the thick wooden doors.

Thirty five minutes later my parents arrive. Dad hugs me, Mom squeezes my arm. I tell them all that has happened. They ask if they will get to see him before the surgeons take him to the OR. I say yes, we should get to go back any minute. Moments later they come for me. We pick up our bags and afghans and books and sweaters and head to his room.

Brian lays on the gurney in his blue cotton gown. It looks so thin, I immediately want to ask for a blanket. He has a shower cap on his head, and blue booties on his feet. He’s already got an IV in each arm. His skin looks grey in the too-bright lights.

Mom goes over to him immediately and smooths back his hair. “How ya feelin’, kiddo?” she asks. She’s been so strong throughout this whole ordeal. My heart swells. Dad and Tina talk about everything but why we’re here. The C-word hasn’t been used once today. We’re denying its existence even as we are trying to eradicate it from my husband’s body.

One of Brian’s surgeons knocks and comes into the room. He is young and handsome and calm and kind. Brian and I share a secret smile–he’s known in our house as Dr. Superman. I can feel Brian’s nerves begin to settle as Dr. Superman walks us once again through the procedure. He reaches out a hand to me when he mentions how unsure they are of the outcome. “We won’t know how much the tumor has spread until we’re able to get a good look at it. It could be attached to his colon. It could be on his bladder. If it has infiltrated the wall of his bladder we will have to remove it. I don’t think that will happen, but you need to be prepared for that.” He gives my hand a squeeze. My heart is in my throat.

The activity in the room increases. There’s no room for us in there anymore as nurses and doctors hover over my husband. We’re allowed to kiss him goodbye. I lean over him and we lock eyes. A tear escapes even as I swallow a sob. “I love you to the moon and back,” we say. And we’re ushered back to the waiting room.

I can’t stand it. I can’t sit there and wait. So I leave Tina and my parents and I head to the financial aid office. I spend an hour asking questions, filling out paperwork, discussing our options with a social worker. I get a sense of calm knowing I’ve accomplished something. When there’s nothing left to do I go back to the waiting room.

I keep waiting for the phone at the nurse’s station to ring. It doesn’t. Why aren’t they calling? Shouldn’t they call for an update? It’s been nearly 2 hours and I’m beginning to worry. I’m contemplating getting up and asking the volunteer about it as Dr. Superman rounds the corner in his scrubs. He looks grim. My heart begins pounding so loudly I can’t hear anything else. He asks to speak to us in a private room. Episodes of ER and Grey’s Anatomy flash into my mind. The private rooms are bad. They only take you to the private rooms for bad news. My knees buckle. Someone steers me by the arm.

Dr. Superman turns the knob on the private room’s door and it is locked. “Well, I don’t have a key,” he says. “And I don’t want to keep you in the dark anymore. The surgery was a success. We got the entire tumor.”

I don’t realize I’m holding my breath until it all comes out at once. The tears that have been living behind my eyes for 3 weeks come out in a flood. My Dad is smiling, my Mom is crying, and Tina has a look of relief on her face I didn’t anticipate. She never looked worried for a second before this moment. Now I realize she’s been holding me up for days.

I hear only bits of everything else Dr. Superman says. The tumor was larger than they expected. His surgical scar will be about 10 inches long. The tumor was the size of a Nerf football and was only attached by a fiber to his colon.  Brian is going to be fine. He won’t even have to endure chemotherapy. Dr. Superman gathers me into a hug and his reputation as a superhero is solidified.

We flutter back into the waiting room like so many birds. We are light on our feet, there’s a song in our hearts. We each grab for a cell phone and begin the process of spreading the good news. I call Brian’s Dad first. Then my brother. Then Brian’s boss. I email and Facebook and text message. I could literally dance a jig in the middle of the hospital.

We’re told Brian is on his way from recovery to his room on the top floor. We grab our bags and afghans and books and sweaters and head for the elevator. We beat him up there. We stand in the hallway, afraid to occupy a room this isn’t rightfully ours yet. The nurses see our posse and begin rounding up chairs. It’s a private room, and we’re all impressed that Brian will be treated like a VIP while in house.

I hear the elevator doors open and a gurney coming down the hall. There is my husband, back in his blue cotton gown. The booties and shower cap are gone. They maneuver the bed into the room, plug in all his equipment, and retreat. I dash to his bedside, lean over him and say his name. I’m desperate to touch him, to connect with him, but there are so many wires.

Groggily, his eyelids open and I all see is ocean blue. He takes a moment to focus on me, and smiles weakly. “How’d I do?” he asks.

I run my fingers carefully through his hair, down his face, and smile at him, wanting him to see nothing but joy and excitement and exhilaration in my face. “They got it, baby. They got it all. You’re gonna be just fine.”

“That’s good,” he says, and drifts back to sleep.

My family talks quietly in the background. I watch my husband sleeping, and I allow myself to take in everything I see. I wrap my fingers around his bony wrist, stare at his chest as it rises and falls, wait for the pulse I can see in the vein of his neck. I’m no fool. I know recovery is going to be long and difficult. I know he’s going to wake up when the drugs wear off and he’s going to be in tremendous pain. I know we’re going to be living at this hospital for a week, maybe more.

But nothing could tramp down the feeling of good fortune in my heart. On that day, and every day since, I am the luckiest girl in the world.

It’s October 25, 2010.

PINK Warriors

I don’t know if you guys have noticed or not, but I’ve been having a hard time readjusting to “Reality After Vacation.” You know that feeling, right? You just took an awesome vacation filled with the kind of memories you want to relive over and over again. And at some point, you wake up and realize you’ve been telling the same stories about those memories over and over again for the better part of a month and you’re like “Holy crapballs! Is it really halfway through August already?!?”

Yeah. I miss San Diego.

But, if anything is going to pull me back into my own warped version of reality, it’s inevitably going to involve Donnie Wahlberg. (I know, you’re shocked.)

Last year, I introduced you to the lovely Selena–fellow Blockhead and fundraiser for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation. If you need a refresher course, here’s a little picture of our heroine with the always droolworthy ‘Berg himself:

Selena

Click on the image, and you’ll be whisked away to Selena’s personal page on the Komen website!

Selena and I have two things in common: our adoration for all things Donnie, as well as a passion for finding a cure for the disease that has so affected our lives. My readers know that my mom, aunt, and grandmother are all breast cancer survivors, and that I even got a pink ribbon tattoo in their honor. Selena, however, lost her sister last year to cancer, and so she fights the good fight in her memory.

Her ferocity to create awareness, and the desire to find a cure, is to be commended and applauded. And I’d like to do anything I can to help.

So, every year, Selena launches a charity raffle. All you have to do is click over to her page, donate at least $5, make sure to include the phrase “LoveEternal” after your name in the recognition field, and you are automatically entered to win some amazing prizes!! This year, Selena has paired with ThoseWahlbergMen.com, and let me tell ya, Donnie girls, the swag is pretty sweet!!

Selena 2

With a $5 donation, you could win one Love Eternal Pink Ribbon shirt, one NKOTB “Five Brothers and a Million Sisters” hardcover book (great read, by the way),  and one $25 T-shirt gift card for ThoseWahlbergMen.com.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’ll be entering the raffle post haste!

You have until August 20 to get your donation in for the contest, so make sure you click over and make a difference today! And it doesn’t matter if you live stateside or not–the contest includes free shipping to anywhere in the world!!

Last year, we helped Selena become the top grossing raffle on the site–she got an award, y’all!! Let’s make that happen again in 2013.

Good luck, Selena!! The AbbyGabs family is pulling for you to reach that $500 goal!!

Three-Hundred and Sixty Five Days (Times Two)

Today marks an anniversary–not the kind of anniversary that you celebrate with chocolates or roses or prettily wrapped gifts. Instead, it’s one we are learning to remember with gratitude, reverence, and humility. 

Two years ago, on this date, my husband was in surgery having a life-threatening tumor removed from his colon.

Today, I choose to think about how far we’ve come since that day. I’m going to focus on how many accomplishments he has achieved since he faced his mortality at the age of thirty. I want to revel in the adventures, the moments of laughter, the memories we’ve shared in the past two years. 

Our lives are irreversibly changed, but for the better. I know that we have laughed more frequently, lived more wholly, and loved more completely. We both are reminded, on a daily basis, of how much we had to lose. All it takes is a glimpse of the purple scar that runs the length of my husband’s abdomen to remember what could have been.

If nothing else has been accomplished in these seven hundred and thirty days, then there is one thing we can both be proud of. Something about the C-word, about surviving it and finding a life fulfilled after it, has driven us both to follow our dreams. Brian is thriving in nursing school and graduates in December. And I’ve followed my passion and started writing again–first with this blog, with a novel (hopefully) on the horizon. 

When I read back over the blogs I’ve written here, the one that stands out the most for me is the post I wrote last year on this date, detailing the day of Brian’s surgery.  It was one of the hardest, but most rewarding, things I’ve ever written. It feels fitting to re-post it here, with only a small edit at the end.

Now onward, upward, to the life we are so excited to share together.



Three Hundred and Sixty Five Days

The alarm clock blares into the darkness. It is 4:15 a.m. We wake in the same position in which we fell asleep: flat on our backs, staring at the ceiling, our hands still clutched together between us. It brought enough comfort in the night to allow us to sleep, even for a few short hours.

My husband gets up without a word. The shower and the antimicrobial surgical soap are waiting.

I make the bed, wake his Aunt Tina, start the coffee maker. I debate for 5 solid minutes over whether I should lay out his clothes for him. I decide to do it. This isn’t a normal day, so why should I act like it is?

Dressed and completely awake, we decide to get an early start to the hospital. The interstate is deserted. I’m unused to driving in the dark, and the empty highway startles me. Our headlights slice through the pitch black, and only road signs greet us along our asphalt path. For twenty minutes, we are silent. The radio plays quietly in the background. Tina asks me a question, I answer it. Brian sits in the seat next to me, hands folded in his lap. He tries to appear calm, but I can see the nerves dancing under his skin.

As we pull into the parking lot the sky just begins to turn pink. Morning has officially arrived. We gather our belongings–bags and afghans and books and sweaters. Changes of clothing. Warm socks. We trek to the sliding glass doors, a small caravan of modern day nomads.

The fluorescent lights are much too bright. I feel like I want sunglasses. Tina takes our stuff and makes a beeline for the waiting room “to get us comfy seats near the coffee maker.” I smile. Brian and I head the other direction. I stare at the dark blue veins under the skin of his hand as he signs his name and hands over his driver’s license. I rub my fingers down his back. He smiles weakly.

We sit. We wait. It feels like days, but it’s only minutes. He plays Angry Birds. Tina and I make small talk. I want to stand up, pace, fidget. Finally, they call his name. And we walk back to finish the paperwork. I could let him go alone, but I can’t abide it. So I squeeze in to the little cubicle with him. I listen as he answers the same 25 questions he’s been asked so frequently these last few weeks. He jokes with the nurse who taps away on the keys of her computer. We sign where we’re told to sign. 

They send us to another office. Here we go over how the surgery will happen. What the doctors will do. What we can expect. This nurse has less information for us than she likes. She keeps looking as his file, glancing at her computer monitor, swishing her mouse in search of more facts.

“Did the surgeons tell you what recovery was going to be like?” she asks gently.

No. We don’t know what to expect because they won’t know how bad it is, and they won’t until they open up my husband’s abdomen.

She nods once, plasters a smile on her face, and continues to walk us through the surgery plans she’s aware of.

At this point we are separated. They take him back to prep him. I can’t go. It’s the first time we’ve been separated since the cytoscopy. I feel the panic start to creep up and I stamp it down quickly. No time for that now. He kisses me, squeezes my hand, and disappears through the thick wooden doors.

Thirty five minutes later my parents arrive. Dad hugs me, Mom squeezes my arm. I tell them all that has happened. They ask if they will get to see him before the surgeons take him to the OR. I say yes, we should get to go back any minute. Moments later they come for me. We pick up our bags and afghans and books and sweaters and head to his room. 

Brian lays on the gurney in his blue cotton gown. It looks so thin, I immediately want to ask for a blanket. He has a shower cap on his head, and blue booties on his feet. He’s already got an IV in each arm. His skin looks grey in the too-bright lights.

Mom goes over to him immediately and smooths back his hair. “How ya feelin’, kiddo?” she asks. She’s been so strong throughout this whole ordeal. My heart swells. Dad and Tina talk about everything but why we’re here. The C-word hasn’t been used once today. We’re denying its existence even as we are trying to eradicate it from my husband’s body.

One of Brian’s surgeons knocks and comes into the room. He is young and handsome and calm and kind. Brian and I share a secret smile–he’s known in our house as Dr. Superman. I can feel Brian’s nerves begin to settle as Dr. Superman walks us once again through the procedure. He reaches out a hand to me when he mentions how unsure they are of the outcome. “We won’t know how much the tumor has spread until we’re able to get a good look at it. It could be attached to his colon. It could be on his bladder. If it has infiltrated the wall of his bladder we will have to remove it. I don’t think that will happen, but you need to be prepared for that.” He gives my hand a squeeze. My heart is in my throat.

The activity in the room increases. There’s no room for us in there anymore as nurses and doctors hover over my husband. We’re allowed to kiss him goodbye. I lean over him and we lock eyes. A tear escapes even as I swallow a sob. “I love you to the moon and back,” we say. And we’re ushered back to the waiting room.

I can’t stand it. I can’t sit there and wait. So I leave Tina and my parents and I head to the financial aid office. I spend an hour asking questions, filling out paperwork, discussing our options with a social worker. I get a sense of calm knowing I’ve accomplished something. When there’s nothing left to do I go back to the waiting room.

I keep waiting for the phone at the nurse’s station to ring. It doesn’t. Why aren’t they calling? Shouldn’t they call for an update? It’s been nearly 2 hours and I’m beginning to worry. I’m contemplating getting up and asking the volunteer about it as Dr. Superman rounds the corner in his scrubs. He looks grim. My heart begins pounding so loudly I can’t hear anything else. He asks to speak to us in a private room. Episodes of ER and Grey’s Anatomy flash into my mind. The private rooms are bad. They only take you to the private rooms for bad news. My knees buckle. Someone steers me by the arm.

Dr. Superman turns the knob on the private room’s door and it is locked. “Well, I don’t have a key,” he says. “And I don’t want to keep you in the dark anymore. The surgery was a success. We got the entire tumor.”

I don’t realize I’m holding my breath until it all comes out at once. The tears that have been living behind my eyes for 3 weeks come out in a flood. My Dad is smiling, my Mom is crying, and Tina has a look of relief on her face I didn’t anticipate. She never looked worried for a second before this moment. Now I realize she’s been holding me up for days.

I hear only bits of everything else Dr. Superman says. The tumor was larger than they expected. His surgical scar will be about 10 inches long. The tumor was the size of a Nerf football and was only attached by a fiber to his colon.  Brian is going to be fine. He won’t even have to endure chemotherapy. Dr. Superman gathers me into a hug and his reputation as a superhero is solidified.

We flutter back into the waiting room like so many birds. We are light on our feet, there’s a song in our hearts. We each grab for a cell phone and begin the process of spreading the good news. I call Brian’s Dad first. Then my brother. Then Brian’s boss. I email and Facebook and text message. I could literally dance a jig in the middle of the hospital.

We’re told Brian is on his way from recovery to his room on the top floor. We grab our bags and afghans and books and sweaters and head for the elevator. We beat him up there. We stand in the hallway, afraid to occupy a room this isn’t rightfully ours yet. The nurses see our posse and begin rounding up chairs. It’s a private room, and we’re all impressed that Brian will be treated like a VIP while in house. 

I hear the elevator doors open and a gurney coming down the hall. There is my husband, back in his blue cotton gown. The booties and shower cap are gone. They maneuver the bed into the room, plug in all his equipment, and retreat. I dash to his bedside, lean over him and say his name. I’m desperate to touch him, to connect with him, but there are so many wires.

Groggily, his eyelids open and I all see is ocean blue. He takes a moment to focus on me, and smiles weakly. “How’d I do?” he asks. 

I run my fingers carefully through his hair, down his face, and smile at him, wanting him to see nothing but joy and excitement and exhilaration in my face. “They got it, baby. They got it all. You’re gonna be just fine.”

“That’s good,” he says, and drifts back to sleep.

My family talks quietly in the background. I watch my husband sleeping, and I allow myself to take in everything I see. I wrap my fingers around his bony wrist, stare at his chest as it rises and falls, wait for the pulse I can see in the vein of his neck. I’m no fool. I know recovery is going to be long and difficult. I know he’s going to wake up when the drugs wear off and he’s going to be in tremendous pain. I know we’re going to be living at this hospital for a week, maybe more.

But nothing could tramp down the feeling of good fortune in my heart.

It’s October 25, 2010.
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One year later…

The alarm clock blares into the darkness. It is 4:15 a.m. I feel my husband roll out of bed. For the next 30 minutes, I drift between sleep and awake. I can hear him rummaging about in the bathroom, opening drawers quietly, brushing his teeth. My eyes open when I hear him close the bedroom door behind him. It takes me less than a moment to remember what today is, to remember why he’s up at all.

I climb out of bed. The lamp from the living room is too bright. I shield my eyes. 

Brian sits at the computer desk. He’s dressed all in white.

I pad over to him, wrap my arms around his shoulders, rest my chin on his head. “Mornin’ handsome,” I say sleepily. 

“What are you doing up?” he asks. “It’s too early.”

“I just wanted to say hi, and have fun today.” I say.

He stands up, wraps his arms around me, kisses me on the forehead. “I’ve gotta get going.” he says. “It’s a long drive to the hospital.”

“Have a good day in class,” I say. He pats me on the rear and I head back to the comforts of my bed.

It’s October 25, 2011. What a difference a year makes. 
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Two years later…

The alarm clock blares into the semi-darkness. It’s 8:00 a.m. The house is empty and quiet as I take my seat at the computer, hot cup of coffee in hand. I was aware of what day it was the moment I woke up, and know without asking that Brian does, too.

But I asked him anyway. Last night, the television blaring, his laptop open to the last throes of nursing school paperwork, I asked him. Quietly, so as not to bring too much attention to the subject, I asked, “So you know what tomorrow is, right?”

“Yes,” he replied, and continued typing away at his homework.

And that was it. 

I turned back to the television, determined not to say another word about it.

After a moment, I felt his hand on my foot. He gave it a reassuring squeeze. And the cancer that once loomed over our lives, determined to take Brian hostage, retreated into the recesses of our minds again. Beaten.

We have nothing but our lives ahead of us now.

It’s October 25, 2012. And we are two years Cancer Free.

My Tattoo Experience (In Pictures)

So yesterday, I told you all about why I got my second tattoo. Today, I’m going to tell you all about the experience in the best way I know how…with bad illustrations.

As the clock ticked toward Sunday, I started to get REALLY nervous–for three reasons. 

Number one–the only other tattoo I have took less than 10 minutes to complete. So I was worried how my pain threshold would handle being in the chair for closer to an hour. (Read: I was terrified I was going to cry all over the big, burly man who was scheduled to brand my skin with a very sharp, pointy needle.)

Number two: I had never gotten a color tattoo, and though most everyone I know who has a color tattoo had told me that color and shading doesn’t hurt as bad as solid black, I was still scared it might hurt me a lot. (Read: Still terrified about the crying thing mentioned above.)

Number three: I’d decided to get the tattoo a few weeks ago, and had spent a ton of time trying to find the perfect design. I’d found one that I liked, but I never really fell in love with it. And because of that, as the appointment loomed, I actually found myself having second thoughts about getting the tattoo at all. 



Deciding to play the “I’m a woman so I can change my mind whenever I want” card, I turned again to the internet in hopes of finding the perfect design. After about an hour, I found a tattoo that I loved. And when I found it, my nerves settled. 

So, Sunday morning, I jump out of bed, totally psyched about my new ink. Brian and I head to House of Ink, and as soon as we walk in the front door, my nerves start to pick up again. I had never actually gotten the opportunity to talk to Steve (The Artist) after I’d changed my mind, and instead had relied on the internet and email to convey my desire to switch things up a bit. After a short 10 minute wait, Steve emerged from the depths of the studio with a tiny little sheet of paper—and on it was his concept of the design I’d sent. And it was just exactly right. Perfect size, perfect detail, perfect everything. Nerves settled again.

We head back to Steve’s room, and he instantly puts me at ease. He was funny, easy to talk to, and the art work that papered the walls of his office were ah-maz-ing. I knew I was in good hands with this guy. 


As Steve set up, I climbed up onto the chair, laid back, and prepared myself for the pain that comes with body art. And I’m not gonna lie. It hurt like hell. Even though the design I’d chosen was outlined in burgundy instead of black, and even though Steve had assured me that if I could survive a wrist tattoo, I could survive anything, I was literally gritting my teeth.

However, other than a few pleading glances at my husband, who was sitting across from me, the casual observer would have just seen a brave woman, relaxed, eyes closed, getting tatted up. (That’s right, I use the cool lingo.)



In my head, however, I kept thinking about the burning fires of Mordor.


Conversation bloomed around me. I know I participated somewhat, when the needles weren’t doing their work.  But when Steve put needle to skin, I retreated back into my brain, thinking of Frodo and the gang, and wondering when the pain would stop.

Truthfully, as the outlining stopped and the shading began, the pain began to lessen. And then, after about 45 minutes, it stopped all together. I waited, eyes closed, for the needle to touch my skin again. And when it didn’t, I peeked over at Steve, who sat back, arms crossed, a big grin on his face. 

“Well, what do you think?” he asked.



I craned my neck to look down at my shoulder, and could barely make out the bottom of the ribbon. Even with my fuzzy vision without my glasses, I could tell that it was beautiful. And I said so.

“Wanna see it in the mirror?” he asked.

And I did. Brian handed me my glasses and I walked over to the full length mirror on the opposite wall. I couldn’t contain my glee. It was EVERYTHING I’d hoped for, and more. The placement was perfect, the color was outstanding, and the scroll detail was even prettier than on the original concept I’d sent in.

In short, I was really, really, really, over-the-moon excited.


Two days later, it’s still a little tender.  It’s a little dry, and itchy, and I’ve been putting Aquaphor on it every couple of hours or so, just to keep the dryness to a minimum. And as easily as I bruise, it will probably be the end of the week before I stop wincing when I put on a shirt in the morning.

But every time I look at it, I’m filled with that same sense of glee that I felt when I first saw it in the mirror, Brian and Steve looking on. 

And I’m already coming up with ideas for tattoo #3.

Thanks, Steve. I’ll be back to see you soon.

 

Pink Ink

This is my breast cancer awareness pin:


I bought that pin back in 2003, at Walmart. It’s a simple little pin, trimmed in silver, about the size of a quarter. I don’t wear it nearly as often as I should, but every year since 2003–the year my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer–I dig it out of my jewelry box. I pin it to my shirt, on my left shoulder, near to my heart, and I wear it every single day during the month of October.

To some, the pink ribbon has become obsolete. I’ve read articles and blogs about women who  refuse to wear the ribbon because they say it’s nothing but scare tactics, that the money spent on pink ribbon paraphernalia would be better spent elsewhere–like going to specific charities in the name of cancer research.

The truth is, I don’t disagree. I’d rather donate my money to a trusted charity than spend it at an online boutique selling nothing but breast cancer ribbons and bumper stickers and tee shirts. I don’t often know where that money is going. And so I keep it in my pocket instead.

But this little ribbon–pink and tiny and poignant–cost me less than $5. I didn’t buy it in order to make a political statement. I haven’t worn it every single October for the past 9 years in order to scare women into getting mammograms. I’ve worn it for a very simple reason.

Because it is a physical reminder to me that my mother is a survivor

And I’m so stinkin’ proud of her–her strength, her courage, her perseverance–that I want the whole world to know it.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, do you?

Yesterday, I took my little pin to an entirely different level. I wanted that physical reminder to also be a permanent reminder. And so, I got a tattoo, in exactly the same spot where I pin that little pink ribbon every year:


And I love it.


It may only be a symbol to you–one that represents a market, or a franchise, or even a foolhardy expense.

But to me, every time I look at my Pink Ink, I’ll be reminded of the battle Mom fought. I’ll think about how she put on a brave face for us when I know she was in pain. I’ll remember the hat she bought to wear to my college graduation, and how she gleefully ripped it off as soon as we got to the car, happy to be free from its presence. I’ll remember lying my head on my father’s shoulder as we sat, fidgeting, in the waiting room as Mom had her surgery. I’ll think about how hard Adam tried not to cry–a kid on the cusp of adulthood–and how brave he was despite the nervous adults surrounding him. I’ll remember calling Brian from the hospital with hourly updates, and how hearing his voice over the phone was like a balm to my fraying heart. I’ll remember the joy I felt each time we got good news–the surgery was a success, her treatments are working, she’s five years cancer free!!

And I’ll remember how it felt to see that little pin, gleaming on the counter surrounded by thirty more just like it, and knowing I had to have it. For Mom.

Thank you, Steve, for seeing my vision and giving me a very special gift. I’ll treasure it always. And thanks, Mom, for inspiring me, as always. I love you!

Readers–stay tuned for the more humorous side of this tale tomorrow. There may or may not be illustrations!!

Three Love Letters for the Price Of One

Dear Donnie Wahlberg,

It has been awhile since your name has been mentioned here on Abby Gabs. And I feel like I owe you an explanation. You see, a few months ago, my husband made the statement that he felt like my blog was more often a “Donnie Wahlberg Featurette” than anything else. He felt slighted that he was rarely mentioned in my daily writings, where you, dear Donnie, were always front and center.

This little statement led to a blog-wide stat counting endeavor, which led to the eventual score board you can see in the left-hand column of my blog. (Just scroll down a bit…yep…there it is.)

As you can see, Brian was sorely mistaken. Although I wrote your name quite frequently, Donnie, his was still mentioned the most. (May I interject that this in no way represents how I feel about you!)

Since the contest was issued in July, you have only been mentioned once–on August 21, 2012, also known as National First Twug Day (the first time you “twugged” me on Twitter.) (Thanks again for that, by the way. It made my whole summer.) (Can we do it again soon?)

But I have to tell you, Mr. Wahlberg, that despite my lack of blogging in your name, I have nonetheless been spending plenty of time with you (whether you realize it or not.) I’m still faithfully tweeting almost every day…


I haven’t missed an episode of Blue Bloods yet, and was parked in front of my TV for September’s season premiere…


I’ve been rockin’ out to The Block—in my car, at my computer, in the kitchen while cooking dinner, through my iPod while I’m working out—and even though it’s been 4 years, I still shake my bootie just like I did back in 2008…



And as of yesterday, my nose has been permanently stuck between the pages of the new NKOTB biography, “Five Brothers and A Million Sisters.” (I read the first chapter last night, and cried no less than 3 times.)



So, Donnie, I just wanted to reassure you that, although I haven’t written about you lately here on Abby Gabs, I’m still very much a Donnie Girl. My husband knows this, as when he goes to bed each night, the last face he sees is yours.



I know you’re a busy guy, and you probably didn’t even notice. But I thought it would be nice to send you a letter today to let you know that you’re still very much a part of the Abby Gabs household, even if I haven’t blogged about you in awhile. (Brian says it’s psychological warfare, because I’m trying to prove a point by writing about him more than you. I say I’m trying to maintain a relationship with a man who’s jealous of your animal magnetism.)

Love always and forever,
Abby

PS: This blog is totally a point in your column. Oh yeah! Rock it!!

♥     ♥     ♥     ♥     ♥
Dear Brian,
 
I love you to the moon and back with a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck, no take back, oodles and oodles, to infinity and beyond, the end that’s all folks.
 

Love your slightly crazy wife,
Abby
♥     ♥     ♥     ♥     ♥

 

Dear Faithful Reader,

 

Did you happen to notice that I’m wearing a pink ribbon today, in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month?

 
Can you see it?

 
 

Well guess what…I’m not just sporting a pink ribbon on my shirt. Every single facet of Abby Gabs is donned in pink—and it’s easy for you to join me! Just click on the tab at the top of the page titled “Web Wide Pink Out” and you’ll find a TON of free graphics to use on your Twitter account, Facebook timeline, and more!  I would love you even more than I already do if you helped me on my mission to turn the internet pink in October. ♥♥♥
 

 
 

Have a beautiful Friday.
 

 
 

Love,
 

Abby

October Is Brought To You By The Color Pink

Breast Cancer. 

Those two little words came into my life for the first time in 2003. My Mom–Super Warrior Princess that she is–battled the disease and won. I told you all about her story last year. 



But what you don’t know is that breast cancer runs rampant on both sides of my family tree. I lost two great-grandmothers to breast cancer, one on each side. A great aunt on my Dad’s side of the family also lost her life to the disease. My maternal grandmother had a scare in her twenties that left her shaken but safe. And my Aunt Myra–my mother’s oldest sister–has battled cancer not once, but twice.

Double mastectomies, radiation, chemotherapy, Tamoxifen, metastatic, lymphnode removal…these are words in our family vernacular. We know what each word means without explanation. We’ve shaped the words in our mouths, each one spoken leaving a mark on the ones around us. We’ve named the drugs, the treatments, the procedures so many times we could spell them in our sleep. We sport scars on our chests, and uneven breasts from lumpectomies and reconstruction surgeries. We warn those women we love best to practice self-examination, without shame, but with determined regularity. 

We are Pink Warriors, each woman in my family.

That is why, each and every October, I institute a “pink out” across my many forms of social media. My personal Facebook page gets a makeover:



My Twitter page gets an overhaul:




And as you can see, Abby Gabs has joined the party this year with an all-pink background.

My goal isn’t to inundate you with pink. I’m not trying to beat you over the head with the breast cancer awareness stick, or make you uncomfortable by talking about health issues or make you blush by mentioning boobies.

The truth of the matter is that, in my family, we fly pink like a flag. Because to us, it stands for strength. Hope. Victory. And I will continue to sport that pink ribbon faithfully—for my Mom, for my Aunt, for my Grandmother, for my Great-Grandmothers–and for all the women in the world who have faced breast cancer, victors or not.

And while October is breast cancer awareness month, and it’s when I fly my pink flag more prominently, I have decided that, along with my brother, I will be getting a tattoo this month so that I can wear my ribbon every single day.

I will wear it in honor of those women in my family who have given cancer the stiff arm. I will wear it in memory of those who have battled and lost. And I will wear it for myself–a woman who hopes that a cure will be found before I am forced into a battle of my own. 

Want to join us in our Web Wide Pink Out? I’d love to help. If you’d like a personalized profile picture bearing the pink ribbon symbol, a Twitter background similar to mine, or a Facebook timeline cover, let me know!  If you don’t want one specific to you and your family, you can also check out the new tab above for some generic breast cancer awareness buttons, banners, and profile picture options. I’m thrilled to help you spread the word about breast cancer awareness, one ribbon at a time.

Also, I’m joining up with this week’s crew over at yeahwrite’s speakeasy to help spread the word. It’s a story worth sharing, if nothing else. And after this week, they’re going to a short-fiction-only format. So I wanted one last opportunity to join up with the mighty forces of the speakeasy. Stop by and read the other awesome bloggers taking part this week.

Be Enough Me: It’s That Time. Again.

We’ve been down this road before, more than once. Ovulation charts, fertility monitors, basal thermometers. The overwhelming sadness and defeat that comes with negative pregnancy tests. The wave of hope that comes with a new pill. The nights laying awake, imagining the moment when I can finally announce to the world that I am with child.


When Brian got sick in 2010, all those plans went on the back burner.  Birthing plans turned into survival plans. Daydreams about a tow-headed toddler were replaced with nightmares of losing my partner. The constant chirp-chirp-chirp of the monitors were for my husband, battling cancer, not for me, a new baby in my arms. Priorities were rearranged. The bottle of Clomid was shoved into the corner of the medicine cabinet, replaced with pain pills, stool softeners, vitamins and Scarguard. When your husband is fighting for his life, the last thing on your mind is where you are in your menstrual cycle.


Here we are, almost a year and a half after Brian’s surgery, and that familiar yearning, that tug on my heart, that desperate desire to be a mother, has returned.


It never really went away. I’ve always wanted children, for as long as I can remember. We were distracted for awhile, by an ugly monster named Cancer, but that distraction is over. And now, the time to start over, to try again, has arrived.


As the end of the year approaches, and with it, Brian’s graduation from nursing school, my anxiety increases. I point my browser to all those familiar websites, rereading articles on infertility treatments that I could already recite in my sleep. I find myself flipping through the pages of the numerous pregnancy books already on my shelf. My list of baby names has already started growing again. 


Every day, as I jog around our property, iTunes in my ear, my mantra has changed. No longer do I hear “breathe in, breathe out” as my feet pound the ground. Now it’s “baby, baby.” With every inch I lose, every pound I drop, I feel like I’m closer to my goal. Not to fit into a pair of jeans. But to get my body healthy. So I can carry a baby.


At least once a day I find myself standing in front of a mirror, hands on my stomach, lost in a daydream of “what if” and “when.”


For now, the timing still isn’t right. There are tests to be taken, finals to study for, and projects to complete. It gives me time to get myself ready–mentally, physically, emotionally–for the road we are about to travel again. To prepare myself for the roller coaster that goes with trying to get pregnant when you’ve failed so many times before.


For now, we proceed without the aid of doctors. No drugs, no treatments, no hormones. Just us. 


For now, I pour myself into the other children in my life. I am actively spoiling my godchildren…



…and I will continue to champion little Everett, until he is well and home with his family again.


For now, I am simply in the planning stages. Thinking over my strategies. Hoping beyond hope that we won’t need medical intervention. Trying to stamp out my fear of failure and, ultimately, the inability to get pregnant at all. 



I will face my fears and start over. Again. Because I must. Because destiny tells me I must. And because this time, just maybe, we will be successful.



 

Be Enough Me: The Best Present Of All

Every year, when the turkey’s gone, our bellies full, and the dishes done, I start to get that excited, fluttery feeling in my heart. I crave the smells of a Douglas fir, cookies fresh from the oven, wintery air that’s frosty on my nose. My fingers itch to wrap presents, hang ornaments, and write cheerful holiday cards. I start my mornings with flavored coffees–pumpkin and cinnamon and peppermint. Bing Crosby, Elvis, and Harry Connick, Jr. serenade me on a daily basis.

It’s Christmastime. My favorite time of year.

Every year, as the tree goes up in the stand, and the lights are untangled and wrapped around the boughs, there’s a smile in my heart that can’t be erased. Each tiny ornament has such significant meaning, it’s a celebration as I unwrap each one. “Here’s the one from the year we got married!” I exclaim. Or “This is the first one you ever bought for me!” And “Oh, I forgot about this one! Look, Brian! It’s the silly kitty with the flowerpot on his head!”

Others hold more emotional memories: the white angel holding a kitten for the spring when Eddie died, the glass ornament with the cancer awareness ribbon bearing the date of Brian’s surgery. These baubles bring tears to my eyes each time I see them.

Each ornament is placed on the tree with care. Silver balls and glass crystals are added as the perfect light catchers. The blue bow goes on top, and the snowy white tree skirt below. Now comes my favorite part.

We turn off all the lights in the house, except the tree. We stand back, hand in hand, and just look. Music plays quietly in the background. A cat sniffs at a low-hanging branch, feigns indifference, and curls up beneath it instead. The blue lights are cool, bringing winter to our mild, warm climate. In silence we stand, contemplating. I’m sure Brian is looking at his handiwork, looking for gaps or blank spots, searching with his eyes to find an imperfection he can fix.

My eyes fill with tears as I think about the child we are without again this year. My heart breaks a little more. My arms ache. I wonder if we’ll ever have the chance to share all this love with a child of our own.

“What do you think? Should we add one more strand of lights?” my husband’s voice rocks me from my reverie. I look at him, bathed in blue light, a smile on his face. My hearts swells, heals, fills.

I know there will be a night sometime soon when I’m at home alone. I’ll turn off all the lights, lay beneath the boughs of my Christmas tree, and weep: for the child that wasn’t created this year, for the emptiness of my womb, for another Christmas gone by without the laughter of children to fill our home. That will be the night that I allow myself to feel those feelings I stamp down on most every other night of the year.

But tonight? Tonight there is too much joy in this room to dwell on sadness. I sigh, wrap my arms around my husband, and say, “If we add many more lights, they’ll be able to see us from the International Space Station.”

“Isn’t that the goal?” he jokes. And I silently thank the fates that I still have him in my life. My husband, my partner, my best friend…the best present of all.

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