By RAHN ADAMS
As I write this column, we’re getting ready for the start—the real start—of a challenging summer, one that will require courage, patience and, above all, love.
Yesterday, the first day of summer, we touched all the bases—Boone, Morganton and Charlotte—on our own personal Field of Dreams in hopes of finally being safe at home when this is over. Yesterday it was mainly prep work looking toward Timberley’s surgery next week, not just medical stuff like having blood typed and matched, but also getting various things in order in Boone and Morganton.
This time next week, Timberley will be in surgery at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. From what we’ve been told, the surgery will last eight hours, with probably two more hours in the recovery room before she is taken to a regular hospital room. Her stay could last 7-10 days. Recuperation at home is expected to be around eight weeks.
For newcomers to this blog, Timberley was diagnosed with bladder cancer in early May after treatment for a bladder stone that had begun in late March and had ended, we’d thought, with the stone’s removal in early April. Though caught at an early stage, her type of cancer requires that her bladder be removed entirely. Doctors say all her CT scans have been good and that there is no evidence that her cancer has spread anywhere else.
Answers to other questions that you might have about dealing with bladder cancer may be found at bladdercancerwarrior.com. Timberley has gained some peace of mind from this particular website, which, by the way, is best accessed by laptop, not by cell phone. Melodie’s motto is, “Each day is a gift. How will you unwrap yours?” And that’s how we’re trying to approach this next stage of our lives—with as much positive energy as possible.
Certainly there are stressful aspects of this challenge with which many of you are well familiar from your own experiences, one of the greatest problems being the uncertainty inherent in dealing with the monolith that is the American healthcare system—in other words, not knowing what’s going on when so many different people are involved in one’s case. When one has been diagnosed with cancer, even waiting for the phone to ring with word from this doctor or that physician’s assistant or even from a medical office assistant requires great patience, among other virtues.
There is no doubt that Timberley’s surgery will be life-changing and that the next few months will be difficult as she recovers and as we adjust to our new lives with some new limitations. That’s why we—we’re retired teachers, remember—sat down several weeks ago, organized our own PLT (personal learning team) and wrote out some goals to pursue after next week’s surgery, first some simple ones like walking around the block, attending church again on Sunday mornings, and going out once or twice a month to hear our musical friends play and sing. Finally, a PLT meeting with relevance.
Our other objectives are more challenging. Second-tier goals include walking from our house all the way to the courthouse square and back; rejoining the alto section of the church choir (Timberley, not me); and taking in a Hickory Crawdads game now and then with friends. The third and most advanced level involves hiking a trail, even an easy one, at Lake James State Park where until recently we were doing book research, or off the Blue Ridge Parkway or at Grandfather Mountain; and watching the sun either set or rise (or both, which would require two separate visits and two scrumptious meals) at Inlet View Bar & Grill at Shallotte Point, N.C., near where we used to live and work.
And then there is THE DANCING—notice it’s in all caps—which will be considerably harder for me than for Timberley, I’m sure. As she has already made Facebook official, she and I will go dancing somewhere on New Year’s Eve, preferably to the music of Carolina Beach Music Hall of Fame member Gene Pharr & Continental Divide, our favorite regional beach band, wherever they might be that night.
That shouldn’t be too much of a problem if we can just talk Continental Divide into adding Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” to their repertoire. My pump does have to be primed, so to speak, but that’s the song that usually gets me up from the dark table in the back of the room and onto the dance floor before the end of the night.
I’ve never been much of a dancer. That goes back to my upbringing as a Southern Baptist preacher’s kid. (Take a minute here to recall your favorite joke about Baptists, premarital sex and dancing.) But I’m willing to take on the challenge of learning to dance to something other than “Rock With You,” no matter how sober I am and how silly I look under the disco lights, as Timberley and I see to its end what was already a difficult year for our families before her diagnosis.
As the psalmist says: “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness.”
Or as K.C. & the Sunshine Band put it: “Girl, to be with you is my favorite thing, yeah. And I can’t wait ’til I see you again, yeah. I want to put on my, my, my, my, my boogie shoes, yeah, to boogie with you.”
It’s all good. It has to be.