I got married a week ago. Now I'm sitting on a tan pleather couch in room 3535 of a local hospital's oncology unit. My sweet husband is snoring softly while chemo drugs drip and sputter from bags hanging on his IV pole.
Last Saturday after our wedding reception, John surprised me with a reservation for 2 nights at a hotel downtown. We had some wine, giddily recapped our favorite moments, and giggled looking through the hysterical photo booth strips from our reception.
John had a hard time sleeping because his legs, knees, and chest hurt. (He has arthritis and needs new knees, so leg/knee pain isn't unusual but chest pain was.) Early in the morning, he took a long, hot bath, which seemed to help but I was worried and suggested we go to prompt care. He insisted he wanted to wait. After some Ibuprofen and a yummy room service breakfast, he said he felt better. He'd gotten us tickets to see A Christmas Carol and really wanted to go. He promised to go to prompt care when the play was over. I asked someone to snap a pic of us before we left the hotel and it breaks my heart to see how badly he clearly was feeling:
After the play, he felt much worse. He said it felt like someone was squeezing his chest. I suggested an ambulance but he refused. On the way to prompt care, his condition had deteriorated so much, he was groaning in pain and couldn't finish a sentence. I was terrified and headed straight to the nearest ER.
I'd been texting my Mom throughout the day because I was worried. She suggested he might have pneumonia, based on his symptoms and the fact that he'd had it last summer. That made sense to John and me. I tend to be a catastrophic thinker but even I never thought, "I BET HE HAS CANCER."
After lots of tests at the ER, alarming results started cluing the doctors into something serious. A few hours after we arrived, a kind doctor came in to chat with us. Eventually, she very gently mentioned the possibility of cancer - lymphoma or leukemia, she said - but that seemed so heinous and severe, we tried to remain hopeful while we waited for more test results.
They admitted him and while he was getting settled, I went to our hotel to get our things. It felt like I was moving in slow motion. I remember going into the bathroom to gather our toiletries when I hit a wall of panic I couldn't ignore. It completely took my breath away. I leaned on the vanity and gasped for air. After a few moments, something inside me said to just do the next right thing. I remember packing his new wedding shoes, barely crimped from the day's events, and an unopened bottle of Rose into his duffle bag. I practically drug our things to the car, already heavy with the weight of impending grief.
The next day, he underwent a bone marrow biopsy. By the following day, an oncologist gave John 90% confirmation that it was leukemia. We decided to wait until the diagnosis was completely confirmed to tell the kids. We found out early Wednesday morning, and told the kids later that day. John moved to the oncology unit and started chemo that night, our fifth day of marriage.