This blog is for Jim Marventano's family and friends to review his status and updates while he goes through treatment for Stage IV Colon Cancer. We can beat it together!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Really cancer? WTF.

So, that's the gentle title for today's post. In the last post I mentioned that things have been a wee bit tough around here. So here's part of the story that goes with that. I've held on to this blog for a few weeks but now is the time to post it.

Really?  R.E.A.L.L.Y.? What the hell, cancer? Because...wouldn't you think that we've paid our dues to cancer because we lost Jim? I'm gonna say yes. Apparently that wasn't enough. And there's no easy way to say it. We recently found out that my sister-in-law Becky has Hodgkin's lymphoma. FUCK. Are you kidding me? Becky is married to my brother Kevin, and they have a handsome, sweet, brilliant little 18 month old boy named Darby.

Fill in the blank here...
Jim is to Kate as _____ is to Kevin.

We Fergusons tend to marry people that balance us out. People that are the missing component in our family. People that have good strong personalities and a solid head on their shoulders. Heaven knows we need it. Becky is everything to Kevin (and to the rest of our family, for that matter) that Jim was to me.

Kevin did a lot 'o livin before he met Becky. With Becky, Kevin managed to put himself through school while working full time, find a great job after he graduated, and together they have the cutest little boy to walk the streets of Kohler. (Anyone who wants to fight for that title will have to see me, his Aunt Kate.) Kevin and Becky moved to Kohler a few months ago. Ironically, they ended up moving in i.m.m.e.d.i.a.t.e.l.y. n.e.x.t. d.o.o.r. t.o. m.e. My parents bought the house next door, and then promptly contracted a case of buyer's remorse. So they offered to sell the house to Kevin and Becky if Kev could find a job. Well, Kev nailed the first job he interviewed for and started work on February 14. They opted to move to Kohler for the same reasons we all do - a better quality of life. They were in St. Paul before that, and with big city living also comes big city price tags. So here they are. Next door. I fretted that things would be awkward. And then you know what happened? Becky just flat out said to me "I don't want this to be an 'Everybody Loves Raymond' scenario." Yeeeeessssssss...Becky, you are my kind of girl.

So, here they are in Kohler. Over the last couple of years, Becky has lost significant amounts of weight. At first, we praised her for losing weight after Darby was born. Then I was annoyed as I watched her get thin and more than a wee bit jealous of her slim figure. Recently she's been fretting about the weight because it's been coming off despite her eating normally - bearing in mind that the Ferguson version of normal is 3x more than the average person. She'd been to the doctor twice in St. Paul, worried about the weight loss. Her thyroid and bloodwork tested fine. They told her her body was just leveling out after Darby's birth.

She recently decided that she was ready to try again and figure out this weight loss thing. It's been bothering her.

20 minutes into a meeting with our general doctor (a shout out to Dr. Michelle for actually listening to her), Dr. Michelle told Becky that she thought she might have some form of lymphoma and that she needed a scan and bloodwork done immediately. They are so new in town that Becky didn't even know how to get to the doctor's office, let alone hear news like that and then figure out where to go for the scan. She called my parents (who happened to be visiting) and my dad and I went to pick her up.

While at the scan, drinking the lovely contrast mixture, she looked at me and said "What are the odds that Jim moved to Kohler and got diagnosed with cancer, and now I move to Kohler and get diagnosed with cancer?" Ffffffff. I don't know. I said "The odds are pretty damn slim, Becky. Let's hope that works in our favor!" It didn't. The radiologist read the report immediately. We got on the phone with the doctor. Yes, everything appears to be consistent with lymphoma.

Becky has already had some lymph nodes removed and biopsied. And she's already met with Dr. Kumar at my beloved Vince Lombardi Cancer Clinic. And she's already got her port.

The good news: Becky's bloodwork all came back completely normal. Yippee! She got her first chemo treatment on Tuesday, and they fawned all over her at the Vince. Of course they did, because they're amazing like that. I still keep hoping that maybe it's all a big mistake and that she just needs to drink more water. Or something silly like that. The success rates for Hodgkin's lymphoma are astoundingly positive. The doctor repeated many times "Becky, I need to stress that this is VERY treatable." Good. Because for heaven's sakes, she's got an adorable little boy at home that needs her...and I'm not just referring to my brother. ;-)

Unfortunately, Becky's two major encounters with cancer have included her mother, who she lost to breast cancer when Becky was only eight years old. And Jim. (The doctor said that the lymphoma is not related to Becky's family history.) Becky and Jim had a unique relationship, as adjusting to the Ferguson lifestyle requires a support group all it's own. They were fond of each other, and both of them have a keen sense of wit - apparently that's a must-have for dealing with the Ferguson clan.

I laughed and said that it's pretty scary when you're dealing with the Ferguson clan for your support network. But if there's one thing Fergusons can do, it's rally. We're mixing the Ferguson affinity for the excessive with the notorious Ferguson temper. Lymphoma? Ha! You don't have a chance around here. Becky is a Ferguson. She may have been born a Garner and raised by Siranys...but she's a Ferguson. We're like the Hotel California. You can check out but you can never leave. Poor Jim...with a good strong last name like Marventano, we still considered him a Ferguson. (I'm sure he would have begged to differ, but you couldn't tell my brothers anything else.) We are fiercely protective of our own. And Becky's got her fighting gloves on. Bring it.

I'm saddened and angry. I'm downright pissed. I thought we were done with this. It's brought up emotions and memories I'd forgotten about. The smell of chemo. Feeling guilty when I left the house for a girl's night. The emotional rollercoaster that accompanies news like this. Even sitting out on the hospital lawn, crying into the phone, talking to Jim's sister after they gave us the news. Kevin and Becky have a long summer ahead, but I don't have a single shred of doubt that they will be victorious.

I love Becky for the woman and mom that she is; for her biting wit and frank words; for her empathy and caring. I also love her for loving my brother, and allowing him to be who he is, and helping bring him to his fullest potential.

Becky, if it's any comfort, you've got the crazy, hot tempered, protective, excessive Fergusons behind you. We love you with reckless abandon because you are our family. It will be okay. You will be okay. And when we get your "No Evidence of Disease" notice, it's going to be NUTS. You belong with us like peanut butter belongs with jelly. Or, in Ferguson a bratwurst and a cold beer on a hot summer day.

We love you.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

All That is Good

Lately, it seems that so many things going on around me are unjust. It's not fair. No one deserves cancer, or job loss, or other myriad problems that the people closest to me are experiencing.

After a particularly tough last month or so, I've decided to blog about what's good and just in my life. I have always maintained that one of my roles in life is to just BE fun. And HAVE fun. And experience fun with great FRIENDS. (The little girls in Rachel's class all tease me because "FUN" is my word.) I know I should be more...academic. Or cerebral. Or serious. Or grounded. Or have more convictions. Or have a better work ethic. But you know...I'm willing to leave that to other people. Of course there are times and places for things; but I prefer to rest on a lighter note than most people. I am generally a very happy person.

So here are the things that I believe are good and right going on around me that I haven't paid attention to lately:
1. My brother and sister-in-law moved in immediately next door to me. This is a golden opportunity for me to develop a better relationship with them, and with my nephew Darby. It's not like Kev and I weren't close, but he's always had his life and I've had mine...and we just dealt with our own lives. Here we are, in what is possibly the cutest town in the United States. We're living in a Norman Rockwell painting of backyard barbecues, tons of kids, beautiful tree-lined streets, and adorable little 1920's houses. My brother is teaching my son to play pinball on his xbox. My sister-in-law is younger and prettier and cooler than me - Rachel hangs around Becky like it's her job. Rachel and Jake can't get enough of playing with their cousin Darby. What a tremendous gift. My brother Tom is coming to visit this weekend for a quick trip. Tom is really the glue that holds the three of us together. He's insistent and persistent on calls and visits. Between the three of us we don't have a shred of sibling rivalry and I'm grateful for that.

2. Yesterday I went out to breakfast with my two future sister-in-laws, Susan and Cheryl. I was so proud to sit there with them. I have a very best friend in Susan, and I have a great potential friend in Cheryl. We didn't run out of things to talk about, that's for sure. Cheryl lives in Colorado - she's married to John and Susan's brother Doug. I don't get to see Cheryl that often. This is only my second time since John and I started dating. We all jokingly referred to my first meeting with Cheryl as "The Interview" because John *really* respects Cheryl and Doug's opinion. Like I wasn't sweating that! But yesterday was far more casual (for me at least) and I was absolutely delighted to spend the time with both of them. Marrying John means I'll be inheriting four more nieces and nephews. And I love being an aunt.

3. Speaking of friends, man - my group is the bomb. I have a gang of girls that run around together and we can get pretty rowdy when we're laughing and having fun. Sometimes we laugh so hard we've got tears streaming out of our eyes and I feel like I might wet my pants. We talk about issues - political and social, world and local. We talk about our kids. We talk about what's coming next in our lives. We talk about what didn't work as we thought it would, and about what did. I know I can call any one of those girls and at the drop of a hat, they'll be there. We've been through everything together - from cancer to childbirth to job loss to new opportunity. We've been through death, divorce, home remodels, and new love. We've suffered when someone is hurting and we've rejoiced when someone is happy. And you know what's funny? We've been through all that in the last 5 years or so. I cherish my group as much as my own family.

4. My kids, while tough to manage, are good and just. They are happy children, despite the fact that they lost their dad to cancer. They are very normal children. They have the most amazing manners. (At least in front of me they do.) They are also crude and going through a potty mouth phase, which I find disgusting and normal. They are healthy. They are healthy. They are healthy, And my God, I am thankful for that. Because I know full well that other parents are suffering far more than I ever have in my life.

5. I just got to take a trip to Savannah. Because I have a job, and John has a job. And because my in-laws came to watch the kids. Because I knew I could leave the kids with two people who love them very, very much. Janet and Jim got to be here for Grandparent's Day at school, and I know my kids were delighted to have them. Rachel and Jake get to go camping with their Aunt Judi and Uncle Mark and cousins Kirsten and Sean this summer, and that will be a real treat for them.

6. Don't laugh about my number six. We're celebrating the small things here. I'm going to give a shout out to Sprinkles cupcakes. And cupcakes in general. And the fact that I've learned to make cakepops. (Thanks to Amy Krueger for inspiring that one!) Because you know what? It's little things that make every day life special. And I think cupcakes are special. ...Other small things? I am getting pretty good at trap shooting. And I have a great friend, Liz Schumacher, who talked me into it. We shoot every Tuesday. Last Tuesday I brought Rachel and Jake, and Rachel told me that she wants to start shooting as soon as she's old enough. Well hot dang. That's one of the reasons I'm doing this. So they can eventually do something their father enjoyed. And I finished the Green Bay Half Marathon with my mom this last weekend. I'm not the fastest out there (and thankfully not the slowest either!) but I am out there. We are healthy and able to run 13.1 miles.

7. I have the best parents *ever*. Don't even try to tell me that your parents are better than mine. They aren't. And I thank God every day that they are healthy.

8. It's freezing STILL here in Wisconsin. But hey, I'm living in Wisconsin and I'm thankful for that. I'm thankful to be near family. I miss my old digs in Atlanta. God knows I miss Sara and Paul, Christine, and Amy and Erik. But Wisconsin is a blessing of beautiful summers, magnificent fall leaves, awesome cheese, rolling hills and amber waves of grain. And hops. And barley. And Miller Brewing Company.

9. What is just and good in my life is that I have found love again. Not just some dud I picked up on the street. This guy is the human version of kobe steak. He's brilliant and funny and good looking. He's charming and I love his laugh. He's fun and creative. He loves me and he loves my kids. And the kids love him. This week they are experimenting with calling him "Dad", which breaks my heart and then fills it. John makes me feel whole again. When I think about John, my heart swells and I am overcome with emotion. I consider John a direct gift from God. No kidding. In the end, my kids will have three families to love them. I will have found outrageously good love in my life - twice.

Yeah, things suck right now. It's been seriously tough times around here. But look at all the things I have that *are* fair. That *are* right. The fact that I am able to look around, enjoy the blooming tulips and daffodils, smell the clean Wisconsin air (sometimes tinged with the smell of the Kohler foundry or cow poop), run, jump, dance with my kids and my nieces and nephews, breathe, and eat cupcakes - these are all my blessings. The fact that I have friends and family with which to share love is far and away the greatest blessing of my life. That is the justice for which I've been yearning.