Sunday, November 27, 2016

Awful, Beautiful Life

My husband has served in the Navy for 10 years. I'll be honest, it took me years to adjust to this lifestyle. In my defense, I was seventeen years old when he enlisted and I was twenty when I became his wife. I grew up fast, not because I wanted to, but because I had to. I was thrown into a world that was completely foreign to me. Being that neither one of us grew up as a military brat, we were navigating this new world completely on our own. I learned very quickly that I have no control over what happens in my life. He missed anniversaries, birthdays, and countless holidays. I was always alone as he was always gone. We have done our fair share of moves and my husband has deployed three times. I have always been proud to be a military wife. It gave me a different sense of pride in my husband. I was the only one in my group of friends that was with someone in the military. It made me special. The major thing that was a constant occurrence in our lives was the fact that we could never really talk about what was actually going on in our lives. My husband is an IT, so we never talked about what his job entailed but along with that, we rarely talked about big changes in our lives (deployment dates, homecoming dates...dates in general) partly because of security reasons, but mainly because things are always subjected to change. I can't could how many times things would be going one way and then bam, within a few hours the entire plan has changed.

So why am I writing about this? Well, this life that we have grown to know, the life we have grown together into, is ending in the next few months. I know, it's a surprise to us too. If you think back to my last post, I had terrible news. Josh's tumor had spread and they were to cancel our VA board and his medical retirement. Well, things have changed. Literally in a few days our life flipped around and we were finally given good news. After that post, Josh walked in Tuesday morning to muster and his liaison between us and the med board handed him his VA ratings! He came home, handed them to me and we both just sat there in disbelief. I kept telling him "They were supposed to cancel these! What the hell!"After months and months of waiting, I was actually pissed off that they didn't get canceled! Go figure, lol. After collecting ourselves, we walked over to Navy Safe Harbor to see what our options were. I had assumed that the results held no value since they were supposed to be canceled. NOPE! We were told that if we wanted to accept the finds, we could and we could actually go home! We of course didn't want to make such a huge decision right away so we went home to weigh our options. You are allowed 10 days to either accept or decline your ratings. That mean't we had 10 days to get our life in order and develop a plan. Our first order of business was to get Josh's oncologist on board. I was nervous to do this as we had already started planning on starting another round of chemotherapy. Luckily for us, his doctor is very understanding and he always treats his patients with their best interest at hand. So, I had the daunting task of asking for his professional opinion. We could stay up here for almost two years and have Josh go through another round of chemotherapy, in a place that we honestly hate OR go home and have him be happy going through chemotherapy around friends, family, and in our house with our dog. Easy choice right? Well, we weighed more than just that. We have fantastic doctors up here and though we hate this place, we are offered way more medical advances then what we would find in small town Palm Bay. Honestly, it was down to stay here and have great doctors but be miserable, or go home, be happy and still get a great doctor. So I sent the best email of my life to his oncologist. I pleaded our case. His doctor emailed me back hours later and had no objection to us going home. He even offered up a referral for a doctor in Orlando and a treatment plan. Along with that, he set us up with a second opinion with a Oncologist at Johns Hopkins as well as an appointment at NIH to be placed in the system for drug trials.

The appointment at Johns Hopkins was with a colleague of our doctor. We were mainly there to just get a second opinion, what our options were, and if he agreed that we should go home to Florida or not. If you saw on Facebook, I was really into this doctor. He explained a lot of things to us, a lot more in detail about Josh's cancer and the treatment options offered to him. My husband though, was more into how cool the toilets were at the hospital, haha. All in all the doctor didn't tell us anything we didn't already know, except for the fact that Josh has a slow growing tumor and that he thinks we will be okay with delaying chemotherapy for a couple of months. Our appointment to NIH was nothing crazy (and their bathrooms weren't super cool!) We met with a doctor that said Josh will qualify for a drug trial coming out later next year. However, this drug trial is only offered up here so that would mean us having to come back up here for treatment. While we are not completely apposed to the drug trials, Josh's body responded really well to the first round of chemotherapy. Along with that, Josh is considered very healthy aside from the cancer and crohns. A drug trial could make this worse. It could cause new symptoms or make him even more sick. (Josh's edit: Even though the bathrooms weren't cool, they had two huge fish tanks in the admissions and clinic area that were pretty freakin' cool. It made up for their bathrooms not being cool)

So we weighed our options, talked it over with a lawyer, and we finally came to a decision. On Monday, November 14th Josh signed his ratings. He received a 100% on both the VA side and the DOD side. He will get tricare for life and he will receive 75% of his base pay for the rest of his life. I honestly feel as if a weight has been lifted off of our shoulders. The next month or so will fly by and soon enough we will be home in Florida. Josh has to do the normal check out but it shouldn't be to crazy. We are so anxious to get home and move into our house!

This past week was Thanksgiving. We were able to have my mom fly up here to celebrate it with us and my brother's family. Last Tuesday we had an appointment with Josh's oncologist to meet up with him and discuss what the results were from our second opinions. He actually wanted to start Josh on chemotherapy this up coming Tuesday and we decided against it. I strongly feel that Josh needs to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas on his terms. Both doctors agree that we can wait a month or two so Josh will start treatment when we move home or at the latest, February. Thanksgiving was great and I was so happy to be surrounded by family. In two weeks, Josh and I will be flying home to spend Christmas in Florida. We will be there for 10 days and I am so excited to be hosting dinner at our house.

Above all else, the one thing that this cancer has taught me is that you can never plan for anything. The moment you feel as if you have a routine down and you can take a breath, life throws a wrench into all of your planning and you're scrambling to get your life back in order. While most people look at this situation as a daunting task, I have grown accustomed to it. My life is full of ups and downs, twist and turns and it is never a dull moment. For that I am thankful. For my husband I am thankful. And for this time I have with him, I am forever thankful.

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