I would be remiss if I did not take a moment and give a special thanks to the people who have been there for me every step of the way ? my family.
aka Bryan's Mom
Barbara?is a survivor in her own right. ?She is over a decade removed from major open-heart surgery to repair an aortic aneurism. ?The aneurism was found during a screening for a bone marrow?transplant?she was being prepped for. ?My Mom was a perfect match for my Aunt Donna?s bone marrow, who was battling leukemia at the time. ?Although my Aunt passed away from this terrible disease Aunt Donna left us with a message of hope, grace and most importantly, love.
My mother has never shied away from suffering ? she is a caregiver by job description [she is a Registered Nurse] but it goes far beyond that. ?My mother has held her own mother?s hand as she died from a long, hard fought, battle with breast cancer. ?My mother has aided her father in his battle with lymphoma ? Papa Sasso is a 10+ year survivor of lymphoma!
I cannot even imagine the emotions she went through after finding out her son had cancer. ?Nevertheless she came to the fight ready to play the only role necessary ? Mom. ?My doctor actually said he already had the best medical personnel on the team and he wanted my Mom to focus on being a Mom. ?So for Cycles 1, 4 and 6 my Mom spent 7 days on our couch ? finding joy in the little things [walks up the stairs, watching immature comedies, making tater tots, etc.]. ?Thanks Mom!
aka Bryan's Dad
Terry?was present, along with Jen, for the extremes of chemo. ?During Cycle 2 I had major nausea and vomiting ? to the point where anything [sound, smell, taste] was sensory overload. ?It was during this Cycle that the infamous ?A-Hole Bryan? first reared his ugly head. ?He fantasized about throwing Jen off of our 4th floor balcony in order to avoid having to take anymore Prednisone [the steroid that helped protect my body but also caused this very rage – it also tasted like death itself]. ??A-Hole Bryan? also had a run-in with my Dad. ?As Dad was cleaning up in the kitchen he was making a little noise taking care of the trash and recycling but ?A-Hole Bryan? was having none of it. ?So although my scream was only as loud as a whisper I got his attention. ?Unbeknownst to Dad, his?wind-pants?were making their ubiquitous ?swoosh? as he moved around the condo and that sound was like nails on a?chalkboard?to Bryan. ?This fantasy envisioned the slicing of Dad?s achilles tendon ? therefore taking care of the ?swooshing.? ?The simpler solution was my Dad just changing his pants [I never said “A-Hole Bryan” was smart] and although this was a tough beginning to a Cycle for all, Dad and Jen were present for what I like to call the ?Christmas Morning? of chemo. ?On Day 8 [my Cycles were 21 days] I awoke to a feeling of peace and great hunger. ?Dad and I went for a 1 mile walk [I had barely left the bed, let alone the condo, the days before] and I preceded to eat 4000+ calories that day. ?I had gone from the greatest low to the greatest high ? and I?m so glad Dad was there to share it with us.
aka Bryan's Sister
Courtney?had the tough task of having to be physically removed from the chemo treatment. ?Courtney had already dealt with a cancer diagnosis amongst one of her close friends and had coped by being actively supportive right in the thick of it. ?So from the West Coast Courtney expressed to me that she wanted to do more ? she did not want to be cheering from the sidelines. ?I explained to Courtney that pride drove a wedge between her needs and mine ? I could not handle my little sister seeing me suffer. ?I kept her at arms reach because I did not want to see myself as vulnerable. ?It was tough enough dealing with Jen and my parents seeing me in the fetal position and that is where I drew the line. ?I am so thankful that Courtney shared her frustration during the treatment ? it was so nice to just be a brother and a sister ? there were no eggshells. ?Life did not pause for everyone around me ? they were going through their own struggles, not the least of which was how to cope with one of their friends/loved-ones battling cancer at age 28!
Courtney did not miss out on everything though. ?When she came to visit after my last chemo treatment, which also happened to be my birthday, she met ?A-Hole Bryan? face to red-face. ?Courtney asked the incredibly mean, annoying, antagonizing question [note: sarcasm] , ?Did you put sunscreen on?? to which ?A-Hole Bryan? unleashed a fury like no one had ever seen. ?We cried, laughed and hugged a few hours later and so to Courtney I say thank you and? your welcome!
aka Bryan's wife
Jen?is a calm, deliberate presence in my life who also enjoys a little silliness. ?Unfortunately she is married to ME! ?I can?t write too much before tearing up when thinking about what she has had to endure over the last 3 years. ?During chemo I cried out, ?I can?t do this!? to which she replied, ?But you ARE doing it.? ?Jen was and is always able to remind me of the small steps it takes to win a fight. ?We?ve shared lots of laughs, shed lots of tears ? in other words, we?ve lived. ?If each day is a gift, I can?t imagine a better person to unwrap it with.
aka Jen's Mom
Laurel?was present for Cycle 3 and gave the rallying cry, ?You?re doing great kiddo!? on her way to the airport as I had come out of the fog. ?She bought me a Nintendo DS to occupy me [when I was not passed out from the Benadryl] during my 6-1/2 hour chemo treatments. ?We share a love of Jen as well as all things technology. ?I am so very thankful for all that she taught Jen ? a patience like no other, which was our greatest asset during the treatment, which was most certainly a marathon, not a sprint. ?I know that Laurel is always there when we need her ? and we want her to know that we?re right here to return the favor.
aka Jen's Dad
Jeff?told my Mom [referring to Jen and I], ?These two can do this.? ?The ?this? he was referring to was BEAT cancer. ?Jeff?s confidence was inspiring, and it was coming from a place of both faith and fact. ?Jeff has a co-worker that is a lymphoma survivor and he prepared me for the anxiety that would be there after the active part of the treatment ended. ?The emotional roller coaster that is awaiting the results of a CT scan is hard enough when you are just scared of the results, let alone feeling that you are all alone in your anxiety. ?Jeff reminded me, and continues to remind me, that the ?waiting? is tough for even a 10+ year survivor but that the worry subsides over time. ?In other words, he told me that I was normal ? something I certainly don?t feel when the anxiety of ?waiting? overcomes me. ?Thank you Jeff for encouraging me to share even when the anxiety overwhelms me.
aka Jen's Sister
Laurie?also had the tough task of supporting us from afar. Right after finding out about the diagnosis, she set herself to making a?+ one Bracelet?for the family, using her skill set as as jewelry maker.? The red beaded bracelets included the words ?family,? ?love,? and ?faith? ? critical concepts particularly in our struggles after the diagnosis. She also sold these bracelets to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Her visit during radiation treatment also overlapped with a little ?A-Hole Bryan? but lots of hugs followed and she did get to see the big radiation machine ? which I describe as a giant Kitchen-Aid without the mixing bowl. ?Thank you Laurie!