Steven and I have both been grown-ups for a long time. It’s not that we’re all that old (well, he is but I’m not) but we are both “oldest children.” That family placement brings the unsolicited responsibility of having to grow up a little quicker than the rank and file kids. It had perks, but it often sucked. Early on we were expected to “keep and eye on your sister,” “show your brother how it’s done,” and the worst of all, “you need to set a good example for your brother (s) and/or sister.” It’s probably a point of contention with all of our younger sibs (the ‘good example’ clause), but Steven and I learned a long time ago that neither of us was going to enjoy the luxury of being coddled because there were others at home who needed parental attention more.
It is amusing that conversations about those times arise occasionally during family gatherings, it’s also funny that oldest children don’t really give a crap. We’re the oldest, we’re alway right. Case closed! It happens in every family with multiple kids. If you don’t believe me, scan through any psychology book. I’m right…again, which is still an oldest child trait! Quite frankly, what might have been a giant pain in the ass when we were high school age has been the luckiest life lesson of being independent and dealing with our problems alone. The fact that we have each other to lean on is a luxury that we have both enjoyed for the last 18 years only. Prior to that, no matter what our individual relationships brought, neither of us ever had the security of a partner who was really there to be a committed half of a team. So I ain’t bitchin’ about any of it.
My point is that neither of us EVER think of asking for help. We are the helpers. We are the one’s who do for others. We don’t ask for help. In 2004, we went through 9 months of chemo, radiation, lab tests, doctor’s appointments and all the other scheduling headaches that come with Large Diffused B-Cell Stage 4 Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. I took him to every doctor’s appointment except one. Every lab test was chauffeured by me. My brother Andy busted him out of the hospital once so I didn’t have to run out on my client. But Andy knows me so well that he didn’t ask what he could do, he just showed up and helped and then drove back to Miami. Technically I still didn’t ask! Throughout the entire ordeal, I only missed 2 days of work, and one of them was because I was sick! I’m not trying to impress you, I’m just making my point. Until now, we’ve been a secret society of TWO!
But things change, get worse and don’t go according to plan. We had to go to the ER last week. It was a Friday and Steven was a mess. He had passed out earlier in the week while trying to walk to the bathroom, AGAIN, and this time I couldn’t get him off the floor. This was going to have to be the last time, because I couldn’t lift him alone and he was getting too weak to help! Plus, it’s really not fun. The entire months of December and January had been one long wait for us with this kind of hijinks peppering the mix. Waiting for all the assorted doctors to have time, be back from vacation or the holidays and be available to us was hell and we were both suffering. Finally, Steven’s oncologist took the situation in hand and put it quite bluntly when I told him he just needed some help to get him through the weekend so we could keep our long awaited appointment with the Bone Marrow Specialist on Monday February 2. Dr. Sprawls told me to take him to the ER where he could be admitted for chemo because if we don’t get him started quick, he might not need to see the Bone Marrow Specialist. That was a cold wet slap in the face with reality. After taking a few short minutes to totally freak out, I got moving.
I made sure the dogs had food and water, that Steven had what he would need to spend a few days in the hospital and that there was enough Kleenex in my bag that I could make it through any unexpected surprises. The only thing I didn’t expect was that this would be an all day affair that would run into early evening. We arrived at the hospital early in the daylight, and Steven didn’t get a real room assigned for almost 8 hours. Surprisingly, the time went pretty fast for me, with all the tests and questions and comings and goings of the staff. Until I suddenly remembered that I didn’t leave any lights on in the house for the dogs, and this was really unusual for them to be alone for this long. Steven has been sick for a while and hasn’t really left the house for anything longer than a chemo treatment. And the puppy girl gets a little whacky when the situation seems like a free for all!
So for the first time, I called for help. I called my sister and asked her to go over to my house, check on the dogs and turn on some lights. She lives less than 5 miles from my house, but this was still HUGE for me. I was asking for help. And she was seemingly happy to help. I was in a daze for a bit.
Steven got his room and he was exhausted after a day of probing with no time or quiet for a nap. He told me to go home and since I was starving, I left. I called my sister to thank her for helping and she was on her way to pick up some Chinese take out. She asked me what I wanted and before I knew it, I was letting her take care of me again. It was great. And the sky didn’t fall!
This week, I put my brother Al in charge of finding a wheel chair. I kept trying to score a used one since our insurance coordinator assured me that a side deal would be way less expensive than a new one which would get about one wheel’s worth of benefit payment. But I didn’t have time to keep nagging all the decent possibilities on Craigslist. The only response I got came from a guy who I was pretty sure was holding duck tape and a machete while we were talking. So whether the wheelchair was actually in his possession or just being used by his next victim, I decided to block all his future calls just because of the extremely creepy feeling he emitted!
In the back of my mind I was hoping Al might have better luck, and in the nick of time and he came through with a chair which he delivered! He even ran me through the test drive of braking, folding, opening and using said wheelchair. It showed up just in time for our first outing to the Cancer Center for the dreaded Neulasta shot. (Note – so far so good on the Neulasta! After suffering though several of these shots, the doctor finally suggested that Steven take a Claratin the day before, of and after the shot and it might manage the side effects. I don’t get why, but it’s working!)
People always say, “Tell me how I can help.” I always thank them, and then just leave it. This time, I’m not going to be able to leave those offers on the table. I need help, Steven needs help and we’re both past the point keeping up our exclusive club of TWO.
We took a really, really, really HUGE step today. We signed up for Go Fund Me. If you think less of us for this, sorry. But we have donated to countless charities over the years, raised money for all kinds of local needs and generally tried to be good and generous humans. But the tables have turned. And we need help. And what you can do is donate to our mounting medical costs. We would appreciate it!