Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Special Anniversary

Three years ago tonight my husband and I walked Brandon down the aisle. A few minutes later Christina's parents walked her down that same aisle where she and Brandon joined hands before committing themselves to one another for a lifetime. 
Exchanging vows
The entire wedding celebration seemed extra special because Brandon had "dodged a (cancer) bullet." Or so we thought. During the right maxillectomy surgery performed several months earlier, the cancer was found only on one small bone between the sinus and nares. No trace was found in any other area. He'd come through the two-month check-up with flying colors. He would not make it through the four-month check-up with a similar good report. Still, he and Christina enjoyed their wedding and honeymoon without the specter of cancer as an uninvited guest. One savors small miracles where one can find them, and this gift to the newlywed couple and to their families truly was a miracle.
The proud groom and his beautiful bride, Christina
First dance as husband and wife
Soon after returning from the Caribbean, an enlarged lymph node was discovered in Brandon's neck during his routine check. Further examination revealed a spot at the back of his throat, and the biopsy was positive for poorly differentiated squamous cell cancer - again. Now the newlyweds were thrust into a world of port-a-caths, chemo and radiation with all its side effects. 

If anything, these two became a stronger team, each supporting the other as more "spots" showed up on PET scans, through a welcomed pregnancy, during a long labor (in the midst of which Brandon had a chemo treatment), as they adjusted to life as first-time parents, and when Brandon's treatment options ran out.

Brandon and Christina committed themselves to one another for a lifetime on July 23, 2010. Their lifetime as husband and wife may have lasted only 22 months and a week, yet they truly lived and loved to the fullest for those almost two years - probably more than many couples live and love when given 50+ years to spend together. 

They celebrated their first anniversary - and the only one they spent together - at Boi Na Braza Brazilian Steakhouse. They toasted each other with caipirinhas and celebrated impending parenthood and their life together only days after a particularly disappointing PET scan. Last year on their second anniversary and this year on their third, Christina has marked the date by inviting a few family members and friends to join her at Boi Na Braza to again celebrate the life she and Brandon had together and the love they found in one another. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

More Words From the Pen of Brandon

Yesterday I shared a note Brandon wrote while wrestling with fear and negative thoughts about his journey with a stowaway that hid and then completely invaded his physical body. But it couldn't overwhelm his wonderful spirit or his zest for living while here, and it couldn't prevent him from thinking of and caring about others. 

A few days after his battle with negativity, he wrote the following to/for himself: 

* What can I do as a cancer patient that
   I don't/others-people don't think I can do?
* How can I raise $$ for the ca cause?
* Cancer Can't Stop Me
* Inspire other young adults that they can 
   still live their lives
* If I can help someone get out of the house,
  do anything they say you can't or don't need to
* LIFE with Chemo! It's On!
* Help others going through chemo fulfill a dream.
* Keep Living!
* You don't need to just sit around on a couch.

While dealing with the killer combo of regular chemo plus 5-day per week radiation treatments, Brandon told me that once he'd "kicked cancer's butt" he wanted to create an organization that would encourage and help those dealing with cancer to stay active. He wanted others with cancer to know it was possible to truly live and give during and after treatment. He practiced what he wanted to preach until his body absolutely refused to allow it. He continued to work and stay active (play) until a few weeks before his death. He continued to cook for his family until days before he entered the hospital. And he never stopped laughing, loving and living until he was "done. Done." 

Monday, July 15, 2013

In His Own Words

For Mother's Day this year, Brandon's wife Christina gave me a framed copy of some notes Brandon wrote on July 14, 2011. At that time he had just had a PET scan as a follow-up to treatment and was awaiting the results. Anyone who has had cancer, or who loves someone who has or has had cancer, knows the anxiety of waiting for test results. 

Here is what Brandon was thinking at this time only two short years ago -- spelling mistakes and all!

7/14 (2011)
Gotta Stay Strong!
Can't Give In!
This is ridiculous. The negative thoughts
just keep trying to creep in. Can't let them
take over. Must fight them back.
Sick of all the sympathy.