It's a creekmore world

Cancer Week #22: Taking out a contract on her tit, and the big 101st surprise!

Billy Gould (upper left), Jon Hudson (lower left), Mike Patton (right)

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It’s a tale as old as the hills.  You love something. But it tries to murder you.

So you kill it.

That’s our love story with Trish’s left boob.  It’s sad, but true.

When I met that boob, it was so tiny.  Really, it was.  Trish was in J-school and had lost dozens of pounds from stress.  Much to my delight, she regained a healthy weight and that little thing grew into a curvy, voluptuous bag of fat and breast tissue.

But then it kept growing.  And now it wants her dead.

So we’ve taken out a contract on the ungrateful little boob.  It’s Monday, September 20th and in two short days, the hitman-surgeon will kill that little bitch, her cancerous left tit, that I once loved.  The right one, an innocent bystander, will be executed along with it.   Sorry, righty.

It’s nothing personal.  Just business.

The 101st surprise

She's here!  Happy Cancer!
I know you’re all excited about the 101st surprise so I won’t keep you waiting.

The surprise has been the impact this blog has had on so many people.  We’ve heard from friends, family, acquaintances and internet strangers that Trish’s story is inspiring.

One person said it improved their marriage, others said it helped them deal with their own illnesses, several admired the story of modern love

I’m not bragging, truly.  Be assured, I never intended to do that.  It happened accidentally.

As a travelling family, we blogged (a month in the Middle East, Yucatan sea and jungle, Italy on Easter) to record the family adventures for our girls.  We wanted them to be impressed with what they accomplished at such a young age, and to preserve their young spirit of travel.

Don’t stop the adventure

And when the cancer began, I hijacked our travel blog to keep close family and friends informed and connected.  It was, in some ways, easier to write and post what was going on, than to talk to each person on the phone.

But as I wrote and took pictures, I realized that our experience needed to read like one of our travelling adventures.  But I wasn’t travelling, so I had to make the adventure myself.

Presto! Cancerpalooza had begun.

The erie exit from Zedikiah's cave, Jerusalem.

We never thought it would have this kind of profound impact on other people.  For that, Trish and I are both surprised, grateful and humbled.

And we know we are still very lucky to respond the way we did.  There are people that have it far worse than we do; people without family, without decent jobs, medical care or more serious illnesses. Not everyone has the chance to do it.

But if you do, take our advice:  don’t stop the adventure. And, oh yeah,  Fuck Cancer.

Still smiling after 3 miles of hard hiking.

The gates of purgatory

It’s Tuesday, and we’re about to go to REI to return the boots I got her last week.  She has a wide toe box and hiking boots need to fit perfectly. My online ordering failed again.

It’s hot outside, but not so humid.  September is a great month in DC.  Trish is already in the car, with the door open, waiting for me. I’m gathering all my stuff; phone, wallet, headphones, rings.  The phone rings.

We frequently don’t answer the home phone.  Most people call our mobile numbers.  I pick it up anyway.  “Hello, is Trish there?  This is Kathy Huang”  Kathy is our cosmetic surgeon, who’s doing the operation tomorrow.  “Hi, Kathy.  It’s David.  What’s up?” The next few minutes, hours, even days are a blur to me.

Kathy answers “David, we have to cancel the surgery tomorrow and reschedule for a month later.  Trish’s white blood cell count is too low and the risk of post-op infection is serious.”

Oh man.  I almost drop the phone.  Cancel the surgery?  We’re both mentally, physically and logistically prepared to deal with this now.  We’ve been holding down the fear and anxiety for a week, gritting teeth, white-knuckling life, knowing at least that it will come quickly and be over with.

How did this happen?

white blood cells.

The medical decision is simple. Normal white blood cell counts are 4.5 to 11.  Trish was a 2.3.  (2,300 per microliter) She simply isn’t fit for surgery.  In fact, we’re extremely lucky neither she avoided any infection this summer.

Trish admits, after a little while, that she is relieved because she still feels like shit.   The only mistake made was getting the blood count test so late.

We have three doctors, the onocologist, plastic surgeon and cancer surgeon that are doing a good job coordinating with each other, but someone needed to tell us to schedule that test sooner so we don’t all find out less than 24 hours from the surgery.   The doctors are annoyed at the situation too.  It’s a big loss to miss an entire day of surgery.

Telling everyone of the change

I need to email work about my change in schedule. They were prepared to have me go offline for a few days. Looking ahead at the new surgery week on my calendar, I see it’s the week of our semi-annual board meeting.  Great.  That will be a pain-in-the-ass to work around.

My parents are three hours into their long drive from New York State to our house where they were going to watch our daughters during the hospitalization.  They turn around and head home.  They had cancelled a vacation of their own to help us with this.

We call relatives for an hour or so, letting them know of the change. People are still wishing Trish ‘good luck with tomorrow’s surgery’ on facebook. We post there too. The social worker from Lily’s school calls my cellphone.

Lily and Monty play

Ms. Golden has been a help to Lily even last spring when the diagnosis happened.  Last night I sent her a note letting her and Lily’s teacher know about the imminenet surgery in case Lily wants some support.  Lily gets sad and needs to talk to someone sometimes.  To tell you the truth, she also goes to the bathroom a dozen times a day, and the the nurses office at least 3 times a week.  She’s probably also a little bored at school.  Nonetheless, I appreciate that she has a place to go where someone will listen to her.  This is serious.

“Hi, Ms. Golden. I’m glad you called.  I have some news.”  She is as surprised as we are that the surgery is cancelled and offers to talk to Lily about that.  It dawns on me that the girls will be upset too.  They were anxious also to get this done and over with.  “Yeah, go ahead and tell her. ”  We need to tell Emma too and we decide to drive to her school to deliver the news.

Tween is between

Emma tries to talk about cancer.
Emma is a tween; ten and a half years old.  And she’s our oldest, with many of the typical characteristics of an older child.  She is mature for her age, very calm, and a compromiser. She likes everyone to be happy and generally wants to find a mutually agreeable solution.

Like Trish, also an oldest, Emma’s disposition makes her very popular.  She has a wide circle of great friends and loves them a lot.  But also like Trish, she has a strong introverted side that is very comfortable with being alone and quiet.  Flaky, and a little goofy, Emma is often in some kind of fantasy world.

One of Emma’s challenges is expressing emotions like sadness and anger.  She doesn’t trust them; finds them confusing and difficult to deal with.   She’s always been that way and I often think she doesn’t get the attention she needs because she can’t express as well as her younger sister.

Tears from my baby

They call Emma down to the office, where Trish and I are waiting.  She can see the two of us through the glass walls as she approaches.  I don’t know if it’s the news about the rescheduling, or maybe she is surprised and scared that she is called down to the office where both her parents are waiting.  Upon hearing the news, our little stoic Emma bursts into tears and crumples into my arms, sobbing.

There isn’t much to say to her.  I reassure her that it’s for a good reason and everything will be all right.  She curls up like a baby and puts her head to her chest, muffling the cry.  In my arms, she feels like a newborn.

As the daddy lion, some primal drive makes me want to protect her, and my family.  I need to get them all out of here, distract them.  Do something fun.  I have to get this cancerpalooza train back on the tracks, heading for awesome.

The cancerpalooza train’s first stop:  napville.

My two travellers!
Well, actually the first stop after we pick up Lily, is back home for a nap.  Trish is so exhausted by the day that she needs to sleep.  It’s only been a few hours, but it already seems like days ago that we got the call from the doctor cancelling the surgery.

I promised the girls a trip to REI for backpacks and hiking boots after the nap.  It’ll be for a camping trip I’m already planning for this weekend.  That excites them and they happily watch a little TV to calm down.

Our trip to REI is really fun.  They love gear, just like me.  We pick out some cute backpacks and boots for them.  Dinner is at a local greasy spoon with a korean and vegetarian edge, Mark’s Kitchen.  We all go to sleep early, sleepy from the emotional drain.

Six Flags

Perfect day for coasters.
As it turns out, camping isn’t practical for this weekend.  I don’t have time to get the gear together.  But I bought season passes to Six Flags earlier in the summer thinking that we could go a few times and make it worth it the cost.  After the surgery got scheduled, I didn’t think we’d get back.  But now we can!

This will be our third time, and I am very happy that the passes have already paid for themselves – this time is essentially free.   Of course I know Six flags will make me buy dozens of $3.50 waters and gross food all day, but whatev’s.

Emma and Lily dig through a coupon book and find some coupons that admits friends for free.   I’m skeptical, but I try the coupon for their two girlfriends that have come with us. Amazing! It works. We get 6 people into the park for free.

But she goes on it again!
The last few times we went to amusement parks this summer, Trish wasn’t feeling great.  She’s got a little more energy today.  The clean, clear September air and bright sun help a lot. It’s about 70 degrees, maybe 75.  The cancer-lady heads straight for the Superman ride and still feels pretty good afterward. More coasters!

There are almost no people at the park. We go from ride to ride and never have to wait. At one point in the afternoon, Emma and her friend ride the roller coaster 10 times in a row without getting out. I rode it 3 in a row with them, but my old bones can’t handle more wooden roller coaster trauma than that.

Tower of Doom, The wild one and Falling Star - the 6 of us did these over and over.
At one point, Emma, her friend and I are on the death drop to the left, Lily and her friend are on the swingy thing to the right and Trish is on the peak of a coaster in the center. We all wave to each other like we are the only people in the park. I think we each did 40 rides or more that day.

Nails and a movie

Saturday night, the friends sleep over. I cook pancakes for breakfast, our sleepover tradition. Trish looks a little wiped out after walking for 10 hours, but she’s up and alive. The agenda for the day is simple: nails and a kids movie.

The nail place is a vietnamese high capacity nail salon with good equipment and a huge selection of colors. The kids play in the massage chairs and get wacky mixes of color.

I can’t remember a kids movie matinée where I didn’t fall asleep. It would probably happen with any film, but the matinee slot is a mainlined soporific. Even this 3D film the ledgend of something something something can’t keep me awake.   Kids said it was pretty good.

I snort and startle awake. Movie credits are rolling. Lily is putting popcorn in my nose and laughing at me.

It’s good to be out with the kids. We’ve spent the whole weekend together, and will try to do the same next weekend with some camping at Assateague.  This family loves to adventure together.

Signing off 101 surprises

You didn’t think I was really going to make the 101st surprise some mushy crap about helping other people did you?  If you believed that, BWA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA. You’re a nerd and you need to click on the video at left.

Click it again, nerd.

The 101st surprise is to get this family back on the fucking road.  The Creekmores are going adventuring again as soon as Trish heals.  I already have five big trips lined up.  And I’m doin’ it cheap.   Of the 18 airline tickets, we are only paying cash for one.

  • Trip #1: Driving up the California Redwood Coast for Christmas and New Years: I haven’t been to our business office in Arcata, California in a long time because of the cancer.  Trish has lots of friends and relatives in that area, so we love to go there.  We’ll start in San Francisco, stop in Sonoma County for Christmas where Trish’s mom and siblings live.  Then we drive up through the redwoods for a few days, spend half a week in Arcata, and back south for New Years with old friends in San Francisco!  My work will pay for the car and my ticket to SFO, and we got the other tickets from Air-Tran for free.
redwoods
  • Trip #2: Club Med, Punta Cana for Trapeze and some winter sun: Ok, this is hardly a risky adventure, but it’s one of our favorite places to go to relax. And by relax I mean  a jam-packed week of vollyball, trapeze, dancing, scuba and watersports.  We got an incredible rate of $165 per day per person for the all-inclusive resort for a week.  It includes 3 pretty damn good meals a day, kid clubs, daily trapeze, water sports and activities, transfers, drinks and lodging.   And it’s on one of the most beautiful beaches we’ve ever seen.  Again, we are using free tickets from an Air-Tran scheduling disaster we had on our Trip to Mexico in 2009.
machu picchu
  • Trip #3: Peru from the Amazon basin to Machu Picchu: The creekmores will spend two weeks over spring break and Easter touring Peru, travelling light and using mixed transportation to see the high mountain regions and the amazon jungle basin where all waters crawl slowly to the Atlantic.  No one in our family has ever been to South America and this will be a trophy trip for sure.  The tickets were purchased with miles:  only 30k/each round trip on American.  I can’t wait.
  • Trip #4: Trish takes to the road solo: Two trips just for Trish.
    • Trip A is SXSW in Austin (HI ANGELA!) SXSW is one of the cooler conferences, and Trish has gone to the interactive one several times.  She values it for the insight she gets into her craft as well as the networking opportunity.  This time she’s also going to the film and music festival, where she’ll just have fun and hang out with all the cool people.  Last year she got picked-up regularly by the cute Austin boyz on taxi-bikes.  This year, I’m sending her with a pack of condoms.  (There is a small chance I will go too, because this blog was entered in the SXSW ‘personal blog’ category for an award, for which we would each win a free ticket. HI ANGELA!) And yes, although the festival ticket is expensive I got a discount by ordering early.  And the airline ticket is free – more frequent flyer miles.
    • Trip B is surf camp in San Diego.  Last year I had bought her airline tickets and weekend surf camp registration in San Diego as a mothers day gift.  It was one of the first casualties of chemotherapy, and she’s going back, dammit.
great wall
  • Trip #5:  A month in Asia. I’m not sure we would have been able to go to Asia anyway, but cancer was the nail in the coffin of my plans to bring the family to Asia for a month last summer.  For next year,  I jumped on the frequent flyer routs early, and pieced together an itinerary from Washington D.C. to Bangkok for four from June 21 to July 26. Nepal and India is another possibility.  And of course, beautiful Thailand.  We got two tickets on frequent flyer miles, one my work will pay for because It’ll partly be a work trip for me, and the final one I got for $1600 on United, which is pretty damn good.

Cancer, that little fuck, has escaped the hit.  But not for long.  We will hunt it down and kill it.  In the mean time, we have 4 more weeks of adventure and these trips to plan and look forward to. Trish and the girls will have plenty of fun distraction.  (And I can pull my Lonely Planet Peru book out from hiding.)

And no, Trish didn’t know about the final surprise before she read the blog.  I’m going to try to post her reaction here if I can video it. (ed. ok lol.  I got it on tape.)

3 thoughts on “Cancer Week #22: Taking out a contract on her tit, and the big 101st surprise!

  1. Clare

    I am the nerd that DID believe the mushy crap about helping other people. And you guys really have helped me remember/re-learn how to live a bit better.
    (The 5-pack of awesome travel is a nice too though.)

    I know you’ll have too many people to see when you come out to Cali, but I’m putting my name on the list anyway. Trish I’d love to see you, if even for a cup of Hardcore coffee. And David, I would very much like to meet you…if not this time, then someday soon.
    Thank you again for sharing this journey.

  2. Lori Schilling-Davis

    Yo Tro,
    I’ve been following the struggle on David’s blog and I’m glad the end is in sight! We’d love to see y’all when you come out West for your 101st surprise. We could meet you in Sebastopol…just give us a date and we’ll make it work!! Happy belated birthday!
    xoxo
    Lo

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