Hello friends and family,
Hal and I discovered this site thru the Purvis family, an amazing family we met recently, and decided to join the CaringBridge world. Everybody knows Hal and how wonderful he is, and I'd like to keep this website in honor of Hal and his battle with brain cancer. While I will probably be the one updating the majority of the time, I know Hal will want to also add in his feelings, thoughts and words. Don't worry; we will let you know who is writing! So everybody pretty much knows his battle up until now, but for those who don't, I'll give a little update really quick.
Hal was serving in Afghanistan when he started getting severe headaches and hallucinations along with depression. It took a while for the medical team to get him into a MRI scan because of the high trauma flow of other soldiers from the base he was staying at. Finally, after one morning of excruciating pain which resulted in projectile vomiting, the took him in to get scanned. On December 6, 2010, the technician told Hal, "There's your problem! You got a huge tumor in your brain!" Wow. Thanks for breaking it lightly. Hal didn't think that, though. He said, "Praise God! Now we know what has been going on, now there is something tangible. Lets fix it." I personally will never forget that call.
So they flew him to San Antonio, TX and on December 16, he underwent an 11 hour craniotomy. The doctors were able to get 97% of the golf-ball sized tumor which was located in his right temporal lobe (right above the right ear), but further scans had shown another little tumor in the middle of his brain that they weren't able to reach because it was in so much brain tissue. That day was an incredibly long day, and seeing him after the surgery broke my heart. He was so swollen! But oh my goodness, how positive he was! The very next day until he was discharged, Hal was joking with the nurses, doctors, everybody that came in!
In January, Hal went through 6 weeks of radiation and chemo simoultaneously, and through it all was ever positive, faithful, and trusting of God's healing hand! He was definitely what kept me positive! After that he went though a stronger dose of chemo and that was the most painful thing he said he has ever gone through! The first night was literally spent for him lying on the bathroom floor. Thankfully, that was the only night like that, though the rest of the chemo cycles left him nauseous and incredibly fatigued.
After 4 cycles of chemo, they did another MRI scan and found that not only had the chemo not worked, his tumor had grown significantly! That day was not a good day. We also found out that his tumor, a stage IV glioblastoma multiforme (or GBM), was incurable, inoperable, and terminal. My goodness, that weekend was hard. Our oncologist, Dr. Schwalier, said we had two options. Avastin is a treatment, he said, that is used when chemo and radiation have failed. It's an IV treatment shown to reduce the tumor size and also keep it from growing. Although it will never fully go away, it can be contained. He also suggested a clinical trial in Bethesda, Maryland at the National Institute of Health. NIH, as it will now be called, is the largest cancer research facility in the world, and upon calling, I also found out that about 70% of their patients in the Neurology Branch have GBMs like Hals. We decided to attend a consultation to at least get some answers and maybe give us better guidance as to our next steps. At this point, I'm going to go over to the Journal section, because I'm running out of available room here...
Days Like Today
Jun 4, 2012 2:57pm
Well, it has been a while since I have updated, and it feels strange to log in to caringbridge and begin another journal, but here it goes.
I miss Hal every day. Every second of every minute of every single hour, a part of me hurts more than I know how to say. I live with heartache now as my companion, and sometimes, most times, I'm able to keep it in the background and live and laugh and smile, but sometimes, on days like today, I'm not strong enough to keep it from becoming front and center. On days like today I want to crawl in my bed and pull the covers over my head and just sleep and escape. There are many things needing to be done, but on days like today it is near impossible to get motivated.
Most days are way better. I'm able to get out and do things and live and laugh and remember Hal and reminisce about our time together and give an actual sincere smile at our memories. I've been exercising a lot, because I neglected myself and my health while I was taking care of Hal, and now I need to concentrate on getting healthy again. During the day I hole up in my house, but mid-afternoon and night I try to keep busy, because those are the times my heart and mind fight for air.
I went to Kansas this past weekend for Memorial Day. The VFW puts on a Memorial Day ceremony every year for our veterans, current and past, and honor the lives and commitment our soldiers give for us and our freedom. It was a beautiful ceremony, and at the end they released balloons for the fallen soldiers who lost their lives throughout the year. Hal's name was last, and when they folded up the flag, they announced they were giving it to a widow this year, who recently lost her husband. They gave it to me. It was an honor and privilege to be chosen, to have Hal remembered and honored again, and I'm very grateful and humbled to have been given such a gift.
I visited Hal's gravesite for the first time since the funeral. I thought it was going to be really hard, but it wasn't. He's not there. His body is not really there either, because he lost so much of himself physically by the end. I talk to him in my head and heart all the time anyway, so it was wierd to talk to the ground. I don't want to make his gravesite where he is. It's just a place where his body rests, where we can put flowers down and make it beautiful for him, but in the end, he's in my heart, always. I walked away from the gravesite with Hal with me, as he always is. I wasn't leaving him there.
I was able to spend a lot of time with Hal's best friends, who are now my best friends, and I'm so so beyond grateful to have their friendship. This past weekend would have been so hard if I had been alone, but they embraced me and loved me and wanted to spend as much time as possible with me, just as I did with them. Hal would have been so incredibly happy that I'm close with his best friends. When we were dating, he used to talk about them all the time and about how much I would love them and how much I'm like them and how much he wanted all of us to be friends together. He would've been happy to know he was right. I hung out with some more of his best friends, friends that have known him better than anyone else, and I so yearned for that. For people who knew my Hal, the real Hal, not the sick Hal, and I felt like I was gulping up all their stories and tales of his wildness and fun. I wish I could have known all of them, Hal included, during those days.
It's hard to realize Hal and I knew each other for a total of only 2 years and 9 months before he died. We met, dated, fell in love, went to war, got married, got brain cancer, fought brain cancer, died from brain cancer, and now widowhood all in less than 3 years. Three years. What happens in three years to normal lives? And we experienced more in three years than some do in their lifetime. It's just surreal. Really surreal.
On days like today I have to really focus on staying strong. Days like today make me feel like I'm taking two steps back. Two steps back from what, I don't know, but I feel I've been strong for so long, it's hard for me to feel weak. I know I need it, I know I can't always be strong, I know it's only human to pause and sit, so to speak, but it's hard for me to accept it. So I focus on Hal, and where he is right now. Hal is...in the best place we can ever even try to imagine.
I had to research Heaven, because I didn't know a lot about it, and I needed to know where Hal was. I took care of him for so long, I made sure he had everything he possibly could need, I slept with one eye open every night, I watched him breathe, I watched him suffer and fight and I suffered and fought right along with him, so I NEEDED to make sure he was now okay and was taken care of. What I found out makes me wish I was there now.
Heaven is a glorious place. Full of wonder and worship and praise and happiness. More so than our minds can even comprehend. Hal hasn't stopped smiling since he got there, he hasn't stopped praising and worshiping since he arrived, and he hasn't felt one single OUNCE of pain or sadness or sorrow. He doesn't miss us, because that would cause sadness, and God promised no sadness in heaven. He doesn't see our sorrow or heartache, because I know that would cause him sorrow, and God promised no sorrow. One of our friends said this past weekend, that to Hal, we are probably already there in Heaven with him, because time does not exist there. I really believe this is true. Imagine your happiest day, a day where you felt your heart would explode with joy. Now multiply that by a zillion and that is just a little bit of what we will experience in Heaven; what Hal is experiencing right now in Heaven. How can I be sad about that? I love Hal so much and all I wanted for him was to be happy and pain free, and he is, beyond anything I could have ever imagined for him. Hal is so happy, and that makes me happy. Yes I miss him, and on days like today, that feeling makes it so hard to even stand, but I just remember how happy Hal is. And it gets a little easier.
It's hard being a widow. It's hard when people ask you if you're married. It's hard to put on my wedding ring every day, knowing it's now one-sided. It's hard to see newborns and families knowing Hal and I will never have that. It's hard buying groceries for one again. It's hard to go to sleep at night by myself. It's hard making plans just for me now. It's hard moving on, but it's life. I'm in the slow process of moving. This house has too many memories of sad times. We moved in right after Hal was diagnosed, and every single part of this house reminds me of his sickness, of his pain, of his suffering. When I stand in the middle of the kitchen I remember where he fell, or where he wobbled, or his eyes when he would try so hard to look at the calender and try to make sense of it. Our couch reminds me of his sleepless nights when he would sit in his spot and watch infomercials because the steroids kept him up, or when he had no energy to even get up from where he sat. The bathroom reminds me of his horrible night after chemo, where he slept on the floor next to the toilet because of the nausea. I can't move on in this house, I can't be happy in this house, and all Hal wanted was for me to be happy. That was the only thing we talked about as far as "afterwards". He wanted me to move into a house I wanted, in a city I wanted, somewhere that made me happy. So I will.
On June 30, I will be in Kansas again. One of Hal's high school friends, Wayne Cline, is running in a 5k race called Head for the Cure. It's a race dedicated to raising funds for brain cancer research, and Wayne and his wife have decided to run in honor of Hal, and they have made their team, "Team Nuke". So far, we have 51 people who have commited to going, and hopefully we will have more join throughout the month. If you are interested in joining, or donating, please click the link below. All money given is going to the foundation, in Hal's name.
I don't think I will update as much anymore, if at all. As you can probably see, it's hard for me to sit and reflect on life without Hal. I have to concentrate on moving forward, and days like today make that hard. I will keep our site up, because I know it will help other caregivers of brain cancer warriors. I know how much other people's sites helped me. Brain cancer is so different from other cancers, and the information out there is so few and far between. Hopefully our site can help others.
I still don't know why God decided He needed Hal more than I did. I'm struggling with my resentment and anger, at the same time grateful Hal is where he is. I try not to think about what could have been, because that takes me to a bad place, and on days like today, it's all I can do to stay focused on where Hal is. I do believe I was still meant to know him, still meant to love him and take care of him and send him to his Home. I believe God knew I'd be strong enough to handle it. I'm just struggling with my grief, I guess. I'm not much of a cryer, so a lot of times my emotions tend to gravitate toward anger. I guess it's because I feel it's an emotion I can control, and you know me and control. We're friends. I will get through my anger and feelings of betrayal, just like I have before. I know it's not right to feel this way, but I also know God understands and can take it. It's not a bitter anger, like it was before when Hal's tumor regrew, but it's a sad, confusing anger. I'm sad and confused and that makes me really mad at God. I'll work through it, I know I will, and our relationship with grow even stronger, I know, but for now I'm....not. Especially on days like today.
Thank you for walking this journey with Hal and me. He was a wonderful man, and the amount of people who have invested their heart and time to him and this site shows how great he was. I am so grateful for your prayers and support. I know a lot of Hal's rallying in his last days came from your prayers, so I thank you from the bottom of my heart. We had some remarkable days in the end.
Days like today are fewer and fewer, but they are still there. It will get easier to bear, this loss, and while I will never "get over it", as I have often heard, I will learn to live through it. I will love Hal forever, and I will never ever forget our time and love together. Thank you again, for everything, and I ask you to keep me and Hal's family in your prayers, especially for days like today.
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