Teddy Rodd's Journal
Written Jan 27, 2013 4:03pm
We're back on the ranch.
Stuffing an organic bird. The packaging says, “No hormones. No preservatives.”
Stuffed with farm-raised pork sausages steeped in a local brew.
My senses are so saturated with garlic, oregano, shallots, and roasting fowl, that the aroma altogether escapes me.
Too much of one good thing I suppose.
It’s been raining all day at just above freezing.
The temperature drops and chunks of white start to fall from the unknown.
From far above.
Bare foot, I venture out into the frigid, to the steely point of our terrace.
Overlooking the valley below.
A captain at the prow of our ship, with a compass that only gives insight into today.
Wish I could predict tomorrow.
Then again…maybe not. The rain has turned to ice.
The slushy, ponderosa outside amplifies the sweet, succulent aroma of tonight’s dinner basking in our little oven.
Chunks of frozen white splash into my cone-shaped glass.
Splashing red to the rim.
My bare feet burn icy crisp.
His white counts roller coaster each week.
His hair grows thin.
It clings to our clothing in the clothes dyer.
We cannot muster a hint of emotion to even talk about it.
How can the Divine allow a precious child to face such travesty?
In just two weeks, post his first quarter of chemo, we’ll face Teddy’s first MRI up at Children’s. The first of way too many firsts; in my estimation as a desperate dad.
“Scared” doesn’t begin to describe the disconcerting frigid.
Always wondering what lurks deep inside.
Though we’ve gone the conservative route according to many specialists, we nevertheless continue, “to choose” to pump toxins into our child’s slight frame.
I once again rub his spine until he falls to sweet slumber.
Clumps of white continue to fall.
My glass is not half full.
It feels rather stark, yet somehow overflows with gratefulness.
My bare-toed footprints mark the pacing in the icy, frigid at the helm. I cannot stand the frozen heat no longer.
Back to our roasting fowl.
Teddy can no longer stomach reading my blogs.
Maybe best that he doesn’t.
He trots around the house in his toe socks, pausing intermittently to wiggle ‘em back n’ forth.
Pondering deeply buried secrets he’d otherwise rather not talk about.
Much too frozen to the touch.
He’s never told me though to stop posting our updates, therefore I cannot image not reaching out to mercy and grace.
It’s like he wants me to, but doesn’t want to know.
Okay, so I’ll carry it.
I’m his dad.
Your prayers are cherished. Humbled, broken and pacing.
Into the Divine’s hands once again,
Steve, Teddy’s Dad
Written Dec 29, 2012 9:12pm
“Hey, where’d all the oranges go?”
I looked over at the sticky-stained cutting board loaded with mounds of discarded, pimply skins, peeled from the succulent flesh of tangy fruit.
Teddy peered up over the back of the couch somewhat sheepishly.
“I ate ‘em.”
Aunt Karen had dropped off a boxful of ginormous, juicy ones the day before.
“And the clementines?”
Those tart n’ sweet little mandarin oranges.
Can’t stop at just one.
“Well, I ate those too.”
Not just a few.
Every one of them.
Though gobs n’ gobs of white have fallen from the sky these past few weeks, Teddy’s baby white blood counts have also dropped to unexpected, abysmal levels.
This week was chemo number five.
Lots more oranges.
And a whole lot more clementines.
Seems like we buy a box of tart n’ sweet each time we go to the grocery store.
Helps fight the sickness when the baby whites are on the decline. Tastes super good too.
Our happy, expectant thoughts lasted until yesterday evening though.
When Teddy spiked a burning temp.
Can’t risk an infection around his chest port installed so close to the heart.
Like a new appendage.
So off to the hospital we slipped, over our windy, icy roads.
Though we know this cancerous, hospital-run, we still stand dumbfounded that a mere cold can provoke yet another trip to more poking, prodding and IV drips…well into the weekend.
It’s that insecure place we know all too well; feeling like overreacting, hypochondriac parents.
He looks great.
He’s stubbornly determined to feel great.
Yet I shuddered as an ER clinician, so much desiring to help, actually spoke out loud (and in retrospect, somewhat out of turn), the unthinkable notion of “high mortality rate in cases like these,” while Laurel and Teddy were off on an x-ray adventure.
Apparently a chest port infection can show up on an image.
So now we swim in a sea of orange for breakfast, lunch n’ dinner…and in between. He bagged another sack of Florida oranges on the way home from seeing the Hobbit today.
A small consolation since he can’t sled with Caleb because of the low counts and temp. He had unabashedly cantered into the movie theatre with his green, spiraling, gyrating Christmas hat with white trim; like it was the most normal act in the world.
He kind of looked like a wise, young Gandalf.
Way wise beyond his years.
So though we managed to bring his temp down to a low grade, his baby whites continue to trend down at every blood draw.
May need to take a break from chemo next week. Though it’s a break from chemo, it feels like a break from fighting.
We’d rather eat orange and fight hard.
So we rarely go alone to chemo these days.
Uncle Rob recently showed up and read Teddy a short story about a wild, mountain varmint that had stolen some hiker’s clothes and licked the life-replenishing salt out of its armpits.
Caleb showed up next.
Cousin One and Cousin Two giggled till it hurt. Not what you’d expect at the cancer clinic.
For years Teddy has asked for numbing cream. A gooey substance held in place an hour before the chemo-poke, with Glad Press N’ Seal.
Not to confuse with scrumptious peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
“Daddy, I don’t want the numbing cream next time.”
“You sure, Bugga?”
“Takes too long and makes me feel all weird.”
So he’s done with that too.
After much deliberation, Teddy’s concluded that a few seconds of a stinging, needle piercing his chest, is a whole lot better than an hour of feeling wacky.
The gooiness just makes the whole experience last way too long.
Have to fuss with it an hour before the poke. Sticky goo gets everywhere.
Sticks to his shirt.
Makes us all think too much (and for far too long) about the cancer growing again.
Last two times he did the poke without it.
Silent, eye-popping, stoic.
Laurel had texted me, “He did just fine.”
Probably hurt us way more than it hurt him. I channel every poke, prod and chemo blast.
Pretend it’s nothing. Get it done.
Go straight to school or back home to sled with Caleb.
That is…if the counts are high enough.
He used to joke about the Vinblastine being Vin-Gunpowder.
He doesn’t joke about it anymore.
That happens when the first round of a YEAR-AND-A-HALF OF CHEMO didn’t do the job like it should have.
It wasn’t SUPPOSED to come back!
So after the poke, comes the blood draw to check the white counts.
Really too low these days, but just enough to flood his veins with the TOXIC, yet unbelievably, life saving concoction.
God, help us make the right decisions that help him best.
Then the hydrating saline solution.
Then the nausea med.
Then the gunpowder.
By now, he’s pulled his shirt up over his head so he can’t see a thing.
Not that he’s afraid. At least we hope not.
Then the flush to make sure the line isn’t clogged for next time.
That’s next week.
For an entire calendar year.
Then most importantly to Teddy, back on the ranch, crazy Uncle Rob had pieced together an old, rusty jeep hood from the junkyard, into a standup sled.
A downhill sledding contraption that’s pulled behind a two-cycle, fuming snowmobile.
They all reek of gas, laughter, oil and happiness till the morning after.
It’s what we do on the ranch post chemo. Complete with motor-cross head gear.
When the counts are high enough.
I ran into them after my knee-high hike up through the powdery white on the back of the ranch where the stress of work, medical bills and spiked temps dissipate into the pure, crystal-white clouds.
Teddy exuberantly piped up, “Don’t worry, Daddy. We’re wearing brain buckets.”
They sped off into the darkness before I could even think or reply; down the steep ponderosas to the valley pond pockmarked with fresh elk tracks and droppings. Little nuggets of nature’s chocolate nestled in sugary-white snow.
Henri, our cow pug, just broke wind on the couch sending the family running for cover. The split, ponderosa-pine logs roast in their bed of red embers, cozying our log home.
Just pulled four deep dish Chicago pizzas piping hot from the oven.
Not sure if we’re just pretending, compartmentalizing, or just choosing to trust the Eternal and live in the moment.
Nevertheless, counting lots of oranges…and ever yearning in hope.
Steve, Teddy’s Dad
GOBS & GOBS OF WHITE
Written Dec 11, 2012 8:47pm
“Tap, tap, tap.”
It was early Sunday morning.
“Tap, tap, TAP!”
Our ONLY morning to really sleep in.
I groaned, “Sweetheart, what IS that?”
As if I didn’t already know.
“Tap, Tap, TAP!”
“I’m sure it’s Teddy,” she mumbled.
He’s our early riser.
“Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, TAP!”
“What’s wrong, Bugga?”
“Nutt’in,” then in fervent whisper, “Guess what? It’s snowing!”
Laurel rolled out of bed.
I pulled the flannel sheets back up over my cold nose.
We leave the heat way low in the back bedrooms, while our wood stove pipes slumbering warmth throughout the front great room into the dark-blue, morning hours.
It’s where Teddy spends his quiet time until the winter sun peaks its smoldering eyes over the eastern hill through our frosted kitchen window.
I vaguely heard him urging Laurel down the hallway to the warmth.
“Look. It’s coming down!” he hissed in excitement.
He’d already imagined speed dialing Caleb, his cousin and pal just up the hill, to prepare the sleds much to Aunt Karen’s dismay at this hour of the weekend morning.
Thin, powdery flakes scurried in a fluttering dance, as a blustery north wind swept down our valley.
Like his baby white blood cells after just one chemo.
Dropped more than half.
Just above the threshold to administer chemo number two.
Nothing promising, yet Teddy’s a kid full of enduring hope. An eternal hope that we latch onto every morning when we rise.
It’s been six months since moisture seriously soaked our dry, crusty valley.
Pray with us for white.
Piles and piles of white snow.
Gobs and gobs of fighting, baby white blood cells.
If he has to endure chemo every week for a year, we hope that he can brave it all back home here in Durango.
Back on the ranch, Uncle Rob and Caleb just returned from the middle of nowhere in southeastern Colorado hunting antelope.
Aunt Karen says their meat tastes rather gamey.
It’s so cold that Ziggy, Allie’s paint mare, is wearing jammies.
Yep, horse jammies.
Praying for piles and piles, and gobs and gobs of white. Tomorrow (Wednesday) is chemo day number three,
Steve, Teddy’s Dad