I felt the excitement of the horse underneath me as it was ready for the bell to ring and get started running. I couldn't believe I was there, a jockey stuffed in the box, moments away from running my first horse race. My horse, Cancer, had already run toward the finish line and knew what to do. But me, this was my first race. And I wasn't ready for this part of it to begin.
The gate opened and I was thrust into a race toward an end that I could see coming at me too quickly.
I felt the pounding hooves beneath me, the rocking rhythm of the horse thundering towards it's goal, and me hanging onto the reins for dear life.
I wanted to step off the horse and remove myself from it all, but there was no exit option once the horse left the gate.
I had envisioned what this part of Cancer would feel like. As I looked around, I realized I had tunnel vision. I could see the finish line for my husband's life. It was drawing closer and everything else was rushing by me in a blur.
Then the race ended. We left the hospital two weeks ago, and Ryan went home on hospice.
Part of me wanted to know how all of this felt, and part of me has dreaded it since the day I knew he wasn't feeling well for much, much too long.
In some ways, there is...
Chemo treatments are probably a thing of the past, but we leave the door cracked for them as an option should Ryan get better and be well enough to tolerate their nasty side effects.
Being on hospice means no more driving to City of Hope, which is an hour away, one direction.
No more scheduling appointments with multiple departments and coordinating everyone.
No more seeing all the other Cancer patients and their hope or despair.
No more entertaining the kids while we wait to hear good or bad news.
Now, don't get me wrong. I have and can handle more of all of those things, if it means more quality time with Ryan.
But there's a bit of a silver lining to hospice...
Instead of driving so much, everyone on the hospice team comes here to our home.
Ryan gets to work because hospice allows for that.
And the care focus has shifted from aggressive treatments that will sustain life for a limited amount of time to making the time Ryan has left...
His pain has been managed pretty well, and the hospice team has been amazing, flexible and kind.
Compassion shines through everything they do and although part of me wants to reject their being here for the reason they are coming, the other part of me is grateful for the 24-hour care and support I have at my fingertips.
Hospice is a sad place to be.
I am sad that the journey is coming to an end.
I am sad for Ryan.
And I grieve for myself and our girls who will go it alone, very soon.
Only 4% of Stage IV Stomach Cancer patients live to 5 years past diagnosis. When I first read those words, I thought that it would be impossible to make that and somehow couldn't see past the end of the month in February, 2012.
And yet here we are, only 4 short months away from living with this Cancer in our lives for 5 years.
I am so grateful to God and to the team at City of Hope who have worked to give Ryan more time with us. And if God or City of Hope or another Cancer treatment center told me that they had the treatment that would slow the Cancer growth or reverse it, I would gladly sign up our family to do this for another five or fifty years!
And I would gladly sign up for the miracle that Ryan got scanned and was considered NED (no evidence of disease). Um, YES PLEASE! Sign up the Waters family for that plan, ASAP!!!
But, as I survey the landscape of our lives together over the past five years, I am so glad and grateful we got to cram so much awesome living into such a little amount of time.
I just wish we had more.
Lord, help me to be content in all circumstances.
Even in Ryan being on hospice.