TJ and I met on December 15, 1994. Like most couples we had our tough times, but even as many times as we threatened to throw in the towel (and believe me that was more frequent than I care to recall) we always ended up back together. I think it was because we had too much in common.
Everything changed for us and our relationship on Friday, March 13, 2009. Yep, you read that right…..Friday The 13th!!!! For about a week TJ had been having headaches and we pretty much chalked it up to stress. Both of his parents were in the hospital, his Dad for breathing problems and his Mom had just been diagnosed with lung cancer. The headaches became so severe that he decided to see our family physician. When it did not appear that these were allergy/sinus related our physician decided to have TJ get an MRI on his head (“to rule out the bad stuff” he said). He scheduled it for Friday at 10:00 a.m. We really did not think much of it. TJ took off work and I went to work. But, at 1:00 p.m. that Friday I received a phone call at work from TJ telling me to come home and pick him up and take him to the hospital, he has a bag packed as they will be keeping him…”they found a bunch of lesions on my brain”. I work about 30 minutes from the house but it now suddenly seemed like hours to get home to him. I, like him, knew our lives were about to change forever and we both had the feeling it was not for the better. When I got home he asked if before we left we could sit at the kitchen table and drink a beer as he might not get to do that ever again. So, there we sat, in total silence, drinking a beer, and both of us scared out of our minds.
At the hospital we found out he had a spot on his lung and 20 brain lesions (10 on each side). They kept him overnight. It was the following morning while on my way back to the hospital that I called TJ’s Mom. She had been released from the hospital and was going to start chemo in a few days. She knew about the headaches, the MRI and that TJ was back at the hospital but she did not know the diagnosis yet. How was I going to tell this woman who was facing her own diagnosis that her son had just been diagnosed with cancer also? I didn’t know it at the time but this was to be the beginning of a string of difficulties I was about to face. When I told her the news she broke down. How can this be? Mother and son diagnosed with cancer within weeks of each other! Life just didn’t seem fair. She asked me to please take care of him and I told her I would call her later when I knew more. TJ was only in the hospital 3 days. Once released they started radiation on his brain for 3 weeks. After that they gave him a couple weeks off and then started Chemo for his lung. It was a crazy ride for us, living with him on steroids and very hyper to being wiped out from the Neulasta shot and Chemo; from eating like a horse, to me begging him to eat anything just to keep his strength up.
I thought our relationship was strong but this made it bullet proof. Nobody and nothing else matters when you are faced with cancer. Sure, we both have fantastic friends to lean on and family to talk to, but we lived this reality every day, every minute. TJ was a fighter, a never give up kind of guy, and as you will see, his positive mental attitude had us laughing even in the midst of complete turmoil. I promised him that Friday night that I would stay by his side and fight with him no matter how tough it got. And so the battle began.