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Chapter 11 - Dancing Beyond Cancer - Holiday Troubles

Chapter 11 -------- Holiday Troubles

As the Holidays approached, Danielle experienced a new level of recovery and renewed energy. She was walking further up and down the street. She would typically only go a couple of hundred yards to avoid talking to some of the neighbors. Danielle didn’t want to create gossip and knew the people to avoid. Encounters typically involved disclosing information about her situation. Danielle wanted to avoid rumors.

Danielle was far more open to the world at showing off her newfound strength. She didn’t want to keep discussing the problems she wanted people to see her as strong and improving. Danielle wanted reassurances that she was looking good. Thankfully we saw that improvement with every treatment.

The Curcumin IV continued two to three times a week. After some time, Danielle had come to realize that the slower she did the drip, the less serious the side effects were. It meant that most days she would be stuck at the doctors for three to four hours. I was often working while she was getting her treatments. I usually had little breaks that allowed me to pick her up or drop her off. I was even able to leave during a shift several times to take her home from an IV. It was never a huge challenge since everything was so close. I had a simple three to five-minute drive from home to the doctors or work.

The one benefit of being in Sedona is that everything we needed was less than a mile from the house. My errands could be super quick, and I was able to be a chauffeur for Danielle whenever she needed it. Occasionally our ND would give her a ride, or a friend would give her a ride. I didn’t know how to explain it, but I was usually always able to get her to and from the Doctors despite an erratic work schedule. I was working five to six days per week. Which I found necessary to cover our living expenses. My job was just barely covering those, and the slow winter season in Sedona was not helping.

Going into the holiday season the restaurant was unbearably slow. Often, I would try to leave early, if possible, to go home and be with my wife. It was nice to be able to leave, but I really needed the money. The most troubling days I made no money because no one showed up. It was frustrating when I felt like I was wasting my time. The last thing I wanted was to spend time away from a wife who needed me. I had to rethink if the situation at work was still in our best interests.

Years of mismanagement, coupled with bizarre hours, and many cases of bad servers or employees had ruined a local business. I was a witness in several restaurants to what happens long term to restaurants that maintain low standards or employ servers who are terrible at their job. Bad service is a restaurant killer. I could see that I was fighting an uphill battle to keep the restaurant thriving. I’ve witnessed many slow seasons, but this was the worst winter ever. I didn’t know what I should do.

I was not entirely working there for the money. My schedule was ideal, and the flexibility was crucial. The owners also understood and were sympathetic to Danielle’s and my situation. My saving grace was regular catering deliveries. I averaged fifteen to twenty-five dollars per hour, depending on which delivery I was making. The regular income helped to keep us from worrying too much.

It was still my first year in Sedona I wasn’t aware of the seasonal nature of Sedona. My coworkers informed me that we would get really busy around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but that the rest of the time was going to be slow. It was good to at least have a little heads up because they weren’t lying. The restaurant was slower than ever before, using the opportunity to see more of my wife.

In the evenings after work, I would usually spend a few hours with Danielle, just talking. I would usually apply a fresh layer of RSO cannabis mixed with coconut oil to her feet. Truthfully, I needed the effects just as much as she did. However, I was using it for anxiety. I wasn’t aware yet that was what I needed it for, but the calming and relaxing effects were perfect for me. I wanted to be that calm, cool, and collected man that my wife married. The additional stresses had made me far more dependent on Medical Marijuana.

Even though I was building up a huge tolerance to the substance, the natural sedative effects that I was receiving was crucial to behaving properly. It’s kind of funny when I think about the stigma of the stoner sitting on the couch, acting very relaxed and using a calm puppy dog tone of voice. Crazy enough, that is almost the best kind of demeanor to have with the sick or elderly.

Danielle didn’t need me to be the energizer bunny. It was great when we first got together, and we were both healthy and strong. She was just as energetic, loud, fun, and over the top. Danielle did not need those traits now. Instead, she needed cool, calm, and compassionate Brandon. Marijuana was a crucial medicine to help me control my emotions. I would often make time to smoke outside because I would usually sneak a little tobacco into the pipe as well.

Since our wedding, I had kept my tobacco habit a complete secret. I never lied about it, but I also never disclosed I was smoking again. Tobacco, too, had become a tool to manage my anxiety. I could almost calm myself down from anything with just a couple puffs and some deep breaths. I found it to be a devilish medicine because of its addictive properties. Combined with MMJ and Tobacco, I was able to keep my emotional stresses from coming out in front of my wife, most of the time.

However, the holiday season would test my tolerances and my endurance to the max. Going into Thanksgiving week, I was already anticipating working most of the time. I needed to make a good amount of money for the ten days we would be busy at the restaurant. Sadly our busiest day was lining up to be Thanksgiving Day. So I encouraged Danielle to join some friends for Thanksgiving. I didn’t want Danielle to spend Thanksgiving alone since I would be working. I wasn’t expecting to have to do as much as I ended up doing.

Due to the Holidays, a couple that worked at the Restaurant decided to leave for the holiday — leaving me with covering all the shifts that were left behind. My work ethic has always been impeccable, so I couldn’t say no when they desperately needed me. Danielle reassured me that she was doing much better and that it would be okay. I still didn’t like it, and neither did she, but we both knew it still had to be done. I couldn’t abandon the restaurant, the good person in me, wouldn’t allow it. So I ended up biting the bullet.

We were always up around six in the morning. Waking up early usually gave me over an hour to get ready and prepare breakfast for Danielle and Andora. Somehow even taking the dog for a short walk, I would still make my seven thirty breakfast catering delivery. Because of the lack of staff, I also had to do a lunch delivery every day as well. It was amazing to make one hundred dollars a day plus still be able to go home to check on Danielle. I could never stay long before I had to head back for the next shift.

Every night I was a server, and finally, we had customers coming in. Tourists were in town, and they all loved visiting our restaurant. Some couples had been eating there every year for over ten years. Tourists were easily ninety percent or more of the traffic through our doors. Thankfully, they were spending money and tipping well.

I was making great money for a change, and the financial reward was invigorating for me. I was no longer stressing about not being a provider. I had developed some anxiety about money during the previous few weeks. I didn’t want to use Danielle’s funds for her treatment because I knew it would stress her out if I did. I was far more equipped to deal with Stress, being I didn’t have a life-threatening illness that I was battling inside my body. I didn’t share my concerns with her because I didn’t want to burden her.

The problem was that months of stress and lack of sleep were starting to leave a mark on me. I wasn’t even aware of my mistakes at this point. My objectives were to accomplish everything that Danielle needed, not to worry about myself. Thankfully my natural capacity to have practically limitless energy gave me an upper hand to succeed. However, working ten days straight and being a full-time caregiver was taking a toll on me.

Thanksgiving Thursday was like most days for Danielle and me. Nothing special since her diet restrictions prevented any Thanksgiving feast. We were able to spend the morning together. I didn’t have to make a delivery, and I didn’t have to work till two p.m. It was the first day in five that I didn’t have to wake up and go to work immediately. It was a huge relief and a beautiful morning. We just spent it talking and taking trips between the bedroom and the living room.

Danielle loved being in the living room and looking out the window. The leaves were all beginning to fall, and the colors were magnificent. Fall is a magnificently beautiful time of year in Sedona. While it was significantly colder outside than a month prior, the beauty remained. Danielle was also so proud of how beautiful her house and yard was considering how hard she worked for it.

Before going to work, I dropped Danielle off at her friend’s house. Well, they were more than friends and closer to family. The two daughters were former dance students, and she had always been close with their parents as well. From what I understood, Danielle spent many nights at their house when she was having guy problems. She said they helped her with many problems throughout her life. I was happy that she was finally having a little interaction with the outside world. She had pushed so many people out of her life because of the illness, and it made me feel good to see her allow people back in.

My day wasn’t as fun or relaxing as hers. Holiday menus tend to throw most kitchens into disarray, but this was something else. The level of madness was insane as the kitchen prepared for hundreds of reservations. Thankfully, the menu was a little easier to prepare than a full dinner menu. Due to the restaurant's catering experience, I would have expected to be facing a better situation. This was going to be a big mess by the end of the night.

I had my busiest night ever at the restaurant. I also made more money than I did in three or four nights of work. After six hours of nonstop customers, which eventually filled the entire restaurant twice, my energy levels were depleted. Thankfully, I stuffed myself full of turkey and mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving. We had plenty of leftovers that the restaurant shared with the staff. However, I also ended up working until after eleven at night, which was about two hours later than usual.

Danielle was already texting me around ten o’clock wishing I was home. I would have to say that my efficiency and ability to close the restaurant was second to none. I never wasted a minute at the end of the night, and I was always home as fast as a puff of tobacco and a drive down Inspirational Dr, but never a moment longer. I would feel guilty if I was ever a moment longer, and even the cigarettes made me feel like I was taking away time that I shouldn’t. Guilt being something I was carrying too much of surrounding my tobacco addiction. Guilt that was starting to weigh heavily on me.

I was completely exhausted when I arrived home. Danielle wasn’t having a particularly good night and was in a bunch of pain. I quickly ran Andora outside to go potty while I warmed up the bathroom for a shower. Danielle’s Thanksgiving adventure out had taken a lot out of her, and she was having a healing crisis. A hot shower was usually the best remedy for Danielle when this happened. We did not see any improvement this night. It was going to be a long night.

The lack of sleep was starting to become an issue. I was becoming far more easily irritable, and this was not a good reaction to have around Danielle. After months of talking about how to behave, me acting irritated or grumpy was a trigger for Danielle. She had ZERO tolerance for it in her state. So in the middle of the night, I made a grave mistake.

Half asleep, I responded in one of the rudest and inconsiderate tones I had ever used toward anyone. Danielle asked me a silly question, and I responded in such an offensive manner that it sent Danielle through the roof. I realized immediately after I fully woke up that I was completely out of line with my response. I immediately apologized, I felt horrible, I felt ashamed, and I didn’t know what caused me to behave in such a manner. Danielle was so furious with me that I had to spend almost an hour trying to calm her down. I knew it was my mistake, and I knew I had to make it right. Truthfully, I can’t even remember what was said. It just goes to show that it isn’t what you say it is how you say it that is important.

I could tell it wasn’t going to be easy to make it right. Danielle was not going to be a victim of another person who behaves that way. I pulled my shit together very quickly. It took all my effort to be the person that my wife needed. She demanded it, and I was willing to make it happen. I needed to pull it together for the rest of the Thanksgiving weekend.

Black Friday to the following Monday was even more exhausting than I anticipated. Issues with the restaurant were starting to build, and the amount of work that I was doing was far more than I wanted to be doing with a sick wife. The reward of making a couple of thousand dollars put me slightly at ease. It was a relief to be able to take some financial burdens off my plate. Financial anxiety can be so destructive if left unchecked. I had pushed any money problems into the following month. Assuming I could also be paid on time, which was also a slight issue.

Severe exhaustion was a bigger threat to my stress levels, and I was having far more trouble controlling my frustrations around Danielle. A lack of sleep was also making me far grumpier. I always tried to stuff my problems and put on a happy face. Waiting tables is like being on stage every time you walk up to a table, the better the performance, the better the tips. Now my performance had to be perfect for Danielle, not for tips, but her sake. Failure was not an option. It was going to take every ounce of strength to face my emotional weaknesses.

My desire to assist a drowning restaurant was pulling me down too. After a crazy Thanksgiving at work, I decided it might be best if I look for work at a busier restaurant. I would make twice as much money at just about any other successful restaurant in town. I no longer felt that I had the energy to fix the problems my current establishment faced. I needed a job that didn’t require a full commitment to keep the gears turning. I needed a restaurant that was already thriving.

A job hunt was the last thing I wanted to do, but I also knew I had to give it a shot. I needed to change something fast. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, I was already failing in Danielle’s eyes. My emotions were getting the better of me, and Danielle was usually the person who would suffer. Usage of MMJ and tobacco had increased to the max level. Combined with deep breathing techniques, I was only barely holding myself together.

Maybe both our expectations were too high, but either way, I still wasn’t going to admit defeat. I’ve found there is always a way if we stay vigilant in our actions. Finding a less stressful job was going to solve one of my problems. The other problem of finding a bed would be next. I’ve never had a problem getting a restaurant job in the past. I have over a decade of high-level serving experience, and I can almost work at any restaurant that I want.

The adventure I set out that first week of December was far from what I expected. I found out quickly that no one was hiring. The winter is too slow in Sedona. Five restaurants told me the same thing. I was devastated. A new job was not going to happen until spring. I took the realization a little hard knowing I would have to endure my existing problems. All my problems were being made worse by sleep deprivation.

I was hoping that over the following weeks I would be able to find a bed. I wasn’t sleeping well on the edge of a single bed. I had made the small bed work by adding some pillows between the wall and mattress, providing me with additional support. However, sleeping for months on the edge of the bed had bruised my hip. Since Danielle was having far more regular discomfort than I was, I sucked it up, because I felt bad ever complaining to her. My problems were still insignificant to the problems she was facing, often causing me to overlook my problems.

However, my problems and stresses were starting to pile up. After about three months of non-stop work, I finally started to show signs of serious instability. My behavior started to become less what I wanted and far more erratic and uncontrollable. I really couldn’t explain it and just started blaming it on the fact that I was tired. I needed to get a bed so that I could sleep better. I made a promise not to spend any nights away from my wife. Despite the problems that caused, I couldn’t break that promise. Her needs were far more important, and I was committed to making sure that I could provide all her needs.

The lack of sleep was making me far more irritable. Truthfully, Danielle rarely irritated me, but some of the topics she wanted to discuss triggered my anger or anxiety. This would be the next challenge that I faced while helping Danielle. For months I had been able to, calmly, discuss almost any topic with Danielle despite certain topics being incredibly upsetting. Now, I was finding it increasingly difficult to manage my emotions regarding specific topics. Her family was definitely a topic we both avoided for that reason alone. Danielle would instantly recognize any tone in my voice that wasn’t kind or caring.

Danielle was always trying to work through her family issues, which always would bring up a wave of conscious or unconscious anger inside me. These discussions would often lead to heated emotions coming up for both her and I. Discussing Danielle’s family was becoming more and more difficult for me to talk about from a neutral perspective. Every conversation was starting to feed my inner anger towards her family. My frustrations from observing her family’s behavior were overruling my better judgment, forcing Danielle to hide her frustrations so that I wouldn’t cause a scene.

I never wanted to cause a scene in front of Danielle, but I was finding it difficult to keep it together. Some topics didn’t trigger my emotions, while others would hit hard. Danielle could feel incredibly passionately about an issue but still not trigger me. I didn’t have anger towards the past as Danielle did. Which, when compared to the family issues, was far less present in our daily life. Community and Parent problems usually caused by inappropriate texts were some of Danielle’s biggest nuisances. Combined with her feelings of abandonment, she was having a tough time with the community she spent so much of her life helping.

Danielle felt like so many people she helped during her life were letting her down. I repeat with the highest regard, the initial outpouring of support was great, but the support we needed never continued past the first month. Few know what it means to be there for someone and make sure that person knows that you are there for them. Danielle didn’t get this from the people she needed it from, the only support she got in that way was parents wanting to bring their children over. Thankfully people are writing books and articles about how to behave with someone diagnosed with Cancer.

Through the Holidays, Danielle was saddened by the lack of support she received from the community. Danielle was not someone who participated in social media, nor would she have during her ordeal. Danielle valued her privacy. Sadly, it seems that people don’t know how to communicate regularly without Facebook or Facebook updates. My wife, who was a constant source of support and strength for so many people, was not getting half the support that she deserved. It triggered the greatest levels of compassion in me. Those conversations made me realize how important my support was to Danielle. Which is why I always tried to hold a positive space for Danielle.

Even with all the fun and beautiful things that we talked about, often something stressful would always arise. It was becoming more and more difficult for me to remain calm. I probably could have used more tobacco, but I still was hiding my habit from Danielle. Many times I would put off using tobacco if there was a possibility that Danielle might find out. The addiction then triggered more anxiety cause me to be more unhinged.

Tobacco did such a great job of calming my nerves, but it was equally causing my nerves to crave it more than ever. On my off day, or sometimes days off, I consumed far less tobacco, which meant more anxiety. Working multiple shifts every day was a great opportunity to feed my tobacco habit. So instead of relaxing on my days off, I was constantly craving nicotine, which resulted in my behavior becoming increasingly more offensive.

If Danielle became offended, I would usually immediately check my attitude. It wouldn’t completely fix Danielle’s anger towards me, but I would eventually and almost always bring a positive resolution to the situation. I was far from out of control, but I wasn’t staying in complete control of my emotions. Danielle was often the victim of these emotional outbursts.

These slips of emotional control were becoming far more common. I was just as frustrated with myself as Danielle was. Both of us were so confused about what to do with my behavior, and I knew I needed to make adaptations. I wasn’t going to give up, and it was my duty to overcome my shortcomings, beat my inner demons, and not let my emotions get the better of me. I still had much to learn to be the person my wife needed.

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