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Chapter 16 - Dancing Beyond Cancer - Sailing Through the Hurricane

Chapter 16 -------- Sailing through the Hurricane

Our situation had truly taken a turn for the worst. We were no longer expecting a recovery but instead planning for the end of life care. It seemed that all our efforts to beat the disease were made in vain. The reality Danielle and I now faced together was terrifying. Thankfully we weren’t going to have to face it alone. My dad had decided to stay for another week as we expected Danielle’s family to arrive.

My greatest test would be Danielle’s whole family visiting. I knew they didn’t like me, but I didn’t like them much either. I didn’t have many nice things to say about them, and usually just tried to keep my opinions to myself. There was little point getting my kicks out of putting her family down. Especially since I was now just as guilty of causing problems as they were. I had some sympathy for them now. It didn’t excuse our behavior, but I had more compassion.

I understood that being so emotionally connected to someone sick or dying is difficult. I made my mistakes, and I had to forgive them for theirs. Danielle demanded that we all be on our best behavior because she wouldn’t tolerate anything else. One of her greatest concerns was that I would lose it around her family. She explained more about her fears, saying, I would not be able to control myself around them.

I promised my wife that if they did come, I would not cause a single problem. I promised to be a perfect angel and prove to her that I could be the man she married. I promised I could be the man I knew I had to become. I reassured her and told her that this would be my true test. I would prove to her that despite all the anger, I could remain calm.

This visit was going to be longer than a weekend visit. We were planning on a full week of people showing up to help the crisis we were going through. Many more family members were planning on making this journey to assist us. Danielle’s family had decided to make a genuine gesture of love toward Danielle. Her sister and husband, including their two daughters, were coming. Also, Danielle’s mom was going to be traveling with them too. Everyone would be flying out in the next couple of days to be with us. It was going to be an occasion.

Danielle had asked my dad to stay, which he did without a second thought. He took several more vacation days to make sure that he could be there for us when the family arrived. I was going to be far more prepared for their arrival this time. So I got to work cleaning. My mom helped for the short time that she was in town, but her time was cut short. She had to head back home for work and was planning on coming back the following weekend.

One issue that we didn’t have to worry about was money. Danielle’s friend had given us another check so that I would be able to be a full-time caregiver for Danielle, which removed a big stressor from my world, my job. The relief from not working constantly gave me a huge advantage. There was just one problem, Danielle wasn’t going to be able to make it into the bank to cash the check, I would have to do it.

It was a large check, and the bank put a hold on it right away. I anticipated this might happen, but the hold only upset Danielle. She sent me back to the bank immediately to take care of it. My dad accompanied me because I was upset by the circumstances. After spending almost an hour at the bank on the phone getting the funds verified, we started moving forward. Next, we needed permission to allow the check to deposit into my account. After verification, we still had to wait twenty-four to forty-eight hours for the funds to be released. The ordeal was beyond frustrating.

Danielle felt apprehension with me having all the money in my account because of our relationship problems. She trusted me, but I hadn’t fully regained her unconditional support. I hadn’t fully rebuilt the trust she once had in me. I knew I could do it, but I couldn’t fail again. I had to be strong for Danielle because it was the only way I could make things right.

Her family arrived different days throughout the week. Everyone came out for as long as they could to help Danielle. I was excited to get more help around the house. Truthfully, I hadn’t gotten much rest since we returned. It had still been rather hectic in preparations for their arrival, which caused added stress for Danielle. Much like myself, Danielle feared her family would misbehave too. There was nothing I could do to help that problem, and it was up to her family to address those issues.

Danielle’s family arrived without a hitch. Things went well as everyone introduced themselves. Both of our families enjoyed getting to know each other. It helped my situation to have my dad there for support. Our support team was growing every day. We had a lot of people in the house by the end of the first day, and it was a bit overwhelming for Danielle. She wasn’t having a particularly good day mostly because the added stress had worn her out. Danielle also became rather irate at the behavior of everyone the first night.

Danielle came out into the living room for most of the evening, but every time she would start to feel tired, she would have to retreat to her room. Most of the time, I was the one who assisted during any moves throughout the house. I would also make sure that wherever she was traveling to, she would be comfortable. The cold weather outside had made it difficult, but I had the woodstove down to a science, I could heat almost the entire house with a well-maintained fire. It made for a cozy house for people to relax.

It became a party the first night as everyone was getting to know each other. Most of the group had started having a few cocktails, considering most of the group was drinkers. The spirits had everyone in high spirits. Danielle was offended that people were laughing, yelling, and partying while she was in the next room, going through excruciating pain. She had already retreated to her room, so I asked everyone to keep it down. We spent most of the evening together while everyone continued socializing.

I wasn’t impressed by the initial show of support. However, Danielle’s nieces were incredible, and they were her family’s saving grace. I found them to be the kindest young ladies who clearly admired Danielle. They behaved more like Danielle than their own mother. Almost immediately after they arrived, they started helping out with the cleaning.

No one wanted to cover the five-hundred-dollar cleaning service, so we had to do it ourselves. Danielle’s mom enlisted me for many different projects immediately. The first endeavor was washing all the laundry in the house. Not that difficult until I realized that there was a full mini van’s worth of stuff to wash. My dad and I filled twelve high capacity washers at the laundromat before he left to run other errands. After doing several hours of laundry, Danielle was more than eager to have me back at her side.

The house was coming along nicely, and it was amazing the effort and detail that her nieces were putting into the cleaning. I didn’t see Danielle’s sister help out much, but she did bring her daughters and help, therefore, was provided. I was somewhat relieved. It felt like a different family and had partially restored my faith in them.

As my faith in them returned, so did our need to find some additional solutions. Danielle’s family was concerned with our situation and that we didn’t have that much support from the community. It was upsetting to everyone that we had been left so much alone, although looking back, Danielle pushed much of the community out to protect herself and even hide me. The people who were showing up now felt too little too late, which is when we all had an interesting thought.

We could go across to the East Coast where her family lived, and they could help. Danielle’s sister said that they had a guest wing on their house that we could stay. We also would have her mother to give us rides, and the cousins lived nearby too. It sounded so good. We would have both her sister and husband for back up in the same house. For the times when I needed a break, I could take it. It brought me a huge sense of relief

The next few days involved running a ton of errands while still maintaining my responsibilities to Danielle. I also had to prepare both of us to move across the country, into extreme winter weather. We were heading to a white Philadelphia currently facing a brutal snowstorm. The weather was not going to be our friend, and we needed to prepare.

Thankfully Danielle had enough winter clothes in the laundry I cleaned. However, a lifetime in the desert had not left me ready for a snowy winter. I had to go shopping for clothes and shoes with my mother. Danielle had to make plans for doctors and someone to administer her saline IVs. Her family spent hours helping her find places that would meet her needs. It was an all hands-on deck kind of moment. I did everything that her family asked and more, I was perfect.

I was keeping my promise to my wife, and I did everything I could to make sure that things went smoothly. I could feel that things were going to be okay. I had some concerns, but since Danielle felt good about it, I was in either way. Danielle’s happiness and making sure she was taken care of were my biggest concerns. I couldn’t see any downside if Danielle was supporting this decision.

One decision that we couldn’t make up our minds about was what to do with Danielle's house. I had decided to pass on inheriting the house, and Danielle was looking at her family to take the house possibly. She did purchase part of the house with some money from an inheritance. Danielle’s family felt almost a right to get the house if she were to pass.

Danielle first offered to give the house to her nieces and nephews. They were gracious for the offer. Danielle wished that they would keep the house in memory of her. Danielle didn’t want her house sold. Instead, she wanted it to remain a symbol of what she loved. However, that later became an issue as all the young adults wouldn’t be able to afford the house. The next option was leaving the house to Danielle’s siblings and mother.

The group of them could make the Sedona Vacation house a possibility. She even asked that I get some time in the house after she passed. I wasn’t expecting that request, but I also assumed they agreed. Danielle’s family simply nodded in agreement. Danielle was ready to move forward with that plan. We had finalized so many decisions in such a short time.

It seemed like the universe was providing the perfect solutions. My mom even came back to town that weekend to help with the move. My dad decided to use his flyer miles to get us tickets that following Tuesday. There wasn’t a thing that was telling me that this wasn’t a good idea. It seemed like divine timing, and like things were continuing to work out in our favor again.

All of the plans were finally concrete. Danielle’s family were going to fly back first, followed by Danielle and me two days later. There wasn’t any issue other than getting Danielle physically across the country. A feat all its own if we pulled it off. However, Danielle’s health needed to improve for a trip to be successful.

Other than being very busy for a few days, there weren’t any problems Danielle was having with her family. Everyone was in such happy spirits because Danielle was going to be joining them all on the East Coast. No one was showing their sadness or disappointment as they did before. It was a beautiful time, and even her mother stepped up to the plate. I was truly impressed by her mother's efforts to help Danielle, one evening, in particular, stood out.

Danielle’s mother truly showed Danielle, one of her nieces, and I that she was capable of showing true compassion. The moment had all of us in tears. It was such a simple and beautiful moment to be able to share with my wife, and I also felt it brought some real peace between Danielle and her mother. It was simply a relaxing technique that Danielle’s mother showed her, where she just softly brushed Danielle’s forearm. She spent almost ten minutes, gently stroking her daughter while speaking with a gentle, kind voice. The moment was unforgettable.

I had lived up to my expectations of myself and exceeded Danielle’s expectations. I had proven to her that I could properly interact with her family. I hadn’t shown any signs of instability during their stay and never became angry. I had redeemed myself in a small part, but I knew we still had literally a long way to go. It would take every ounce of energy Danielle had to make the day-long journey across the country. It had her worried, and that was causing her health to suffer.

The infection that Danielle had dealt with the previous week had reached the end of the antibiotic round. However, problems with frequent urination and discomfort persisted. Danielle pulled me aside before dinner to tell me that she was having issues and that she would need to go to the ER that night to get it checked out. I understood her concerns because she was worried that she didn’t take the proper amount of antibiotics.

The doctor had told us to take the antibiotics one way while the prescription told us another way. The doctor's recommendation was about half the regular prescription, and Danielle decided to take his advice. It was a risk on her part but also if it worked would have been better long term. Now Danielle feared the antibiotics had failed. Which meant she likely needed another round of antibiotics to prevent further issues.

Danielle knew this was not going to be good for her overall health. She decided then that there was no chance she would be traveling in the next couple days, and that we needed to tell the family ASAP. I recommended we wait till after dinner because the information would be easier to handle on a full stomach. Danielle agreed to wait as we were just about to eat.

When Danielle came out of her room to tell the family, she was not looking good. Her presence concerned everyone. I explained that Danielle wanted to share something with the family. Danielle was very emotional when she explained that the infection was still causing problems and that she would have to go to the ER that night. She also explained that there was no way she was traveling and asked if anyone would stay to help.

Her mother was the first and only one to respond. I still to this day can’t believe what was said, but to my best recollection she said,

“That’s not possible we all have lives, your sister obviously can’t handle it, and everyone else has work or school.”

I would have to say that the whole room just sat in silent disbelief at what Danielle’s mother had just said. Danielle stormed to our room in a fit of rage. She was more upset than I had seen her ever. In a rush, she prepared for a trip to the ER. The ride there was intense as Danielle poured out her anger towards her mother. Danielle was beyond irate about the insensitivity that her mother had shown. I was more surprised by the silence from everyone else, which made me instantly worried. I was rising to the occasion, but her family was showing they were not ready.

My promise to stay calm was stronger than ever. I had successfully navigated the frustrations of packing and getting ready for the trip. I had done every task requested of me with a smile. It wasn’t easy for me to get everything together, but I did it. Now, all that work was a waste, and still, it didn’t bother me. I truly had shifted my attitude. No longer would I fly off the rails, I was truly a new man. I could be the calm person she needed to keep her from going nuclear.

At the hospital, we had to wait a few minutes in the ER waiting room. Danielle’s nieces and nephews were already waiting for us. The immediate topic of discussion was obviously Danielle’s mother. Everyone was completely appalled at Danielle’s mother’s response. Not one person could even comprehend that someone could say something like that to their daughter. It also appeared that Danielle’s nieces were very upset at the fact that their own mother sat there and said nothing. I was not even close to the angriest person in the room. I expected this behavior while Danielle was devastated.

After processing Danielle’s paperwork, they called us into the back. It was another quiet night in the Sedona ER. The nurse, as usual, took all of Danielle’s vitals and also did the blood draws. The first task I had was to help her get a urine sample. I, as usual, assisted Danielle in all trips to and from the bathroom. Despite being as weak as she was, she would try to do as much movement herself as possible. Even when she was doing poorly, she showed a strength few possess.

The conversation with the Doctor was one of the most upsetting talks Danielle had with a Medical professional. It started with explaining all the problems that led us to the problems Danielle was currently facing. Danielle and I explained the whole scenario to the doctor from the tube to her most recent antibiotic round. I could tell the doctor was very concerned because he started to ask Danielle some interesting questions.

First, the doctor asked Danielle about the antibiotics she was told to take and the dosage she took. We were told to administer the dosage almost half the recommendation on the bottle, which, according to the ER doctor could leave the body susceptible to infection. Without a complete antibiotic round, a possibility of harmful bacteria overpowering good bacteria is exponentially higher. In Danielle’s weakened state, a bacterial infection could be life-threatening.

The doctor's second concern was to find out what infection we might be facing. The doctor called up to Flagstaff because he said that it often took several days for a culture to develop after an initial inspection. We were a bit confused by why Danielle would be prescribed antibiotics before results were available. Danielle became very upset with the doctor until he explained further.

The doctor stated that finding stuff in the urine is often treated as an infection regardless of the cause. I could tell it bothered Danielle, but I was more surprised at the way doctors do their testing and prescribing. The news the doctor delivered next was the most upsetting of the night. The culture in Flagstaff did not show any signs of an infection, and we couldn’t believe it.

Danielle lost it completely there in the ER, solely at the incompetence of our Medical Establishment. She couldn’t believe that not only was she miss informed on taking the first round of antibiotics, but she was also going to have to take a second one to make sure the first one didn’t kill her. Then just to put the icing on the shit cake that they were serving, she never had an infection in the first place. This evening shattered Danielle’s spirit.

I did everything to calm Danielle down. Thankfully I was in a good place to be there for her. The efforts I had made for her family had earned more of Danielle’s trust. Instead of attacking me and my behavior, her family was now the target of her rage. I didn’t even have to convince her because they had dug their own graves as far as I could see it. Danielle’s family was the first domino to fall in deciding to stay in Sedona.

The second issue was Danielle started peeing about every thirty minutes. The challenge was making for a miserable or near impossible journey. The trip would require constant movement while being up longer than ever before. We were facing a roughly ten-hour journey through airports with several long car rides before and after. Crossing the country without any help would be very challenging for me, but that didn’t concern me. However, Danielle was concerned about my ability to make the adventure without medications. My biggest worry now concerned her family.

The previous several hours showed me that her sister and husband were not going to be helpful during times of crazy stress. Danielle’s news about her declining health and inability to travel almost left her sister in a state of shock, hence her mother’s wicked response, “your sister obviously can’t handle it.” Truthfully Danielle’s mother was completely right about that one, and I knew that I didn’t want to have to depend on someone like that. Still, the comment had Danielle questioning her mother's ability to help.

Before this happened, we decided that Danielle’s mother would help give us rides. We needed regular rides to the Doctor’s. Not having a car was a logistical nightmare for me, combined with all the added uncertainty of Danielle’s declining health. After the comment, Danielle’s wouldn’t force herself into further situations with her mother. I could tell there were other concerns she wasn’t sharing with me, but it had become clear she was unwilling to travel.

During this time, we talked to Danielle’s nieces and nephew. I found out that they all lived two to three hours from where we were moving. I considered their presence a deciding factor in making my choice to go there for help. They had proven how helpful they could be when they were around. They informed us that they would only be able to visit some weekends. I was glad for their honesty and support.

Even in this moment of crisis, they took Danielle’s side, which said a lot. So when I learned even more that they wouldn’t be able to help more than a weekend here or there. I didn’t want to be left in the hands of the three people that did not show me an ounce of help. My opinion about moving had quickly swung to staying versus pursuing complete uncertainty.

For four and a half months, I had taken care of Danielle without a single bit of help from her family. They barely lifted a finger their first visits, while even causing additional problems. They never helped in ways that improved our lives. Even though Danielle talked to her family every day, she still never received the support she needed. Now they had ruined their second visit in a way I never saw coming.

I can only imagine that this epic situation was ultimately a test. I feel the opportunity to have her family rise to the occasion during Danielle’s darkest hour was available. However, they let the possibility slip right through their fingers. While on the other hand, I had succeeded in keeping my promise to Danielle. I had proven to her that I could be civil with her family. At the moment, she needed my complete support.

Danielle and I arrived home late that night. Every healing crisis seemed to become worse and worse, and this night was no different. The news from the hospital and her family had her drowning in stress. I still feel that she was the angriest with the Doctors and their misdiagnosis. Combined with her family, we had a perfect storm. Danielle was emotionally crushed, causing her health to decline rapidly.

The next morning was tough because I almost couldn’t change the topic from either the problem with the infection or how her family had behaved. It was all she could think about, and to my benefit, it took all the heat off me. I was thankful to have passed the test.

Danielle was incredibly impressed with my behavior, and this made her question the doubts she had about me. It wouldn’t be until after her family left that she told me that her family was not a huge supporter of me. Danielle was frustrated that they couldn’t give me the respect I deserved. I fixed my behavior and proved to her that I could do it. We had brought peace between us, and our relationship blossomed into new frontiers.

She wasn’t about to be Peaceful with her family after the constant abuses. Her anger and frustrations were so valid and understandable. I couldn’t manage that anger because even trying to stop her, became more upsetting to Danielle. She knew she had a right to be angry at their behavior, and it was up to her family to set things right. I did nothing to help the situation because my mind was made up. Danielle’s family had dug their holes just as I once did myself.

Danielle’s family did not attempt to fix the situation that had happened the previous day. They still expected Danielle to make the journey, which only upset her further. The push back from her family only solidified her desire to stay in Sedona. Danielle wanted to be in her home, and if she was going to die, she wanted to die in her home. The only reason she considered traveling East was to improve her relationship with her family, but now that ship had sailed.

The withdrawal from supporting her decision to stay in Sedona honestly felt like another fatal blow. Danielle pleaded for her family to stay in one more final attempt to recover the damage done. Danielle’s mother met those pleas with another horrifying statement. Taking the only good moment she had with her daughter and throwing it in her face.

I wasn’t present for the situation but heard Danielle explain how it made her feel enough times to understand. She explained that her mother threw the relaxing arm brushing technique in her face. The manner which the information was delivered seemed to trigger Danielle. Sadly, that immediately erased the beautiful memory from the night her mother brought us to tears. To taint the only beautiful moment she shared with her mother devastated Danielle.

Crushed and Disheartened by how her family behaved, Danielle went into a dark place. I knew that I had to be the strong one and that my wife needed me more than ever. We were also going to need to find some additional help. We had to come up with some solutions quick because her pain was becoming increasingly unmanageable. I knew I couldn’t handle it alone.

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