Chapter 26: My Guardian Angels
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Sunday rolled around, and the “tag teams” made hand contact: my Dad and Brother left to go back home to Fort Kent, and my Mom and Gary returned. It was nearing the end of October, and I was set to go home– home home. God, it felt good to get out of the hospital these days. The cold autumn air hit my delicate skin as I anticipated snowfall once more.
Wow, who would have thought I’d want to see the snow?
I wouldn’t have to wait long for as I awoke that early Monday morning, a mild snowfall had indeed blanketed the exterior of the Ronald McDonald House, and some deer adorned the white grass-like statues; well long enough for me to snap a photo.
I was admitted for the outpatient spinal tap that morning, on October 20th, in hopes of getting back home again. A thing that always frustrated me was how early we had to arrive before the procedure. Two hours early?! Come on, most of the time I would sit there just waiting for the damn operation to commence. And still the procedure would be late! Why?!
Ironically, the process was like clockwork. We’d sit in the waiting room anywhere from half an hour to forty-five minutes, and then they’d call me in for prep.
I’d change into a Johnny, and they’d proceed to collect my height, weight, heart rate, and blood pressure; you know: the vitals.
Next, they sat me down on the Pre-Op room’s stretcher. Here the interrogation began with a series of questions about my health history. Then I seemingly met the entire crew at Outpatient Surgery (aside from the janitor and kitchen stocker), finishing off with the doctor and anesthesiologist. The latter two would warn me of the allergies to the anesthesia, and potential risks of getting any surgery.
These risks were as follows: infection, fever, bowel obstruction, incisional hernia, basal atelectasis (lung collapse), blood loss, shock, and even death.
Now how is anyone going to be okay with surgery after that laundry list of “oopsies?” I for one was worried, but only since they mentioned it. It was almost enough to cause me to become a hypochondriac. And this wasn’t even my first rodeo under the knife! Just like my initial fear of allergy to anesthesia, the mere mention of these issues put it into my head in the first place and really got to me each and every time.
But in these times of stress, I’d think of my grandparents. They were sure to call me as often as they could, which would normally mean every day. As I mentioned before, they were Catholic, and lit a candle for me incessantly; if it ran out, they would light a new one immediately. I’m not sure if they would ever wake up in the middle of the night to do so, but they were consistent.
They (and many other friends and family members in my life) were my “Happy Place” much like Chubbs spoke of in Happy Gilmore.
Finally, they rolled my stretcher into the operating room and had me count down from ten again. I was determined to make it to “One” during one of these surgical excursions. Hey, at least I made it to “Seven” this time.
I awoke to beeps and chatter. The doctor soon approached: “Everything seems great. You’re free to go home.”
I smiled then closed my eyes. “Good. Can I get something to eat now?” The doctor chuckled. “Sure, I’ll let the nurse know.”
The ride home was calm. The fresh snow glazed the entire scenic ride up. Yes, I said scenic. While most times the rampant trees were enough to put you asleep, when they were covered in snow, it was a winter wonderland of serenity. This was the perfect snowfall.
Of course, as we traveled further up North in the great State of Maine, the air fell cooler, and the snow accumulation grew. Once we hit Eagle Lake, I off-loaded my hospital gear. I felt like I moved a house-load of stuff every time I moved from room to room, or RMD House, even though my possessions were minimal (for the time being).
The first people we visited were my Memére and Pepére Ouellette. I came in, surprising them (I loved doing that), and I gave them both great big hugs. Naturally, I was beholden to surgical masks while anywhere outside of wherever I called “home” at the time.
I sat down to catch them up on the surgery this morning (still partially groggy from the damn thing), and I finally saw it in person: the candle. I got up to examine it. Most of the times, the candle was adorned with either an image of some religious figure (including Jesus!), and they each lasted for seven days.
My Memére approached and told me she always had one lit for me, at all times of the day. I jokingly asked, “What if it falls and catches the house on fire?” She didn’t pick up on the terrible joke and assured me that it was safe.
The idea behind a Roman Catholic prayer candle is to extend prayers to those who are ill, on a journey, far away, or deceased. The prayer was to protect or watch over the person in question.
This was only a snapshot of the massive outreach of support I had received on a daily basis, and it was all very much appreciated.
As I sat in this house talking to Memére and Pepére, I was transported to the time when we stayed here as foster kids. Back then; they supported us too, providing a roof over our heads. Their love kept us stable in the rockiest era of our adolescence… well, until this current ordeal.
In fact, they’d been there my entire life, watching over all of their grandchildren like living Guardian Angels; nurturing us since we were young.
But for some reason, I honestly didn’t expect to see a candle at all, let alone such a massive, seven-day long candle. It was a sight to behold, and I don’t know why I ever doubted them. I guess I didn’t think anyone would do something so persistent like they were carrying the Olympic Torch, all for me. I should have known they would do such a task: they were my mental rock; my “happy place.”
This is an ongoing story of my personal battle with Cancer. My hope is that it helps others who are currently experiencing their own battles (whether it be for themselves or a loved one) or to help with early detection.
The way I’m doing it is terrifying for a writer. I’m writing a publically available first-draft outline for an eventual book, chapter by chapter in weekly form. The only reason I’m doing it this way is to get the story out as soon as possible for someone out there who needs a survivor to visit them during their own treatment. If you’re reading this and need someone to talk to, tweet at me and I’ll give you a call. No questions asked. This story is for you and I’ll help any way that I can.
Stay tuned, as I will be posting a new chapter every Monday until the story is complete.
And remember if you experience any Anemic symptoms– get checked for Leukemia as well.