Hi, my name is Jess. I am Valerie's husband and I wanted to contribute to the blog to give you a glimpse of my feelings and experiences though all this.
Why me? Why is this happening to me? Its not until later in life that I learned that a trial, or an afflicion was something that can benefit the one being afflicted. I never understood this as a kid, or as a teenager, or even as an adult. I always avoided discomfort and I never knew that I can actually learn from a trial. My parents did a good job of sheltering me from "crap". To this day, I can't think of anything that happened to me as a child that can be called a trial. It wasn't until well into my 20s that I learned to deal with trials, adversity and struggles. Even now, in moments of weakness, I revert back to the my old, numb, way of thinking. The author Andy Andrews taught me to think "Why not me? What great things can I learn from this trial?".
When Valerie was first diagnosed with cancer last July I was pretty devastated and only after a week or two of dealing and knowing that she would be ok, was I able to think about what we can learn. So I organized a group of people and we were able to raise enough money to pay for all of her treatment. Envita Medical Center and their doctors and nurses had Valerie in "remission" in a matter of weeks. It was very difficult on her and her body. She suffered hair loss, constant nausea, terrible mouth sores, and a host of other side-effects. But she did it and took the side-effects like a champ. I was so proud of her and she did learn great things from it.
The lesson that stands out the most for me was that she would be able and better equipped to help something going through the same thing in the future. She can now relate to a whole new sector of the population. I also learned that people will come out of the woodwork and bend over backwards to help you. I'm ashamed to admit this, but I always felt that people were generally selfish. Okay, I just gave you a glimpse of one of my biggest self-struggles. But yes, I generally felt that people were usually out for themselves. Boy was I wrong! Shannon, Kerry, Amanda, Lance, Glenn, Lucy, Shanda and many others, bent waaaay over backwards and gave their time, talents, resources, and cash to help us. So when we learned this last July that Valerie had a recurrence, I was equally devastated. But I did know two things. I knew that she was going to be ok after more treatment, and I knew that we were going to learn more great lessons. Absolutely nothing could prepare me for what was about to take place.
About a month and a half ago Valerie started to feel strange sensations in her right arm. The sensations quickly turned into severe pain and discomfort. So we went to a local doctor here in San Tan Valley and she ordered an MRI that was told us what was going on. We found out that the cancerous mass of lymph nodes had grown and spread into her chest and upper back on her right side. They were displacing her trachea and one mass was encasing an artery. That scared me more than the first time because of the compromised blood flow. But just as disturbing, a mass was pressing on her spinal cord and this was the cause of all the pain and craziness that was going on in her right arm. After we learned the scale of the cancer, the pain got worse. It became EXCRUCIATING. She was being tortured. Imagine that your arm is being held over an open flame and that you cannot move it. Imagine the torturous and excruciating pain that you would experience.
The doctor prescribed the maximum dose of a nerve medication. She
still had the pain. He gave her a very strong oral pain killer. She
still had pain. And finally we gave in and they gave us a pain patch, a pain patch that we were trying to avoid.
This "pain medication" is an isotope away from being considered heroin.
It is 100 times stronger than morphine. She still had pain! For about 3 weeks life was constant, 24 hour pain for Valerie and the nights were literally hell on earth for her. She would cry out in pain constantly. She would roll around the floor begging and pleading that her pain would subside. There were times when she felt that she could not go on any longer. I was devastated because I could not help her. There was absolutely nothing that I could do. Nothing that I tried gave her even a little bit of relief. This is when I lost it . I remember during one of those sleepless night thinking why? "Why her? Why, why, why? I don't want to learn anything! I don't care about learning anything! Screw the lesson! Valerie doesn't want to learn anything! This is not worth it! She, of all people, doesn't deserve this! Why are you doing this to my family?"
There is good news. The photo dynamic therapy that Envita does is pretty amazing medical technology that I wish more was more prevalent. It is designed to kill a cancer cell immediately, during the therapy. The only real detrimental side-effect is that it causes inflammation. There is so much cell death going on on that part of her body that she swelled up like a balloon and the tissue around the mass that was pressing on her spinal cord probably swelled up too. This made her pain worse and unbearable. But because of the extremely sensitive location of the cancer mass, the pain, and the swelling involved we decided to stop this therapy and start the low-dose chemotherapy that was effective in helping Val achieve "remission" last year.
Since stopping the photo dynamic treatment Valerie has now had some well deserved relief. Monday night was her first full night of sleep in about a month and we were beside ourselves excited. Hooray! As of today, she still has pain and her hand is still "dead" but we see the light at the end of the tunnel. I don't know if I will soon understand what we were supposed to learn from this latest trial. But it was BIG one and I know there are many things we'll learn from it.
One thing that I do know, Valerie has a very selfless way of connecting with people. It is a great talent that I wish I had. She touches the lives of so many people with her excitement, optimism, and her awesome Zumba classes! Heavenly Father chose her to feel this pain. For some reason or another, I know that she was supposed to go through this and experience a glimpse of the same type of torture and pain that the Saviour experienced on the cross. I'm excited to see what is next for her and how she is going to use this experience.
We are hoping that about five more weeks of treatment will put her into remission for good. I know with a surety is that this is Valerie's last go-around with cancer. We have a plan. There are pro-active steps and we are going to take full advantage. No more recurrences for her!
We are still in need of donations. Please visit CureVal.org or the Cure Val for Christmas event page on Facebook and help with whatever you can. Many $15 donations will make a huge difference.