From Smooth Sailing to Rough Waters

Submitted 5 months ago
Created by
Kerry Krieger Clifford

On June 27th, 2017, a year and two days ago, I went with my boys and one of my students (who I hadn't seen in months) to the kids' camp that the Vermont Association for the Blind runs for our students every year. Because of my health issues, I wasn't able to help out overnight, but this particular student also wasn't ready for sleep-away camp, so it worked really well for us to go together just for the day. He was able to get an introduction to sailing at the Lake Champlain Sailing Center and to have lunch with some visually impaired peers. I was able to spend some time with him and to see my colleagues who I had been missing so much. 

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So we spent the day with the VABVI teachers and students, sailing and soaking up the sun. In fact, at one point my student wanted to take a break from the boat, so he got out with another teacher and I realized that I was literally getting paid to sail with my sons on a picture perfect day on Lake Champlain. Besides a tiny worry about some test results that caused me to need to schedule a scan for the following day, life was good. 

Then the next day came. June 28th, 2017. I went in for my scan and waited to see my oncologist. Up until that point, things had been going pretty much according to plan with my Stage IV Colorectal Cancer. In January, they had removed the tumor from my colon. In May, they took out half of my liver (the half with all of the cancer in it). At this point in June, we thought there may be a little bit of "clean-up chemo" needed, but expected me to be finished with surgeries and treatment by the end of the summer. Life was waiting. I had stuff to do. 

But that's not the conversation we had with Dr. Ripple that day. That day was the day that he realized and told me that the cancer was going to keep coming back to my liver no matter what we do. My cancer had revealed itself to be the kind that you don't get rid of. My cancer was going to kill me. 

June 28th, 2017 was the day I found out I was going to die. 

Today, on the one year anniversary of that devastating news, I looked back to that day in my journal for the first time. I'm going to share exactly what I wrote, even though there's a bit of political commentary that I try to avoid here. (You guys can handle it. You're cool.) I went from a perfect day on the water with my kids to wrestling with whether (and how) to tell them the worst news I could possibly imagine. I promised when I started this blog that I'd be real with you, so here it is. I'm not even going to correct the punctuation, you guys. This is me at my rawest.

The journal my mom bought me from the gift shop that day. It’s been a constant companion ever since.

"When he told me I'm dying, it burned.

"Literally. I felt so hot inside, I thought I might spontaneously combust. But now, 6 hours later, as my infusion gets to the part where I take my chemo to go, I don't feel the heat. I feel the numbness of denial. Why would I tell my kids what he told me - that I'm dying - it doesn't feel like I'm dying. 

"When we stopped chemo, I got more tumors. But chemo made them shrink. So, if I keep doing chemo, we can keep them at bay. Maybe long enough to find a cure. 

"But maybe not. Which sucks.

"So I should probably tell the boys. About the maybes and the probablys.

"Will the second opinion give me more of the former or of the latter?

"Will it hurt this much with everyone I tell, or will I get numb to that as well?

"Oh, can't they please find a cure?

"Colon Cancer Alliance today said that Trump has declined to continue Colon Cancer Awareness Month (March). He's a monster. 

"So many people leaving - and now I might be one of them."

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