January 12, 2010. The day the earthquake hit Haiti. This was also the day my cousins Laurel and Steve Rodd medevaced their son, Teddy, from Durango, CO to The Children’s Hospital in Denver, CO. Teddy’s health had been challenging over the last year and was thought to be a result of a soccer accident…but that first week of 2010 saw a steady decline in health that indicated something was terribly wrong and needed to be addressed NOW.
So was the beginning of the next chapter of the Rodd family’s story where Teddy, age 10, was diagnosed with a brain tumor that grew from the middle of his back inside the spinal column up through the lower part of his brain.
I read today’s entry by my cousin, Steve, Teddy’s dad, and was inspired to share his post here. Steve had an opportunity to get out of town for a short trip as well as shares about what community has meant to him and his family in these last months. May you be blessed in the reading as I was today…
Monday, May 10, 2010 2:26 PM, MDT
I was standing in the cool rain forest. Eyes serenely closed. Palms face-up and outstretched soaking in the dripping moisture from the canopy above. In the mean time, Teddy was soaking in Round Nine of the Chemo IV Drip at Children’s in Denver with Laurel. A very distant memory.
A shimmering mountain stream danced its way through the boulders and lush foliage out to sea. I’ve really never seen Matt scared. All I could see were his eyes. Big as saucers. All I could hear was the ferocious black phantom crashing through the timber and Matt’s gargantuan Texas whoop. Both sounds rudely interrupting my quiet meditation. The bear was famished. The whoop stopped him dead in his tracks. He just woke up from hibernation to the scent of French pates and stinky cheeses strapped to our backs. We slowly backed up. Once the bear was out of sight all I could see was Matt’s back side. I was fast on his heels. The bear wasn’t about to get our lunch.
That bear will most assuredly grow in size as the years go by. Tears will roll down our big fat cigars into our stout beers as we weep over how that fanged beast almost devoured our back sides and our most exquisite picnic lunch.
You may remember Matt. He was one of the original founders and writers of Team Teddy’s blog. He was also the one that you most likely talked to upon calling our mobile phones during that first week of fighting for Teddy’s life up at Children’s back in January. Upon hearing about Teddy’s diagnosis, he and his wife, Denise, decided to put their lives on hold for a week. Matt hopped on a plane to manage the chaos. I still remember Matt taking our phones, making us sleep and sitting with us as Teddy was being taken apart piece by piece in surgery just one floor above.
He flew me to Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada. We ferried across the inlet to Vancouver Island and made our way down a seemingly never ending gravel road to a small fishing village for three days.
Matt and Denise have once again put their lives on hold. Gave me a break from cancer.
Rob, Karen and Caleb live just up the hill on the ranch. We basically live together. Our lives though have been forever intertwined since Teddy’s diagnosis. They became junior high parents in the blink of an eye. They put aside the “coolness factor” as aunt and uncle and became “mom and dad” to Nano and Allie for that first month while Teddy, Laurel and I were up at Children’s. They continue to set aside their lives to care for our family that has became “their” family. In the midst of all this, Rob just had major surgery on his spinal column. There was a point when he and Teddy were actually comparing and borrowing stool and neuro pain meds.
Karen was recently feeding the horses. Her car slipped out of gear. Rolled down the hill picking up speed. Karen in its sights. The horses got spooked and jumped. Just in time to warn Karen to dive out of the way. It’s wasn’t head on, however the car clipped her and fractured her foot in multiple locations. My heart skips a beat when I think of what could have happened.
No big deal, right, in light of a kid with a brain tumor? Of course it’s a big deal. It’s a huge deal. Matt and Denise still have three very young children of their own with significant ongoing needs. Rob and Karen are still trying to figure out how to deal with major surgery and horse feedings that turn into multiple fractures.
So many have put their lives on hold for us since Teddy’s January 12th diagnosis. They’ve given of their time and resources to the point where it actually hurts. It costs them something of great value. Dear friends and family took turns flying in to Children’s during that first month to help care for Teddy. I can still see Uncle Scott and Auntie Anne tenderly feeding, dressing and lifting Teddy that second post-op week.
So many have ferried us back and forth to Denver since then. Taken on our kids and countless critters in our absence despite the ongoing needs of their own families. Meals and checks mysteriously show up on our doorstep. We return from our weekly Children’s trips to a thoroughly cleaned home…and folded laundry. It’s a strange thought to think that people are actually rifling through my underwear.
Our lives have been stopped dead in our tracks. Put on hold. Ripped open. Exposed. Personal privacy is a distant memory.
We’ve discovered community.
Transparent. Raw. Imperfect. Beautiful. Sharing till it hurts community.
Teddy’s cancer has ushered us naked, broken and completely dependent into community.
We’re discovering though that our lives really haven’t been “put on hold” or “set aside”.
This is life.
Every excruciating moment of these last four months that can feel wasted is life well spent. I’ve never been more physically available and emotionally present with my wife and kids. We’ve never experienced God’s hand in such stark detail through the loving hands and feet of caring people.
One hundred forty-two orange and green squares of Durango community prayers and smiles keep Teddy warm at night. The one hundred forty-third square is burgundy with the inscription “Love, Daddy”. It’s from one of my oldest shirts that Matt and Denise had bought me years ago. Perfect time and place to retire the worn burgundy fabric. It’s at the top of the quilt close to his face.
Teddy successfully finished Round Ten of Chemo this past Wednesday up at Children’s. It was my turn to take him back up. Getting really good at timing the numbing cream for his chest port poke. One hour before the appointment we pull over to the side of the road to apply the cream. We cover it with the Glad Press N’ Seal. Not too much, otherwise it hurts too much when they pull it off. Teddy can pretty much do it himself now. They then access the port, draw his blood and test it to make sure that his little white soldier count is high enough for chemo.
Thirty-Four Rounds of Chemo to go.
We just experienced our first two weeks with no major crisis since January 12th. PT is going great once a week. We also take him to PE at school twice a week to be with his buddies. Last PE he whacked the t-ball and surprised us all by running the bases for a home-run. He loves, Kelly, his dining room tutor. Teddy actually looks forward to his two hours of home school twice a week. The rest of his week is pretty much spent at Children’s.
His little white soldier count has remained high enough for chemo. No more allergic reactions. The burning pain is under control. Appetite decent. Weight constant. His hair has even started to grow a bit. It’s coming back in dark brown. He still rarely parts with the cool orange Turtle Fur lid that Uncle Rob bought him up at Purgatory. It usually follows him to bed every night.
Teddy: You mean I don’t have to get chemo this week? Woohoo!
Daddy: We still have to go back up to Children’s though.
Daddy: Maybe the last time for six weeks if all goes well.
Laurel, Teddy and I will head back up the rifle barrel to Children’s in just a few days for another MRI and a multi clinic consultation with his pediatric neuro oncology and rehab docs. It’s typically a seven hour trip each way with fun drinks and snacks. Books on CD have become dear friends. Nano and Allie will once again move up the hill to Rob and Karen’s in our absence. It’s Nano’s last full week of junior high.
So how do we feel?
Exhausted beyond ridiculous.
Trying not to think too much about what’s around the corner.
Maybe wishing there were another way to experience community.
Back on the ranch we observed in shock the annual castration of the bull calves. Wasn’t aware that their meaty donations are a culinary delight here in the Southwest. Anybody for some Rocky Mountain oysters? Apparently they taste like chicken…
Steve, Teddy’s Dad