Number 10 feels like a big deal.
When I was 10 years old, I was in 4th grade. I remember on the first day of school I wore a yellow t-shirt with a red beaded butterfly on the front. I paired it with a pair of flared Shopko jeans I begged my mom to buy.
In addition to all the cute school clothes we picked out together, I couldn’t get these jeans out of my head. They were incredible.
A red belt was attached to them made of what I imagine were thousands of tiny red beads. Probably fifty strands of these tiny beads were woven together and fastened on the side with a red disco ball looking bead the size of a quarter. The ends of the strings swung freely at my side.
On the first day of school the beautiful belt broke in the grass during PE. Beads went everywhere and I was devastated. Mrs. Tullis grabbed a Ziploc and my entire class spent the hour picking up the tiny beads and putting them in the bag for me to take home.
My mom assured me we’d fix it.
The belt proved difficult to fix, but we made the best of it! I made bracelets, earrings, glued the beads to art projects, and much more.
I asked Jake if he remembered anything from 10th grade. He said, “Yes! That’s when you moved to Parowan.” That turned out to be a pretty big deal.
Yesterday was chemotherapy treatment number 10 and for some reason it felt like a big deal.
Jake’s numbers are still great. We spent the few treatment hours holding hands and watching the State Basketball Tournament play out for the Parowan Boys.
We sat in lucky chemo chair #13, and the boys won the game. My mom said the boys must have won to celebrate chemo #10. Our pet bird Loie even pooped on my sweat pants before we headed to the clinic. (I’ve heard birds pooping on you is good luck.)
One of our nurses this round was there at another big deal appointment, our first one.
She reminded us of that first appointment and how much better things are now. They really are.
That first appointment felt a little like 10 years old. I felt a little like I did when I was standing in the grass with an open Ziploc bag as people rushed around me to pick up tiny red beads.
Everyone assured me they’d fix him.
So, we make the best of it. We are so grateful for these past few months of our lives. We are grateful to our Heavenly Father for the miracles that have occurred, and for all those who have asked for them on our behalf.
One of the first things I loved about Jake was his smile. I always joked that he looked like an Orbit commercial. It is beautiful and no surprise to me that he still smiles all the time.
The end of our cancer journey is in sight. Jake’s smile is as beautiful and bright as ever. Parowan Basketball has a shot at a State Championship. Maybe that’s why I’m so happy.
When I was a junior in high school, a senior boy asked me to homecoming. I wore a sea foam green dress with a pleated skirt that fell just past my knees. My mom worked with my short hair until we managed a pretty finger wave and then added a thin pink headband with a tiny pink bow. I went with a fun group of kids, but after a while I found myself alone in the hall. My date found some other friends to dance with and didn’t seem to be missing me.
I was feeling like I wanted to go home. As I sat on a bench in the hallway, Jake Topham came out of the gym for a drink of water. He caught my eye and came to sit next to me.
Jake and I didn’t know each other well. He was a year older than me and much more popular than I ever was. He must have noticed I looked a little sad though because as he sat next to me he complimented my dress and asked where my date was. I told him he had found other friends to be with, and I had felt a little out of place.
He quickly stood up and took my hands. He walked me back in and started to dance to a slow song with me. We talked and laughed and I had a great time. I don’t remember what we talked about, but I remember how I felt. Even though I wasn’t his date, Jake Topham had rescued me.
When our little dance was over, my own date found me. After he brought me home my mom asked how it went. After a few short answers she asked what my favorite part was. I said, “Dancing with Jake Topham”.
Last summer Jake and I went to the grocery store in Cedar to pick up a few things. We were living in Parowan and finishing up school and student teaching. I remember standing in line with him when a song he loves started playing. He started dancing with me a little bit in line as we waited to pick up some cupcakes for a family party.
As we danced I laughed and he sang along to the music. I forgot we were in Lin’s for a second. Pretty soon a woman came up and tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around to see a stranger with a wide smile. She said, “Please don’t ever stop dancing at the grocery store”. Jake promised we wouldn’t, and we finished the song.
After we got our cancer diagnosis we met with our nurse navigator, Brenda. Jake calls her our cancer agent. She helped us schedule everything, taught us about chemotherapy, and gave me a list of numbers to call and symptoms to watch for. In our first meeting with her she told us that the two weeks before treatment began were the busiest and hardest. Her words proved prophetic.
Jake underwent a few procedures to take biopsies of the mass and his bone marrow, and to receive his port for treatment. Doctors performed tests on his heart and lungs and multiple scans to make sure his body was ready for treatment. Those two weeks were tough for us. Jake didn’t feel well, he was losing weight, dealing with severe cancer symptoms, and the stress of starting treatment.
On one of those days I needed to go to the grocery store. I was nervous to leave Jake home alone, so I helped him to the passenger seat and laid it back a little. We drove slowly to the grocery store so he didn’t get nauseous, and I bought him a Mountain Dew slushy from the Maverik to sip. As Jake laid in the car in the parking lot I ran inside and grabbed all the applesauce and Gatorade I could carry and the few necessities I could find. It was the fastest grocery trip I’ve managed so far.
A woman in front of me in line looked at my grocery haul and asked if I had a sick baby at home. I told her no, but I did have a sick husband. She told me that it looked like I had everything under control, and that I should find something funny for him to watch or read. Laughter cures everything.
I left the store with a little renewed confidence borrowed from that kind woman. I took Jake home and we found something to funny to watch.
We had chemo treatment #9 yesterday. Can you believe it? Jake’s levels are still miraculously great, and he has avoided all the sicknesses going around. He has been able to work every day but treatment day for the past few months. We only have three to go. We feel incredibly blessed to be where we are, and for all the experiences we’ve had since our September diagnosis.
After treatment yesterday we went to the grocery store. Jake came in with me and we walked around the store hand in hand.
I had a young lady ask me this week what I like about marriage. My answer? All of it. Absolutely every part of it. I’ve come to be so grateful for someone to do the mundane with. Who would have thought I’d love having someone to grocery shop with so much? Maybe that’s why I’m so happy.
My name is Maddie Townsend Topham and I am a happy wife!