We had our fourth dose of chemotherapy today. Jake got the chair he wanted. A brown one that reclines all the way back, vibrates, and heats up. Very fancy! His levels looked really great again. We have a PET scan scheduled for next Friday to check the progress of treatment. Our doctor, nurses, and Jake and I are confident everything will look great! He has been feeling and looking so good!
Our nurse was wonderful today. We chatted as she got Jake set up for chemotherapy. At one point she looked at Jake and I and said, “You know, you will learn lessons that some people might not ever get to learn. You probably already have.” Jake smiled. So did I, and then I started to think about some of the lessons we’ve learned so far.
I wanted to share one today.
Some of my favorite books growing up were the Amelia Bedelia books by Peggy Parish. In my favorite book of the series, “Thank You, Amelia Bedelia”, Amelia gets in her usual mixed-up trouble. You see, Amelia Bedelia works for the Rogers family. She follows every instruction as closely as she can, but always much too literally.
On this occasion, Great-Aunt Myra is coming to visit. Amelia Bedelia has a list of things to do to prepare: strip the sheets, pare the vegetables, separate the eggs, and make a jelly roll.
When Mr. and Mrs. Rogers get home with Great-Aunt Myra, Mrs. Rogers checks on Amelia’s progress. She finds sheets ripped into tiny strips, vegetables “paired” rather than “pared”, three eggs as far away from each other as possible, and a glob of jelly on the kitchen counter.
Mrs. Rogers is exasperated with Amelia. She asks her how it is possible for her to get all mixed up! “Mixed up” reminds Amelia Bedelia of the delicious pie she has in the oven.
When she couldn’t get the jelly to roll, she made her specialty, an apple pie.
Everyone was thrilled. Mr. and Mrs. Rogers forgot about the sheets and everything else, and they ate a delicious apple pie with Great-Aunt Myra.
At the beginning of Jake’s diagnosis I think I felt like Amelia Bedelia. We entered a world full of words, symptoms, and scenarios we didn’t understand. It was a learning process. It still is.
Our first chemo treatment I had a numbing cream to put on Jake’s skin so when they accessed his port for chemo it wouldn’t hurt. I put it on 30 minutes before on the dot. Proud of ourselves and feeling prepared, we headed to chemo. Our nurse asked us if we got the numbing medicine on. We said yep! She pulled Jake’s shirt away to find a sticky mess. She sweetly said, “You know what helps? Putting a little bit of plastic wrap over it once you put it on. That way it doesn’t stick to his shirt. Don’t worry about it though guys. How would you know?”
We laughed. Just another thing to learn!
After that first treatment I called the cancer center a handful of times asking about things that turned out to be pretty normal for chemotherapy. Each person kindly answered my questions, reassured me, and told me to call again.
For those of you going through something, don’t worry if you don’t know everything. Just follow Amelia Bedelia’s lead. Do your best with what you know, and then do what you do best. Even if it’s just making an apple pie.
At the end of the book the whole table of people say, “Thank you, Amelia Bedelia”.
Amelia Bedelia was so happy. Jake and I don’t know everything about the current stage of life we’re in, but we’re doing our best, figuring it out as we go, and we’re so happy.
My junior year of high school I ran for student body president at Parowan High. As tradition would have it, I spent a week campaigning with the blue party and working toward Friday’s assembly where speeches and seconding speeches would be delivered.
It was my responsibility to find a student willing to give a seconding speech for me. I remember sitting home with my dad after school that week and discussing my options. My dad told me I needed to find someone who could reach the kids I couldn’t reach on my own. Someone good, well-liked, on a sport’s team, and could get the audience’s attention and keep it. His suggestion? Jake Topham.
Jake and I weren’t close friends at the time, but he was always nice. Trusting my dad, I asked Jake to give my seconding speech. He agreed.
Jake managed to get the entire student body to follow along as he recited my name in preparation for the polls. (I took the L, but I don’t attribute that to Jake’s efforts.) Days after the election was over, people still talked about his speech.
My mom recorded it. Who would have thought it would turn into one of my most prized possessions.
In March this year Jake and I went to a Pat Benatar concert with our Topham family. The tickets were a gift from Maggie and Dave. Donning matching Pat shirts, we loudly sang along to, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot!” Throughout the show a few people in the audience tried to get that lighter effect going in the stadium. They turned on their phone flashlights and raised their arms high swaying back and forth to the music. It didn’t catch on until Jake got involved. We were sitting in seats on the floor of the stadium. The stands behind us were filled with people. Jake took out his phone, turned on the light and held the light backwards above his head so it faced everyone in the stands. He began to wave his arm back and forth to the music. Those behind us who could see the light quickly caught on. Hundreds of flashlights lit up, led by Jake.
It was incredible to watch, but I wasn’t surprised. Jake does that everywhere he goes. He still does.
Today was another chemo day! We’re starting to get into a nice routine. Every other Wednesday, chemo eve, we go on a little date and then make sure the house is clean. We do a little grocery shopping and pack a chemo bag. Jake swears that chemo makes him crave Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. We have 9 more doses to go. His counts are looking great!
A cute nurse came in to take Jake’s vitals. Everything looked perfect. In fact, she said, “I don’t know why you’re even here!” and winked at us. The doctor went over Jake’s labs with us. She had little graphs covering all of Jake’s levels. Everything that is supposed to go up is going up and everything that is supposed to go down is going down. Miracle after miracle.
I think about Jake and his backward flashlight often, clearly showing those watching behind him the way to being as happy as him.
I asked him what he would like his fans to know. He laughed and said, “Tell everybody I love them.” He does. We do! That must be why we’re so happy.
Jake and I swapped stories last night about past Halloweens. He remembered a Halloween he spent dressed as a red M&M when he was about 11 years old.
He picked the costume idea weeks before Halloween and he and his mom worked on creating the perfect red M&M costume. They made it out of red fleece and put batting inside to give it the right shape. He wore a white long sleeve shirt and white tights underneath. The white beanie and gloves finished the look. He said he and Caleb Murphy rode their scooters house to house and filled their pillow cases with trick or treating candy.
I remembered a Halloween when I was about 7 or 8. My mom had bought my sister and I the most beautiful Fairy costumes. They were pink, green, purple, and yellow. The tulle sleeves and skirt were beautiful, but not very warm for a cold Halloween night. My mom put makeup on my eyes and lips and put spray glitter in my hair. She then broke the news to me that I would be wearing my white thermals under my fairy costume. I was absolutely heartbroken. The thermals were going to ruin everything. My mom was quick to compliment me though and things weren’t completely ruined after all. She told me I was just going to be a “snow” fairy with my winter thermals on.
Sometimes changing your mindset can make a big difference. Whether it helps you have a Happy Halloween or gets you through something bigger, changing your view to a more positive one makes all the difference.
As we progress in cancer treatments the biggest priority is keeping Jake healthy. We have a bottle of hand sanitizer for every room in the house and one for the car. I wipe down the door knobs and light switches with Clorox wipes. Jake’s fourth period classes clean their desks at the end of the day and Jake sprays Lysol everywhere between classes. We brought Clorox wipes to the movies and tried to sit alone. He just can’t get sick. Every nurse reminded us of that at treatment today as we expect his “counts” to go down as chemo does its job.
I know we’re early in the process and we’ve got lots ahead, but I’ve already identified something worse than any germs Jake could pick up.
Sometimes it’s hard to be positive. I get that. We get sad sometimes. It’s because we don’t want to see the people we love suffer. It’s because we want to take the trial away or fix it instantly.
So we have to be positive. We have to shift our view. We have to be “snow” fairies because sometimes we have to wear our thermals.
Today was dose two of round one of chemotherapy. That means we have 5 more rounds and 10 more doses to go. Our next one is already scheduled for November 15th. This is going to be a long 6 months if we or the people who love us have any room for negative or discouraging thoughts or feelings. And who has time for them when we are surrounded by all the miracles, positive notes, gifts, donations, thoughts, and more that have come our way in the past few weeks.
So we’re shifting our view. We went to the clinic to kill cancer today, not to receive chemotherapy. Jake will experience side-effects, but that means the treatment is WORKING.
Jake is already good at this. He was singing “There is Sunshine in My Soul Today” as our nurse Amy drew blood for his labs.
During treatment today Jake looked at me and said, “I love that this is happening!” He was watching the “red angel” and other cancer drugs run through the tubing into the port in his chest. It’s working!
He’s not just saying that. We are truly so happy.
My name is Maddie Townsend Topham and I am a happy wife!