“She has two masses on her brain, an AVM and a pingpong ball sized tumor”. Those were the first words out of the doctors mouth when he flip-switched the PC screen on in my wife’s hospital room back on March 2nd. I gazed at her brain-scan and a rush of nausea cam over me within a few seconds. Her Arteriovenous Malformation or AVM (an abnormal connection between arteries and veins-knot of twisted blood vessels) was a huge mass, taking up most of her right frontal lobe. It looked more like a mash of scrambled eggs in the image. No wonder she had headaches on and off for a good part of her life. Then there was the reason she had lost movement in her right leg and could not walk. There was the tumor, pressing down on her right side motor skills (located on the left side of the brain towards the top). I learned after surgery to remove the tumor completely, it was the worst of the worst types of brain cancer – a Glioblastoma multiforme.
My life changed along with my wife’s the day I got her to the hospital. It will never be the same. Nothing….will ever be the same. And it’s not just one curve ball that is pitched to you by life on the mound. It’s the never ending extra inning, pitch after pitch after pitch. Right now my batting average is less than stellar. I can say honestly though that I am doing my best. Being a full time care-giver is truly a second full-time job. I find myself exhausted most of the time and never able to get much sleep. It’s 98% full wife detail when I am home and cleaning, cooking , bill paying, running back and forth to doctors appointments, radiation treatment, physical therapy and trips just to get her out of the house, occupies most of that time. Balancing work at the IDNR and home life is the toughest thing I have ever had to do. As soon as I come in the door from work, it’s game-on at home. We are grateful to have some family and friends who can stay on occasion and wife-sit, but for the most part, it’s nurse hubby and often, 24/7. My only break is work. But is it a real break? In a way, it is. Because at least it involves paddling rivers. That has always been my healing process. Going with the flow; running rivers in no big hurry. Doctor Rivers. My only real moments of clarity. A natural medication. My therapy. The problem is: paddle time is almost non-existent for me. If not for work, I would hardly ever see the rivers, and I miss my connection to them dearly. Fortunately, I have the following responsibilities coming up: IDNR Canoe Schools to teach, swift-water training at Charles City Whitewater Park, the 2013 Childrens Water Festival, the Iowa Trails Summit safety talks and demos in June, water trail events, safety talks and group sweep with the Master River Stewards Program. There are many other events in the works like Project AWARE, the State Fair and other annual programs and duties. I’m also supposed to lead a few CIP trips this year on the Winnebago and North rivers. Busy year, maybe my outlook will change once I am able to be on-water consistently. The issue there is, I can never stop thinking about my wife. After just a few hours going down river (or up), I find myself enjoying it much less. She is always on my mind. The cancer is always there, always hitting me upside my face when i start enjoying something too much for too long. I long to be with my wife when this feeling comes over me, and I can’t do anything but paddle like I just stole something……trying to get home as fast as possible. I don’t see that changing.
My wife is an amazing woman. Her faith is un-breakable and bends very little if at all. She inspires so many and I am so lucky to be her husband of nearly 13 years. She was my paddle partner and we explored hundreds of river miles since 2005. In 2012 she paddled across the widest part of Blue Heron Lake and back for her very first SUP experience. She never toppled and was using a board that was too big for her and a paddle that was too heavy for her. She was just getting started in SUP and now it’s possible she may not walk on her own again without assistance, let alone stand on a paddleboard.
Please see her donation page at the bottom of this post and contribute if you can. The reasons and a few updates can be found there. It’s not easy for us to post such a thing.
After 41 days in the hospital and at my wife’s side, I have been needing some water time and got to be a part of group paddles on the Des Moines River, then on Middle River in Madison County. I had hoped to have a new board by now, The LPC ‘River Rover”, but that dream is long gone. I’ll have to make my Raven, still a nice board, my ONLY board for a very, very long time due to our financial situation, thanks to medical needs not covered by insurance and the loss of 50% of our income. Priorities change in a hurry.
So while I don’t get to paddle much anymore, I do cherish the time on water that I do get. Here are a few pictures from a few recent CIP paddles. That’s the other thing: I can no longer just pick up and run to the river on short notice. No longer can my wife and I just get up one morning and get all excited about catching some water than came our way overnight in form of rain. No longer can my wife drop me off at my chosen put-in, and then pick me up six hours later downstream. I will be grateful for any time on-water that I can get. With that, here are a few pictures from trips earlier this year.
It was a great day on Middle River a few weeks back. I got the chance to meet new paddlers and hook up with old friends. I took the solo canoe for this trip and left the SUP at home, being that I don’t have a good small, rocky stream board that can take the abuse.
A few weeks before this trip, we all met up at Yellowbanks on the Des Moines River for a nice Saturday paddle down to Runnels. Being a river filled with deep water, the SUP was my vessel of choice. Thirteen miles on river with the SUP is TOTAL happiness!
Please help support my wife’s recovery by visiting her donation page, found below: