Our story about Bryce’s cancer is fascinating and has not been told in its entirety.
Rewind to the early 1990’s when Bryce and I were in high school. We attended BountifulHigh School, where he was Class of 1992, and one year ahead of me. We never knew each other back then, even though our school wasn’t that big. We think we may have had one class together. We took our lifeguard and swimming instructor training courses at the local pool around the same time. He worked there (the Bubble!) as a lifeguard and swimming instructor and I taught at a private indoor pool. We never met!
During the next decade, we went separate directions—in so many ways. (These interim years will make a delightfully mischievous novel some day. Don’t worry, moms and dads—I’ll use a pen name. ;) Meanwhile, his family moved into my family’s neighborhood. In June of 2000, I had just celebrated my third wedding anniversary with someone else, and Bryce had just moved back to Utah from Manhattan, where he had lived for a few years. (We still hadn’t met.) Bryce went to a dermatologist to have a mole checked on the front of his right thigh--the mole had changed from flat and brown to a raised, black mole. The mole was a product of his years as a lifeguard, where he sat on his tower and tanned all summer long. After the mole was removed, Bryce waited an entire week without hearing any results. On Bryce’s 26th birthday, his dog had to be put to sleep after suffering seizures; then came the phone call from the dermatologist stating that the mole was melanoma and he had scheduled Bryce for surgery the following morning.
Bryce’s surgery was big-time. A trace of melanoma was found in a sentinel node, which led to an incision from just above his knee all the way to his hip so his lymph nodes could all be removed. The wound took over a year to heal, since it was located where the leg flexes and would break open constantly. During that year Bryce was on Interferon, which is a drug he had to inject into himself with a needle every day. Interferon is a protein that occurs naturally in the body to fight viruses. It’s what makes you feel sick when you have the flu. Poor Bryce was bedridden for much of 2000 and 2001 due to a wound that wouldn’t heal, and feeling like he had a wicked case of the flu constantly. He was fortunate to be able to live with his family during this long ordeal. By the end of 2001, he was healthy and cancer-free.
Meanwhile, my marriage of 4 ½ years ended during the Christmas season in 2001. I left my life in Portland to return to my parents, brokenhearted and broken spirited. I met Bryce several months later in the neighborhood church our two families attended, where we became friends and workout partners. Since we were both recovering from life-altering and mind-blowing events, we took a long time getting to know each other. He restored my faith in God (and men ☺) and increased my spirituality through his kindness, wisdom, his perseverance through trials, and his down-to-earth spirituality. Bryce was the nicest, most laid-back, confident, happiest person I had ever met. He could walk up to any stranger and they’d be best friends within minutes. He made me feel beautiful, smart, happy and carefree. We got married in March of 2003.
During this happy time, Bryce never failed to visit his oncologist regularly and get his CT scans. The appointments always went well, and the scans were always normal. In 2005, the doctor was worried about some swelling in Bryce’s leg and sent him for a PET scan. The PET was normal. After five years cancer-free, the appointments and scans were changed to once a year. Melanoma was the last thing we worried about.
This past January changed our lives forever. Danika was born! We had wanted a baby for a while, but we were told we would have a difficult time conceiving a child. We didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer, and we beat the odds. Dani is beautiful, happy, hilarious and the perfect mixture of the two of us. And she doesn’t shed. We LOVE her so much, and we love being parents. We planned on having one or two more kids in a few years to complete our family.
In March, Bryce felt a pain under his sternum, which hurt worse when he took a deep breath. Ibuprofen killed the pain. We figured it was a cold or infection that could spread to our new baby (RSV paranoia!), so Bryce went to his primary care physician to make sure it wasn’t contagious. The doctor was confident that it was just an inflammatory response, especially since it responded so well to ibuprofen. Bryce felt better a few days later with no recurrence.
Bryce seemed to feel a bit more run-down and tired in April and May, but that wasn’t alarming or uncommon for him. He LOVES to take naps, which became more frequent after slacking off on exercising due to the baby.
In May, Bryce’s right shoulder started to hurt. Ibuprofen controlled that pain also. The exact location of the pain, combined with the range of motion exercises that provoked the pain, led to the diagnosis of bursitis. High doses of anti-inflammatory drugs seemed to cure the shoulder pain. No worries.
Bryce and “The Guys” went golfing on the 4th of July, and Bryce tweaked a muscle in his butt during the game. (A golfing injury—total oxymoron ) The pain was so severe that night that he couldn’t sleep. He went back to the same primary doc who diagnosed his pain in the @$$ as Piriformis syndrome, a version of sciatica. Rest and stretching exercises took care of that rather quickly.
I went to a work conference several months ago in Washington D.C. where I heard a presentation on malignancies. Melanoma came up as one of the most deadly cancers with an extremely high incidence of recurrence and metastases, even long after being pronounced “cured”. The speech scared me, so I went back to my hotel room and called Bryce and told him to get his butt in to see his oncologist. Now. What interesting timing that speech was
Bryce went to his oncologist about 8 weeks ago, feeling fine and not worried a bit. He had just played 18 holes of golf that morning! He had the head-to-toe exam, blood tests were run, and he was pronounced “clean and cancer-free”. He didn’t have to do a CT scan this year either, since he is 7 years out with no evidence of disease. They moved him to an every other year CT schedule. The blood tests were “a little off, but the doctor wasn’t concerned”, according to Bryce when he called me after the appointment. He told the doctor that he may be getting a cold, because his lungs were feeling a bit congested—no big deal, but he didn’t want to give anything to Dani. Given the blood results and the congestion, the doctor wrote an order for a chest x-ray if it would make Bryce feel better. Bryce detected no sense of urgency or concern, so he didn’t go for the x-ray.
A few days later, Bryce came home from work early because he felt very tired and run down. He just happened to bring his blood test results home with him. I took a look at the results and freaked out, because they weren’t just “a little off”, EVERY value was off! I called my Dad, who definitely felt a sense of urgency—he said to get Bryce in for his chest x-ray immediately! The next morning, Bryce played another golf game then went in for his x-ray. I told him to have the results sent to my Dad, as well as the oncologist. I called my dad’s office all afternoon, pestering his nurse to procure the x-ray results. Finally, they came through the fax as I was talking to her. She read them to me as they came off the fax. Obviously, she wasn’t expecting the results to say “enumerable malignant growths”, etc. Neither was I. (I’m still glad you read it to me, K. Nobody else would have told us the truth!) She ran the results down to my Dad, who was operating. Meanwhile, I told Bryce to play with Dani while I took a bath. I sat in the tub and sobbed, using the running water to hide the sound. I felt like I was going to throw up. My mind was racing and I was in shock, because I knew what the prognosis was just from hearing the x-ray results. Dad called me as I sat in the water, and he was choked up also. He said he’d come over after surgery. Bryce knocked on the bathroom door, cheerfully wondering when I was going to get out of the tub so we could get some dinner.
That was 8 weeks ago. Go back to the first post in July to read the rest of the story as it happened.