I’m sure lots of families have interesting numerology milestones in their family but I feel like we have a LOT of interesting coincidences. My favorite is that my birthday is 2 days before my dad’s and Whitney’s is two days after Brad’s. I love that they can share the Virgo daughter/daddy birthday bond and celebrate every year together. Some other fun facts…my sister, Jessica and brother, Kyle were born on the same day 3 years apart and are 13 and 16 years younger than me. Even though we didn’t really grow up together and started our real life relationships after they had both graduated, we are just as close as my sister Marci who I grew up with. Sadly Marci and I were separated quite a bit after I graduated when she was 12 so similarly our strongest part of our relationship started after she was a grown up and graduated.
Carter was born 4 days before Brad’s mom’s birthday and Whitney was born 4 days before Brad’s dad’s Birthday. While we planned having them the timing was just a coincidence. Our first baby was due the day before my sister Marci’s birthday. So that brings me to my thought process I had today about the fateful September 29th.
Brad and I went on our first date which was a “Date Dash” in October 1989. He had seen me and my bestie, Kelli, in a grocery store and was with our guy friend from HS who said he knew me and could introduce us. The Date Dash came up and we were set up. It was a blind date for me so when we met I was glad Chris picked well and must have paid attention to my “type” in high school. Brad was tall, cute and funny. We had fun dancing and a little underage drinking and I even got a kiss goodnight. We continued to be party friends but since I was a freshman and he was a pledge at Pi Kappa Alpha we both wanted to just have fun and not start anything serious. We went on dates throughout that school year and when Spring came we were both kind of sad we’d be apart over the Summer but planned on staying in touch. He wrote me funny letters and it was almost impossible to call because I was at camp and only had a pay phone to use. Do you remember how hard it was to call long distance back in the day???? So we wrote letters and when we got back to school he invited me over to his fraternity to catch up. I was so busy with my first year in the sorority house that I didn’t really have much time to hang out but we both settled back into school. My sorority had a party on September 29th, 1990 so I invited my party buddy Brad so we could finally spend some time together. The details are fuzzy but I remember an awkward conversation at The Wheel about becoming boyfriend-girlfriend and being exclusive. I think he started to not like me going to other fraternity parties and let his guard down so we could actually date for real. We were both very guarded in the dating department so we had to break each other’s walls down during those dating years.
Brad and I celebrated 9/29 as our dating anniversary the rest of college and after I graduated we ended up moving in together and had to live in a little town called Spring Hill, KS near my new job. We saved money by living together which was somewhat scandalous (haha!) but necessary since we were poor and just starting out. After a successful run at the Miami County Republic selling advertising and enjoying the old school way of producing newspapers I dipped my toe in the big city job market (found an ad in the newspaper) and landed a job at the Kansas City Business Journal. We were moving back to the city and needless to say I was getting restless with our status and had kind of given up on getting engaged. I started my new job on 9/4/94 and we headed to Vail, Co over Labor Day weekend for a friend’s wedding. On the way up the mountain Brad FINALLY proposed on 9/6/94! He did a great job, the ring was perfect, setting was amazing at a restaurant overlooking Denver. That was my first indication of how Brad ticks. He likes to surprise me and does things on his time table. He has told me NO many times over the years then surprised me with what I wanted or wanted to do. ❤️
So fast forward to 1998. We decided to start trying to have babies, I had wanted to wait but decided I didn’t know how easy or hard it would be and moved up our timeline. We had some medical delays and had to wait a little longer but the first month we got the green light to start trying we got pregnant! We were excited but so blissfully naive. We weren’t going to find out the sex so when we went in for our 20 week sonogram we brought my besties, Julie and Erin and used Julie’s giant old school video camera to capture the moment. The tech was really quiet, we were looking at the baby’s profile, cute button nose, chubby tummy and he looked perfect to us. The tech kept pushing on my tummy to get the baby to move around and I finally asked if something was wrong. She kind of mumbled, I started crying, my friends left the room in disbelief and we were told to go over to our Midwife’s office nearby. Before she turned off the machine I asked her if we could know the sex. It was a boy, we later nicknamed him Tyler. Our baby’s brain didn’t develop past his brain stem and was diagnosed with anencephaly. While I felt a little movement during my pregnancy I would learn how different that was with my future pregnancies. I had a dull uneasiness during those 20 weeks and that day I realized why. I didn’t feel comfortable sending my maternity letter out to clients and hadn’t planned any showers, my intuition was right. Our Midwife connected us with a wonderful doctor who would perform the DNC. I was thankful I didn’t have to get induced or have a c-section. So on September 29th, 1998 our baby boy went to heaven. It was 8 years to the day that we decided to “officially date.” I remember wondering what those little college kids would think about this huge heartbreak if they knew what was coming.
Our broken hearts were healed on baby Tyler’s due date February 17, 1999 with the wonderful news that we were pregnant again with Carter. We were comforted by the extra sonograms we had with the rest of our pregnancies and found out the sex each time. No more surprises! Every year I honor Tyler by thinking about him on 9/29 and the kids talk about their big brother in heaven. They understand the order of things and that if he survived maybe we wouldn’t have each of them as they are now. I’ve also talked to Russell about how he could be that lost baby and might have gotten tired of missing out. Who knows but with each healthy baby we felt immeasurably blessed! They are so perfect and bring us such joy in their own and very different ways!
So our next encounter with 9/29 was my first colonoscopy. I had pain and unexplained bleeding that led me to an emergency colonoscopy. I was 38. I had 4 polyps removed and was so thankful for my symptoms and doctor’s swift actions. I had follow up colonoscopies and paid $1000s of dollars for them to make sure I was free of any additional pre-cancerous polyps. That was 2009 after too many deaths in our life so a cancer scare was very terrifying.
I’m sure there are other 9/29s that are notable but the most recent, 9/29/18 was THE turning point in our lives. After a month and a half of being sick, losing 30 pounds and having pain in his stomach Brad was diagnosed with colon cancer that had spread to his liver. After two full exams in the ER and a Primary Doctor I found online after getting told numerous offices weren’t accepting new patients. He had a month of tests and finally an ultrasound that showed lesions on his liver. The doctors didn’t notice is enlarged liver during either of his two physical exams. Our oncologist told us it was enlarged at least double the size and extended 4 inches under his rib cage. This was causing his cough that he had for over a month and caused him to not be able to say a full sentence without coughing. I still don’t understand why a doctor didn’t notice that int he beginning and START with the liver tests. But I am thankful his Primary kept searching and discovered the colon tumor in a CT scan and confirmed the metastasis to the liver. His ultrasound was on his 48th birthday 9/11/18 and his diagnosis was on September 14th. We were in shock and had a lot of phone calls to make. I told my boss I would have to be at a lot of doctor appointments and needed flexibility to figure out what was going to happen next. Against Brad’s privacy wishes I reached out to a friend to see if he had any “INs” with KU Med. I needed action fast and wanted him to see an oncologist immediately. That night, Brad after the CT scan revelation, went with Russell to his soccer game and I went to Whitney’s football game at South. I felt like a zombie. I floated through the night. I watched Whitney on the sidelines smiling so big and my heart broke. I knew she’d be crushed by the news we had to tell the kids the next day. I had a busy morning planned getting Whitney from her parade to Lawrence for Carter’s first Family Day at KU. Brad and I had agreed we would tell the kids while we were all together as a family. Whitney and Russell had watched Brad decline so fast and get super skinny. We all knew something bad was going on. The cough wouldn’t go away, he laid around a lot and that just was never him. He didn’t take naps and had fevers every day around 1pm. He would shake under a big blanket until it broke. When the fevers started I knew it was cancer. Carter was blissfully oblivious and we all protected his ability to enjoy his freshman year and not have any of the stress we were feeling at home. We were also still getting used to being a family of 4 most of the time so being the FamBam 5 was always very special. I got all of us some little thread bracelets with a little silver coin to symbolize our unity in the situation even if we weren’t all together all the time. Brad’s is bigger and has a coin that symbolizes Serenity. He has worn it every day since. So….on August 15th, 2018 we dropped our oldest Son off at college at KU and on September 15th, 2018 we had to deliver the heartbreaking news that their dad had cancer and would start fighting it immediately. It sucked. I learned to compartmentalize my life with cancer and everything else. I encouraged the kids to keep their grades up so they wouldn’t add that kind of stress on top of worrying about their dad. It was bumpy at times but all 3 ended the year reaching their academic goals and will head into next year with the ability to cope while keeping everything in check.
We got home from Family Day and I got the number I needed to call Monday morning. By the time I got to work that Monday the KU Med Nurse Navigator had all of Brad’s files, was coordinating biopsies, a colonoscopy and helping us pick an oncologist. I was so thankful the ball was in their court (KU reference intended) and on September 29, 2018 my husband had biopsies done on his liver to scientifically determine he has Stage 4 colon cancer metastatic to his liver. That day sucked, he couldn’t eat forever, the process was slow m, the medical waiting room before surgery was so frigid and his patience was beyond tested. Honestly, the rest of everything has been way more pleasant than that experience and I won’t mention the hospital but it wasn’t KU Med and their billing has been the most messed up of them all. I’ve been strong, I’ve been a disaster and I have no choice so I just plow through and keep things going. I’ve battled with a lot of doctors offices over miscoded invoices and billing mistakes. It’s my least favorite thing but I’ve learned a lot and am less emotional about it. It usually works out in the end.
Today he had his second Y90 procedure which is really cool science involving shooting the tumors in his liver with radiation beads that choke off the blood supply and dose them with radiation. It is an outpatient procedure done in 3 parts-> mapping and test run -> right side which is the hardest as it is 2/3 of the liver -> then the left side which ended up taking twice as long because of the anatomy and they had to basically do the whole thing twice in two spots because if the arteries. So far the pain isn’t as bad as last time so we are thankful that. Dr. Collins and his nurse Elizabeth said their goodbyes and wished us well. It’s weird…you establish a relationship and trust then they are done with their part and say goodbye. All we know is there will be a scan in two months and a visit with Dr. Pendergrass at some point. While it is SO nice to have a lot of normal feeling days it is weird to not be so closely watched. It has felt like the stress level has been dialed way back enjoying the non-treatment weeks.
We would love your continued prayers for God’s grace to continue to guide and lift us up. We feel happy as a family of 5 and are cherishing this Summer all together ❤️