Thanksgiving was very interesting this year. Several weeks before, I had been trying to decide whether or not to cook Thanksgiving dinner. I wanted to go back to Chattanooga, but we just weren't ready to travel again after being gone so long and home so little this year. We often spend the holiday with some good friends here in the Keys, but hadn't yet made plans, so we were up in the air. Then, Scott received an email from Al.
The very first phone call Scott made to Massachusetts General Hospital back in April was answered by the admitting RN, Al Ferreira, at the MGH Center for Chordoma Care. Al was our contact at the hospital for pretty much everything. He navigated the red tape, scheduled the appointments, coordinated the whole team of doctors/nurses/radiologists, answered our questions, assuaged our fears, and fought the insurance company for pre-approvals and pain med authorizations. He was a friendly face during morning rounds in the hospital after surgery; he took Scott’s stitches out, and he was a friend to just shoot the shit about Dr. Who when that’s what Scott needed. Just a few weeks ago, he was kind enough to take time from his busy day to get on the phone with me and the insurance company fighting another charge they were trying to deny. He was the first person Scott spoke to at the hospital and the last person we said goodbye to. The entire staff at MGH was amazing, but Al made it all work.
So, the email said that he and his wife were going to be waking up in Key West on Thanksgiving Day, leaving at 10:00 a.m. and driving to Fort Lauderdale. He wanted a recommendation for somewhere to get a turkey dinner about 2 hours up the road from Key West. Of course, we suggested that since our house is almost exactly 2 hours from KW they should join us for Thanksgiving dinner, and they accepted. I was happy to cook and we were tickled to get to host them in our home.
I have written about Scott’s battle with Chordoma, and there is a lot more about it on his Caring Bridge page.
Basically, it is very rare bone cancer. Very rare. They call themselves one in a million. There are only about 300 cases in the U.S. per year. About half of those are treated at MGH, which is why Scott was there and also why we actually know quite a few chordoma patients from all over the world even though there are so few of them. But, the one that totally blows the statistics is the other sacral chordoma warrior right here in the Florida Keys. Out of roughly 80,000 people in our little chain of islands, there are 2 in a million. How ‘bout them odds?
And it gets stranger. The guy lives right here in the upper Keys. And we have, like, a ton of friends in common. We had never met Jeffrey and his lovely wife Shevaun before this all started, but I guess life or fate or karma or something has a way of bringing people together. As soon as friends in the Keys started to hear Scott’s story this past spring, the first thing many of them said was, “That sounds like the exact thing Jeffery has.” Before we knew it, mutual friends put them in touch, Scott called Jeffrey and a friendship began. Jeffrey was also treated at MGH, had the exact same team of doctors, and basically the same procedures except unfortunately, his was significantly worse. His chordoma was one of the largest they had treated at MGH. His battle has been even longer and harder than Scott’s, with a few more after effects, but he is also finished and cancer free!
Of course, Jeffrey and Shevaun knew Al, so we also invited them to join us for Thanksgiving dinner and they accepted as well. It was quite a day of giving thanks! Just being in the company of both Scott and Jeffrey for their first holiday since kicking cancer’s ass was such an incredibly positive and uplifting feeling. But when you added Al into the mix, one of the people directly involved in saving both of their lives, it was kind of magical. I know Jeffrey and Shevaun both felt it, I hope Al and his sweet wife Ginger did as well. We all tried to thank Al and tell him how much he meant to all of us throughout the whole process, but he shrugged it off. I just hope he got a feel for how much he means to the patients he helps.
I don’t think anyone can go through something like cancer treatment and not be changed by the experience. Just being the caregiver of someone in treatment has changed me. Life seems a little more precious. I feel like I've been given a gift of seeing more clearly the people who truly love and support me and to more easily forgive and let go of those who don’t. Sometimes it’s been surprising to learn who is in which column. The generosity of people has humbled me. I will be forever a more charitable person as a result of this experience. Every day is a gift and I will try and greet each as such.
I am so proud of Scott for how strong he has been and how he fought and won his battle. It was a hard year. Cancer treatment is weird medicine…making people sicker to make them well. The treatments were tough and I know there were days when Scott wanted to quit, but he kept going. So did Jeffrey, so did little Madi in California, so do all of the Chordoma and all the cancer warriors every single day. If they can wake up with a smile and a thankful heart, we should all strive to do the same.
It was a real pleasure to have such an amazing group at my Thanksgiving table this year. As Jeffrey often says, “Peace, love and light” to you all.
|Our good buddy Wood was invited to join us as well but wasn't able to make it. He did, however, do his usual rogue decorating…