Sunday, February 24, 2008

the REAL Aunt Deb

The ability to write something and capture the total essence of a situation or the depth of someone’s character is a talent I wish I possessed. As I write more on this blog, incorrect grammar and all, my admiration for authors who pen books, articles, poetry, short stories, etc, exponentially grows. I am enjoying writing, but there are several pitfalls with it. First of all, it is extremely time consuming. Secondly, it is just too darn hard to write something funny about someone without making that person look like someone they are not. This blog today is to capture the side of my Aunt Deb that Friday’s post certainly omitted - the side of my Aunt Deb that unquestionably proves she isn’t the trailer-trash sailor-swearing gal one would certainly be inclined to imagine if you didn’t know any better.

Brian and I have had very difficult circumstances in our marriage so far. Brian was diagnosed with his brain tumor ONE MONTH after we were married. Through the last 11 years, we have undergone surgeries, chemo, radiation, sperm-banking, more chemo, test after test, inseminations, in-vitro, moves, adoptions, recurrence, rehabilition, etc. That is a lot for twenty-somethings turning thirty-somethings to endure. How do we do it? Faith. Hope. Prayer. And A WHOLE LOT OF HELP FROM FAMILY AND FRIENDS. More help than you can imagine. More support than we knew existed. I plan on writing more about that, but this particular post is designed to capture some examples of how Aunt Deb and hubby Uncle Paul have helped us over the last 11 years.

First of all, upon initial onset, the day we took Brian to the E.R and before we even had any idea of the beast we were about to encounter, Uncle Paul drove us to the hospital because we were in town visiting without a car. From the moment the doctor uttered MRI, my Aunt Deb, Aunt Vicki and Aunt Jane were in the waiting room. I didn’t even know it. I just knew my Aunt JoAnn was holding my hand and rubbing my back when the all-too-young ER doctor uttered the words... abnormal… something… lesion… something… admit you right away... something else… That’s all I remember before I collapsed in the hallway overwhelmed at the thought of calling Brian’s parents and determining what to say. During that trying, uncertain week, our aunts and uncles and moms and dads were in the waiting room of that hospital EVERY SINGLE DAY! Aunt Deb was always one of them.

Before we were going to MD Anderson to start a clinical trial of chemotherapy that Fall, Aunt Deb and Uncle Paul hosted a party at their house for our family and all our friends.

As we continued with our lives, moved to Denver and bought our first home, Brian underwent chemo and radiation causing a lot of fatigue. We lived in our first house, a house the color of what you would find inside a smelly diaper. We wanted to paint this house. Brian’s parents, my parents, and my Aunt Deb and Uncle Paul drove 14 hours for an extended weekend to help us paint our house, chop down a dead tree, plant a new one, recover our dining room furniture, and clean our windows. It was an overwhelming act of kindness on their part during a time of our lives that we were simply too inexperienced and frankly, tired, to undertake the task ourselves.

Uncle Paul prepping the feces-colored house for its makeover.

That's Deb working on the left. That is the newly painted house (withough shutters reattached yet). That is the dead tree on the right. I think that is Brian in the front?

Fast forward to 2001. Due to Brian’s chemo treatments and illness, infertility also plagued our hopes of starting a family when Brian was in remission. Brian’s mom helpfully suggested we bank sperm from the onset of diagnosis in 1997. We followed her advice. Enter our in-vitro years. We were living in Peoria, IL and there was not an in-vitro clinic in town. We decided to pursue this in St. Louis – 3 hours away - since we had ample family there for support. In-vitro requires immediate availability of the woman when the circumstances align for the next step. Because of this availability issue, we reached a point where we needed to camp out in St. Louis. Being inexperienced, we did not know how long this could take. We thought we would be in St. Louis for about 5-6 days. TWELVE days later, part of which was bedrest for me, we left Aunt Deb and Uncle Paul’s house. My cousin Nick graciously offered his room for us for this entire time. Deb and Paul cooked for us, were there for us, hung out with us, and generally made us feel welcome and comfortable during a physically and emotionally difficult time. Two years later, when we decided to try in-vitro again, she opened her house to us AGAIN for the same amount of time. (BTW, in-vitro never worked. We adopted both our boys.)

In 2007, when Brian relapsed, tragedy ensued. His surgery resulted in some physical deficits and uncovered the most aggressive brain tumor pathology known. Some of those physical deficits are the inability to use the right side of his body the way it was designed (it is slow and does not move the way Brian intends without significant effort) and some speech issues. We moved back to the US from Canada due to this relapse, but decided we wanted to make some modifications to our house before we moved into it. Brian knew he was capable of these changes, but his deficiencies and rehabilitation schedule prohibited a timely completion of the intended tasks. Uncle Paul offered his services. He spent over 10 days of his summer break helping us modify and update our house – morning, noon and night with LITTLE sleep. We love the changes. Words cannot express our appreciation for his time, love and effort, yet, he refused payment upon completion.

My family is generous, gracious, helpful, flawed, loving, interested, hospitable, sincere, intriguing and fun. I love my family. I love knowing I can count on them. I love knowing it is large enough and diverse enough to call upon in any situation. I love our imperfections. We are blessed by and because of each other. I would be remiss in writing my last post about Aunt Deb and her family without stating that she has been one of the most supportive, gracious relatives I have.

How could you NOT love a 50 year old woman who goes down the curvy slide to amuse her great-nephews and grandson?

Deb, I love you dearly – cuss words and all. You have always been there to help us live our mantra...



  1. What a wonderful story to help us all know more about your family!

    You did a great job of setting the record straight on Aunt Deb! :)

  2. Wow, she sounds amazing. I love that shot - one cool Auntie for sure!

    And you ARE so talented with your writing. And I'm sincere. When I just read what you all went through I couldn't help but be inspired by your strength. You radiate it. Having gone through IVF I can't imagine coupling it with everything else on your plate. Your family is so lucky to have you.

    Wow my friend.

  3. Do not diss your own writing! Your honesty is wonderful, and you know how to convey your intended message, which is quite inspirational. I'M BELIEVING!

    Aunt Deb looks great!

  4. What a rollercoaster you have been glad you have a supportive family and of course, Aunt Deb who I grew to love in the last post! Women has character!

  5. I loved your story!! You are an amazing writer!!
    Ain't family the best!!! I too come from a fantastic family as does my hubby. It is truely a blessing!! Sounds like your Aunt is the best. I don't know very many people who would go down a slide just to amuse kids. :)


  6. What a great story, and an amazing family! Do you think they'll adopt me? Oh, and your writing is GREAT, don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise...and don't tell yourself any thing differently either. :)

  7. I got the impression that Aunt Deb was awesome from your last post. I bet I would fill my cuss jar faster than she would! She sounds amazing, like the rest of your family. You guys are blessed, indeed.

  8. I loved Aunt Deb from the last post, and I love her even more now! You are so blessed to have these wonderful people in your life! Family is awesome!

  9. No wonder you find the strength to keep believing. You are so blessed to have such a loving family to support you through your hard times, and revel with you in the good.

    I would have sworn I saw you and Brian in the Houston area a week or so ago. Was at the grocery store and there was a young couple, hubby with some of the same types of deficits you describe. Short, cute brunette wife. No kids, though. I wanted so badly to go up to them and ask if they were you, but my old brain drew a blank on your blog name! LOL! Later I thought that I could have just asked the woman if she had a blog, but DUH! didn't think about it soon enough. LOL!

    So, if you were in the Houston area, hope your visit was great, and if you ever come back let me know so I can buy you guys a cup of coffee. If you weren't, you have twins here somewhere!

  10. I hope at her age I will always be will to go down the playground slides :-) You've got a wonderful family!

  11. Wow - I just discovered your blog and I'm glad I did. WHat a wonderful, moving story. You have gone through so much and your family is a real inspiration.

  12. That says it all. Nice work.

  13. What a beautiful tribute to your aunt. She and the rest of your family sound like amazing people!

  14. This is beautifully written. Your family is amazing!

  15. What a beautiful story! And what an Awesome God we serve to bless you with such a wonderful family!

    I found you on the Blogher ad network as both our stories were featured together on the widget and I'm so glad I visited!