A Love Story Stage IV Could Not Stop

Unpublished Writings

Hey guys, I kinda struggled a bit with this. Chris didn’t publish these for a reason, I don’t know what does reasons were. It was a pleasant surprise for me to find them, I miss her so much and will for the rest of my life. So, I asked myself, self, do I share them or not? I thought about it for a while, what would Chris want? I really don’t know, I know I want her words archived somewhere else besides her computer, I want people to enjoy them and know our story, so here they are for you to enjoy.

The Beginning

The day the sky exploded, I was on my way to jumpstarting a career that had grown a little stale. I’d been practicing law for thirteen years, and had spent the last nine years at the same firm. I did litigation, meaning (in theory) courtroom work. But more on that later. Maybe. I was a partner at my firm. And while I am somewhat of an introvert, I have some pretty natural leadership skills. However, I felt like I was floundering, like my partners failed to see the true value of what I brought to the firm. So I decided I needed to get out and do something in the legal community that wasn’t just about client development, but was about my own personal development as a lawyer. I applied and was accepted for a leadership academy with a bar association aimed at promoting the professional development of women in the legal world. The academy would take place over 3 weekend sessions, the first weekend starting Friday, February 26,

In addition to a career going stale, I was in a relationship that, for me, had become stagnant. The reasons why are many, and not the point of this exercise. I simply mention it to set the stage and tell how my rebirth started–where I was in life, when the bomb exploded, shattering my life into a million fragile pieces. And how I’ve ultimately picked up, shaped, glued some of those pieces together, and added other pieces, to create something new and beautiful and strong. Something that can be held up to the light and admired.

Back to February 26, 2010. For months, I’d been feeling bad. I’d had intense pain in my right rib area, pain that worsened when I inhaled, pain that at times had me almost doubled over. And don’t worry, I kept going to the doctor to find out what was wrong with me. After all, as a litigator, I represented doctors who were sued for malpractice. I was pretty savvy about the medical field. I cross examined expert witness doctors on an almost weekly basis. In fact, at least two doctors I deposed during this period noted the extreme pain I was in and made recommendations. One, unforgettably, suggested the pain was caused by my bra being too tight. In the meantime, the new primary care doctor I’d decided to go to just couldn’t figure it out. To her credit, she ordered a CT scan and it apparently didn’t show anything. She referred me to a pain specialist, and I got upset that the decision was being made to just manage my pain without finding out WHY I had pain.

As that was happening, I noticed a tiny dimple in the side of my right breast. I couldn’t remember if it had been there before. I knew I felt a lump around there, but it seemed to me that lump had been there and that it was just part of my kind of lumpy breast tissue–it didn’t feel like what I’d been told to expect in a breast tumor lump. It felt big.

I decided to see my OB-GYN and when I called, they wanted me seen right away. I saw her nurse practitioner and she immediately ordered a diagnostic mammogram for both breasts (because I was turning 40 that year and needed to start having annual mammograms anyway) and as an added precaution, she ordered an ultrasound of the area where the dimple was (which was, of course, near where the pain had started).

It happened that the tests were scheduled for 7 a.m. on February 26, the first day of the first weekend of the leadership academy. My plan was to go for the test, go home, pack and head to Callaway Gardens for the academy. I had it in my head that it would be a relief to be away for the weekend, to be with a group of women who would hopefully become my friends, to start creating a new life. (Ironically, I did create a new life, just not quite what I imagined then, or how I imagined it–but oh so much better for me).

I went for the tests. Because they were ordered as “diagnostic,” the facility provided the results right away. First the mammogram–pure torture (and not my first one either, I’d had one a couple of years prior in order to establish a baseline. I was always pretty proactive about taking care of myself.). Mammogram, check. No problems. Next the ultrasound.

If you’ve never had an ultrasound (or if you have), you should know. They’re really easy. Just gliding a little wand over the skin, with some gel between the wand and your skin. In fact, a student did my ultrasound. And the student saw something. I saw her motioning to her proctor, felt her going over an area. And then they excused themselves to go get the doctor. Meanwhile, I’m lying on the table, in the darkened room, breast exposed, goo chilling my skin.

In walks the doctor–lo and behold, I know him. In fact, he’s the nephew of the senior named partner at my firm. We’ve met at social functions. And not only do I know him, he knows me. So we chitchat about that for a minute. While I’m still lying on the table, breast exposed, covered in goo. Then he picks up the wand, starts rolling it over my skin and describing the cyst he sees. He knows now that I’m pretty savvy about medical stuff, so he starts using very medical jargon. And as he keeps saying cyst, I finally have to clarify–well cyst, that’s usually benign, right? WRONG. “You most likely have breast cancer.” See that brilliant, flashing light? That’s the sky exploding, a world coming to an end.

I can’t speak for everyone who has ever been diagnosed with cancer, or ever will be, but I can tell you that in that moment, my life exploded. My life became, irrevocably, divided into two halves. Before Cancer, After Cancer. BC, AC. Nothing can ever undo that moment. And that wasn’t even the worst moment of the initial diagnosis and treatment phase. But in my mind, it is THE moment. The rest of it has faded some with time. But that moment remains the line of demarcation.

I technically didn’t get confirmation of the diagnosis (via needle biopsy) until March 3–and it was a little over a month later before I found out that it was actually metastatic/Stage IV/incurable breast cancer. That news was hard to hear, and it changed everything just as much, if not more. Yet it is still that initial statement that sticks with me. It’s the moment that I mark as my anniversary, my birthday. Outwardly, things didn’t change much at first, but it’s what kicked off a cascade of changes. It’s the beginning of my story of now, of how I went from litigator billing 2000+ hours a year, trying to figure out how to push my career in a new direction and unhappily married, to being a full-time part-time mom, happily married and living with a catastrophic illness in a healthy way.

I left that ultrasound and went home. My (now) ex was there and jokingly said, “so what is it, cancer?” I’m pretty sure if he remembers that, he feels bad. He shouldn’t. We didn’t know. But yes, it was. I packed my bag, headed to the conference and spent the weekend trying to pretend everything was fine. The leadership academy was spread over three weekends–each weekend turned out to correspond with a significant event in my diagnosis timeline. The first weekend–what I’ve just described. I was there, trying to lay out a 5 year plan for pushing my career forward, for focusing on one thing I really wanted to accomplish, and all I could really think about what was this news I’d just gotten. I knew that thing, cancer, was going to be the focus for me, that the rest of it would take a backseat. The next session was in Savannah, and I was just finding out that the cancer had spread to a rib already (and was therefore, metastatic). And, to close the circle, the final session was in Atlanta and was the day I started chemotherapy (so I didn’t make it to the session, but the organizers graciously allowed me to “graduate” anyway).

I didn’t know that first weekend that it would ultimately be a means of leaving the high stress environment, of finding my way to my dream life–which was, after all, what I was really hoping to accomplish with attending the academy. You see, that diagnosis was the end. But it was also the beginning. I just didn’t know it at the time. I have previously said, and I still hold it to be true, that time is all about perspective. It’s a shooting star–when you’re here, on Earth, watching that star fly across the sky, it seems so fleeting. But what you’re really seeing is an event that was literally thousands of years in the making, a star exploding, and the time and distance that event travels to be visible to you. And that’s what that moment on February 26 is for me now–a shooting star, something on which to make a wish and have it granted, something that is beautiful to behold, even when you know what it actually represents.

Cancer and cancer treatment are ultimately a part of my story–but they’re not the only parts. I want to tell you about what it’s like to live those things, but also about what it’s like to live. I know, I know. You’re living. But maybe you’re like me, things are quite right and you’re looking for some ideas. But before we get there:

One of the things I have consistently wished for (wish unanswered, by the way) since being diagnosed is that no one else ever have to go through that experience. If it were in my power to end all cancer, that’s what I’d do. But it doesn’t seem to be in anyone’s power to do that. All around me, people are constantly being diagnosed with cancer. And dying from cancer. And suffering through cancer treatment. And let me just say it–no matter how much grace and strength and determination a cancer patient shows–it really sucks. And anyone with cancer will tell you that there’s just no other, better way to put it. It sucks, people. SUCKS. You think someone’s bad attitude sucks? Try having poison infused into your arm, slowly, to kill off cells your very own body is generating to kill you. Wrap your head around that and then tell me about how you don’t like your haircut.

Not to get on a soapbox, but I think people with cancer try too hard to be brave and graceful and suck it up. I know I did, and do. But I don’t mind going on record here to say, it really sucks, do everything within reason to try to avoid cancer, it’s not glamorous. So put on your sunscreen, put down your cigarette, tell the people you co-habitate with to put down the cigarettes, get out and exercise every day and be conscious about what you put in your body. I get it, I still like to eat potato chips and get a light tan. And I always took pretty good care of myself and lookie–I got cancer anyway. True. Sometimes shit just happens. But that doesn’t mean you just don’t take care of yourself, on the off-chance you’ll get cancer anyway. I firmly believe the reason I’m still alive, writing this chronicle, is because I always did, and still do, take reasonable care of myself. Even when I was going through the most aggressive treatment, I exercised. I ate right. I gave my body a fighting chance. Always give yourself a chance and, if the crap still hits the fan, you’re at least a leg up on it. You haven’t given cancer a weak host to kill, you’ve girded yourself, in advance, for the literal fight for your life.

Rage Against the Machine—not posted

This is a post about cancer. And about anger. And if you don’t want to hear about it, stop reading now. I’m hoping that as I write this, I’ll come to a positive frame of mind, but I’m offering no guarantees on that. It’s hard to even organize my thoughts on what I’m most enraged about.

At the top of the list, but only because of timing, is that I am a week out from my doctor ordering a new dosage of a medication that I’ve been taking for five months and I don’t have the medication yet. And let me say at the outset that it’s not because of Obamacare. I don’t intend to get political, but the issue with getting my medication really does have to do with a business and its interest in making money over its interest in making sure I receive what my doctor orders in a timely manner. That particular issue has been a problem with medicine since health insurance has been around. On the one hand, I’m thankful for my insurance, on the other hand, it’s still a big ole money making machine where dollars come before sense every single time. (And that’s a deliberate homonym choice.) And really, in this instance, it’s more the inefficiency of the pharmacy (that the insurance company has dictated I use).

There are lots of details to this story, but the upshot is that I started taking the 100 mg, instead of waiting on the 75 mg. Good thing, too, because otherwise I’d be on an unscheduled three week break from what is, in essence, my chemotherapy. So there’s that.

I have a bubbling under the surface anger about the things that just having cancer has taken away from me—the ability to work in my career, the ability to take a walk with the dog without being winded, I could go on and on. I was 39 when this “journey” started, so a lot of the things I experience now at 45 people say, “well you’re just getting older.” Yes, Yes I am just getting older (and I’m grateful that I am) but dammit. Some of this stuff even people at the great age of 45 don’t have to deal with yet. And even if they do, WTF??!!! Acknowledge that it’s just a shitty situation I am in rather than diminish my concern about it. Jeez.

And then there’s the big rage, the one I finally acknowledged today. I am mad as fucking hell about my body betraying me in this way. I took relatively good care of it. Certainly better care than many people I’ve known . . . and yet it delivered this crushing blow to me. It betrayed me, it took away my ability to live a long life, to choose to have children, to feel all those feel good feelings when you’re with someone you love and are attracted to . . . it’s a goddamn struggle every damn day.

And yet I’m grateful to be alive. I’m grateful for what I have.

November 15, 2016 (not posted)

As Thanksgiving and my birthday rapidly approach, I pause to reflect on what has been, what is and what will be . . . as most people do. Last Friday evening I sat with my step-son Vincent at our kitchen table and talked about my trip to London with him. I couldn’t believe, when he asked, that it was ten years ago that I went. As with so many things, in some ways it seems like it was so recent and in other ways it seems like a lifetime ago.

Over the course of my adult life, I’ve had the privilege of doing many things and what I find as I reflect is that it’s been the experiences that have mattered the most to me, even the experienced tinged with upset or almost wholly eclipsed by upset, have been experiences that molded me. And I note a trend in my life, to give experiences as presents . . . in fact my first present to Vincent for his seventh birthday was a trip to the Lego Discovery Center with Ryan (which they sweetly insisted that I accompany them and I was more than happy to do so). For Ryan’s fortieth birthday, we gave him a trip to Florida to see the Yankees play two spring training games. It can’t always be done, but it’s a nice thing to try.

But aside from experiences as gifts, there are just experiences in general. As an introvert, it can be hard to motivate me to leave our house. I have to remind myself to choose experience, to choose to get out and live in the moment and see where it takes me.

Moms not posted

I think and write a lot about Vincent, my stepson. While I don’t really think of him in those terms, I think of him as “our son,” I always remember and honor that he has a mom. And I’m thankful to her and for her. I grew up in the “blended” family setting and perhaps that gives me a different view on what step-parents and step-children are. Definitely it has made me super-aware and appreciative that while we have these titles, we really are just family. And part of Vincent’s family is his mom, and her (their) family.

Divorce is never easy, and the reasons for divorce are usually multiple. When people go through divorce, there’s hurt and frustration and anger. There are days when you wonder, “how will I get through this?” The reality is that you get through it just like anything else that’s difficult in life, one step at a time. When kids are involved, there’s an additional level of . . . well, let’s just stay “stuff” . . . to get through and, ideally, both “sides” are motivated to get through it with as little damage as possible to the kids.

I am grateful that Vincent’s parents have consistently been motivated in this way. More than that, I am grateful to them for the person Vincent is and for allowing me the honor of sharing in his life and his upbringing. But for them, and their grace, I wouldn’t have what has been one of my greatest joys. So every day I say a prayer of thankfulness for Olga, as well as for Ryan and Vincent.

I think of us, working together as a team, to bring Vincent into adulthood, to teach him respect, honor, independence, gratefulness and empathy. We strive to fill his life with humor and education and give him the tools to one day enter the adventure of parenting himself.

And as I think of these things, I think of my own mom, her strength and courage, humor and beauty. I think of all the lessons she instilled in me by example, and I am encouraged. I didn’t know I was learning so much, but apparently I did. So when Vincent (age 10) asked Ryan and me the other day if we could give him some pointers on how to be a good parent, I silently laughed to myself and thought, “why, that’s what we are (all) doing every day, you just don’t know it yet.” I think I just chuckled and said that we’d write some stuff down later on, when he’s a little closer to being a parent . . . knowing those lessons are already being instilled—in both of his homes.

Moms come in all shapes and sizes, but they also get to being “a mom” in different ways. It’s not a job for everyone—and that’s okay. Being an aunt, a sister, a friend, a cousin—these are all roles with intrinsic value.

October 30, 2016 not published.

I always think I want to write something that has nothing to do with cancer, and yet cancer has so thoroughly touched every part of my life that it’s really quite impossible. I look at my husband, Ryan and my stepson, Vincent, and even our dog, Honey the Dog, and I realize how much it has touched them, too. I would give almost anything for this to not be the case.
When I met Ryan, I was a pretty badly battered and bruised person. I didn’t think I was, I thought I was strong and healing and ready to create a life. And I was those things, but I had so much hurt underneath. With Ryan by my side, and with Vincent sending unconditional love my way without even knowing all the hurt and pain that was inside, I’ve grown, I’ve become stronger and I’ve found my voice. Yet these discoveries are overshadowed by the shadow of what is to come. For all the healing they have brought to me, I would give anything to never inflict any pain on them.
October 25, 2016 (not posted)

One of the things that has bothered me a lot since I was diagnosed with metastatic cancer is that one of the first questions I get asked is whether I have kids. To me, the question implied that my life intrinsically had less value than that of someone with kids. When Cheree died, that was one of the first questions people would ask me, too. Somehow, it’s all worse, in people’s minds, if the person who is dying or has died has/had kids. I’ve asked myself more times than I can count why it is this way, and I’ve pontificated on different reasons. To be 100% honest, too, my feelings about this question changed to a certain extent when I became a step-mom, too. Perhaps I “get it” now more than I used to, or perhaps I just gained a different perspective. Yet, I am still in that middle ground place where people are relieved that it’s “just” a step-kid that I have, not my own child.

The thing is, I always wanted my own child. And I feel incredibly blessed to have a step-son upon whom I can bestow unlimited, unfiltered love. Ten years ago, I was pregnant and I had a miscarriage, and I have grieved over that from the time that it happened. I will always grieve. But, as with any grief, life continues on day by day and we learn to live with grief, to incorporate it into our lives and find a new way to live and love and celebrate, all the while feeling that grief. Much of who I am today was shaped by that loss ten years ago.

After my initial treatments for cancer, when it seemed perhaps I could have a child after all, I made a lot of changes to give myself that option. But when I had my first progression, I had to have a hysterectomy, shutting that door forever. (And adoption simply isn’t an option in my situation). Fortunately, by that time I had Ryan and Vincent in my life and the emotional pain of that decision making process was mitigated by the powerful amount of love that we share. At the time, Vincent was sad that he wouldn’t have a baby sibling, but we all shouldered the grief together and accepted that our lives would be us and Honey the Dog. Yet, sometimes I still grieve. The phrase “you can’t miss what you never had” was said to me this weekend and I know, without a doubt, this simply isn’t true.

So here I am, with my step-son, a person I love more than life itself. I would step in front of any bus to save him, I would fight any monster to protect him, I would take any medicine to be here one more day with him. In that way, yes, I’m a mom, something I always wanted to be. And, I admit it, I take comfort in knowing that when I’m gone, he’ll still have his mom and his dad. As bereft as I know he’ll feel, he will still have those arms to hold him and hug him and comfort him and guide him through the grief. So I get, now, that the question that people ask isn’t about my intrinsic value or self-worth, but is about the loss and grieving of the child. I always got that, actually, but it was tied up in the defensiveness that was there over not having a child.

When we ask those questions, though, we have to consider what impact it has on all people. I wake up every day with a big, gaping hole where my friend Cheree was. I know she’s with me in spirit, I know I’ll see her face again someday, but today, this day . . . you get the point. And I think of her husband Scott, and her step-daughter Crystal. Crystal’s grief is profound, as is the grief of all of Cheree’s family, including friends who became family. We can’t compete over who is grieving more, that’s not productive. We’re all grieving, the loss is almost unbearable, and I don’t believe it would be worse if she’d had a child.

However, there’s this extra layer now in dealing with cancer of how to talk to Vincent about it. How we talk now that he is 11 is different from how we would talk to him about it when he was 7, obviously. For me, the key is age appropriate conversations. What is he emotionally mature enough to handle “right now.” The answer is different for everyone for other reasons, too. I’ve lived with terminal cancer for 6.5 years, most people don’t get that long, so hard conversations happen when they have to happen, sometimes, rather than when kids are “ready” for them to happen. Vincent’s a mature kid, but I don’t talk to him about dying, because we aren’t there yet. He knows I have cancer, he has seen some of the treatments, he knows I can’t function at the level of even a year ago. We talk about the science of the treatment, the mechanical operation of the port and the drainage catheter, we talk about the science of the cancer of itself. But it’s hard enough to talk to other adults about the “dying” part, let alone to tell your child that the road only goes one way on this.

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know what’s right for my siblings to tell their kids about my cancer, or about any other family member’s cancer. I do think the best thing to do with kids about anything is to have an open line of communication, to know wait for the child to bring up a concern. Ask open questions, check in on what they’re doing, how they’re doing, what’s on their mind. If they make a statement about something, follow it up with a question, “oh, why is that?” for example. I’ve found that if I ask Vincent one or two specific questions (“how did it go with teacher x today”), he’ll start talking about his day at school more than he will if I ask him “how was school?”

MAY 17, 2016 on death (not posted)

I recently started reading the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. Not because I think I’m about to die, but because I think we do a disservice to ourselves when we are so afraid of death that we act like it will never happen. The book is a practical discussion of life and death, of meditation and mindfulness. It’s helped me frame some thoughts I’ve been having on these subjects.

The conversation about death is hard for me, in particular, because of the years that I spent married to someone who talked about death all the time—because of depression, but also as a means of manipulation. My ex-husband knew I had a deep fear of abandonment, and he used that. Almost daily, he would talk of killing himself. Sometimes this was out of his own depression and dissatisfaction with his life, but I came to realize over time that it was also, and frequently, a subtle threat—if you don’t behave the way I need you to behave, I will abandon you in the most permanent of ways. As you may imagine, living for so long with this type of behavior has had some lasting consequences for me, but I’ve been successfully working through those issues.

Because of cancer, I am in a situation that necessarily forces me to contemplate the end of my life. And for a long time, this would make me cry. And, for a long time, I felt like I couldn’t talk about this with those closest to me, my dearest Ryan and my family, for a number of reasons. If I talk about it, they may think I think I’m about to die. If I talk about it, it will be upsetting to them. If I talk about it, they’ll pull away from me. If I talk about it, they’ll start imagining life without me (as I did, the more my ex talked about death) and they’ll realize they could just go ahead and move on. I’ve also often thought over the last six years, since my diagnosis, that those people who have remained friends with me, despite the diagnosis, are brave friends. They’re choosing to stay friends with someone who, inevitably, will die on them.

But think about that last sentence. In truth, we’re all going to die at some point. It’s the nature of life and living—at some point, we all die. For the longest time, after being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, when people would say, “well I could be hit by a bus tomorrow, we never know,” I would get angry. Because, well, I have a terminal illness and you don’t. Don’t be so flippant about the fact that I have this terrible illness, damnit!! I’ve come to realize something, though. And that is, in fact, the truth of that statement about the bus—none of us ever know the hour and place of the end of life, only that the end is inevitable. Why did I stop being mad about that statement? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’ve now lived with the “terminal” diagnosis for six years. Maybe it’s because I started thinking in a more positive way about death. Maybe—maybe a lot of reason, I don’t know. I’ve seen women with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) have long, lingering deaths, and I’ve seen the opposite—women (some men, I know) who are vibrant and living life to its fullest one week and suddenly gone the next week. There’s no guarantee, even, of how death will arrive within the context of my particular diagnosis, in other words.

I’ve worked on the practical steps of preparing for death, getting a will, saving money (in lieu of life insurance, which you can’t buy after a stage 4 diagnosis), letting go of a lot of tangible items that other people shouldn’t have to sort through after I’m gone. My ex-husband’s actual suicide last year (long after the divorce and my own happy remarriage) really showed me how ridiculous the collection of stuff can be. I have my mementos of trips we’ve taken, of happy things Ryan and I have done, but I’ve really decluttered a lot (not that I’ve ever been a big clutterer anyway). These are the practical things we deal with when we really start to take in that our bodies are impermanent. It’s not that our lives are ephemeral, it’s that the body can’t last. Our lives, how we’ve touched people, that lasts long after the fragile being is gone.

Which brings me to the nature of life, in connection with death. If I think about the fact that I may not wake up tomorrow, what do I want to know when I go to sleep? I want to know that I showed people I love them, that I’ve been honest with them, that I haven’t let ill feelings linger in my heart and mind, but that instead I’ve voiced the issue and resolved it. That I’m at peace with how and where I stand in my relationships, in other words, but above all that there is no doubt in the minds of those I love, that I love them. That I hugged every chance I could, that I acted with kindness and thoughtfulness, and that I remained true to my heart. When I go to sleep at night knowing those things to be true, I find I have no trouble sleeping. And I’ve also found I have less fear about dying.

The other thing I’ve discovered is that I really don’t see death as the end. I don’t know what comes next, but I do believe in my spirit separate from my body. I know when I’m gone, it will bring sadness for my loved ones, but I also know they’ll be okay. They’ll always have me in their hearts, but their lives will continue without my physical presence—and it should. That is the nature of life. Without intending to sound boastful, I know that I’ve enriched their lives, just as they’ve enriched mine. We are forever connected spiritually, even after the body has gone. This comforts me, and hopefully comforts us all. Death is not the end of my being, in other words, but the end of my body.

We shouldn’t fear the conversation about death. By the same token, it shouldn’t dominate the conversation in an unhealthy way. When I had my first progression of disease, back in 2013, I used to think to myself, “please let me live to see Vincent graduate from high school,” and I would immediately start crying thinking about this. I couldn’t accept it, I couldn’t talk about it, though my fear of death would pop out in conversation in what I now see as an unhealthy way. Now, three years later, I no longer have that thought. I stay, instead, in the moment. I enjoy the time we have together now. I go with the assumption that I’ll be around for the milestones of our lives, but I also know, with certainty, that I give my love freely every day. That we create our lives every day in a way that, no matter what tomorrow brings, we’ve lived fully today.

It’s hard to bring up death in a non scary way. And a little ironic that I’m writing this today, given that I’m notoriously bad about saying “I’m okay,” when I feel really bad. I’ve been working on this, but the truth is that my knee-jerk response is to try to spare people worrying about me. In reality, if I think about it, I know that it’s impossible to control how other people feel and that it’s a disservice to me and to those who care about me to hide the truth. (though sometimes the million questions of how are you feeling now do spur me to say I’m okay when I’m not, so sometimes it’s just gonna happen).

For once, I’m not scared of what my scans tomorrow will show. I don’t have the scanxiety that has accompanied me since February 26, 2010, when I was so confident the scans wouldn’t show anything . . . I know something is wrong with me today, not cancer, and the scan tomorrow will confirm it and get us moving towards treatment. I’ve been in pain and had increasing swelling in my abdomen, which I’m fairly confident is a condition called ascites (uh-SCI-tees)—it happens when you have tumors in your liver, your liver leaks fluid that accumulates in the abdomen, causing swelling and discomfort. My last scans had a question of ascites, so this isn’t just fear-based thinking for me. The ascites can be drained via needle aspiration, and I’m ready to get to that procedure. I know I could be wrong, maybe it’s not ascites, maybe it’s all in my head. But I don’t think so.

Sometimes it’s hard to say these things out loud. I know it’s hard for my husband and for my family to hear me talk about death. And I don’t want that conversation to be anything like what I endured for so many years—so I’m reluctant to bring it up. But I do want to find a healthy, “normal” way to have a conversation. There are some practical considerations for the potential of the drawn out dying (hospice care, in home or at a facility, for example), but that’s a different conversation. That’s probably the scary conversation. For a while, I thought it was the conversation I needed to have, but it’s not really. This is the conversation I need to have—even just with myself. I’m satisfied with my life, I’m content. I don’t fear dying, and I will go on living in each moment.

And there you have it, till next time………


A Love Story Stage IV Could Not Stop

For Better, For Worse, For Richer, For Poorer, In Sickness and In Health, Our Arch Enemy Returns
April 18, 2013

Wow–in just over a month, we’ve planned most of the wedding and went on our first family vacation to Disney, which was AWESOME. Had a great time with Ryan and Vincent. They both make me laugh so much. And it’s so easy to be with them.

When we got back I had to have a PET scan, because of elevated tumor markers and pain in my left hip. It turns out that the cancer has returned and I have three tumors, all on bone. One on my left iliac crest, one near the left acetabulum and one on my right femur. This news has been devastating to me. To see the possibility of all the joy I have in my life finally being taken away from me so soon. But, the joy is also something that keeps me fighting harder than ever before. I have worried that Ryan, not having been through cancer with me before, might not really understand just how bad it can be. But he’s been so strong and supportive for me since we got the news nine days ago. I started radiation, I’ll be having my ovaries surgically removed, I have to have a monthly shot for my bones, there’s no curative treatment. The hope is to kill off the three known tumors and hope it’s a long time before any more return. And that if/when they return, they’re on bone and can be zapped again.

I remember saying to Ryan, “You didn’t sign on to be married to a sick person,” and his response was immediate: it doesn’t matter. He’s told me that he’s always here for me, no matter what. I’m finally starting to believe him. He’s been positive, strong, he’s ready to care of me. I couldn’t have imagined such a wonderful person being my partner. I know that together, we can conquer anything. I’m sad that this shuts the door on any thought of us having children, but knowing that I can share my life with Ryan and Vincent means more than any of that.

Despite the darkness of these days, I am still happy. I love Ryan Nienhusser.

For better, for worse. For richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health. Who knew we’d be tackling all of these before we even get to the wedding day. But there’s no one I’d rather spend the rest of my life with.

And I love you R. Christina Nienhusser.

When I think of a villain, I think Darth Vader (big surprise), I don’t think abnormal cells in your own body, basically killing you. This is what Cancer is and like I’ve said in this blog before for some people Cancer takes everything away pretty quick. For Chris (well for us) it took things away a little at a time. Cancer chipped away at our lives a little bit at a time, but ultimately it didn’t take away our happiness. The villain tried as all good villains do and believe me there have been some rough times, but love and happiness always prevailed.

We’ve reached the end of Chris’ journal named, “Happy” it was a gift to me on our wedding day, it is one of my most treasured possessions. If you want to continue reading about our story, I invite you to read Chris’ blog which spans May 2014 to February 2017. Most of you have already read these posts, there are some that Chris did not publish, which I’m thinking about publishing. Since what we just finished is a sort of prequel and Chris’ blog is the middle I might continue the blog post February 2017. I don’t know yet. If I do the name I’ve been thinking of giving it is, “ Our Mosaic, a Father, a Husband, a Widower and a Cop”. Like I said we’ll see, so maybe till next time??????

A Love Story Stage IV Could Not Stop

The Morning, The Dog, The Ring and The Proposal?


March 13, 2013

Constantly I think I can’t be happier, and then I am. Ryan’s birthday was great, we had just a perfect day together and picked up Vincent from school and had dinner and it was just so awesome to spend the day with them like that. And then my cousin Laura and her husband Skip came into town and we had a fun time with them.

And then, surprise of all surprises, on the morning of March 2, I woke up with the most perfect, beautiful engagement ring on my finger. I noticed it when I let Honey out and went back into the bedroom and Ryan asked me if I’d noticed anything. Ummm, YES!! So I asked him if he had anything he wanted to ask me and he said that he would like it very much if I would marry him and I told him I would very much like to marry him (or something like that, I was so excited and happy I can’t remember exactly what we said).

And March 9 was our one year anniversary of our first date. We took Vincent to the Carter Center and we went to Medieval times. Hilarious!

I am so completely happy, so complete, fulfilled, and in love. And still love to touch him and feel his hands on me. Yum.

So, that was it, it was magical, something out of a movie. I remember that morning, I had staged the ring in one of my drawers on the side of our bed. I had to wake up early and get the ring on her finger without her noticing. Pretty challenging, but I was up to the task. I wanted to surprise Chris, so I did it one week before our first date anniversary. I knew that she knew that I knew that she knew that I knew it was coming (people who are truly in love know these things).

When do you know it’s time? And I don’t mean, when to go to the bathroom or have that last beer. I mean when is it time to look that other person in the eyes and tell them, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you”. To know that you can’t and don’t want to live without them. Do I pop the question during the holidays? On her birthday? On Valentine’s Day? How do I pop the question? A lot of questions, huh? Everyone wants their proposal to me special right? I say go with your gut, (after a complete meal of course, can’t make big decisions on an empty stomach).

The month of March will always be special and sad for me, for the rest of my days, but more on that later. Till next time…


A Love Story Stage IV Could Not Stop

Ole friend and Cupid Gets a Bullseye


A lot of times it seems like I’ve known Chris all my life, yet I know both of us had different lives before we met. Is it possible to have a connection with someone before you’ve met them and after you are no longer physically together? I don’t know, but I do know we had separate lives. Lives that included family and friends.

As I met Chris’ family and friends, I could tell that they were genuinely happy for her. Happy that she met someone, who made her happy (I guess that someone would be me, Captain Obvious strikes again). When you start a new relationship later in life, there’s the family and friends who knew you in your prior relationship and in your new one. It’s such an odd feeling to know that his person that is so special and dear to you had this completely different life, which you were not part of. I guess it’s called a new beginning for a reason. Chris can tell you about it.

January 27, 2013

Ran into Loring Resler today and she commented on how completely happy I am–with Ryan and Vincent. And it’s true, I am. I get so stressed out and anxious about work and it causes me to be anxious about everything, like does Ryan want to marry me, does Ryan really see me. I get short tempered and scared. But the fear is from this–I love Ryan and Vincent and I want to be married to Ryan. I’ve realized that it’s something I want more than anything, almost, that I have ever wanted. I don’t expect he feels the same way, but it’s also this. I wanted to have a child more than anything and I thought that if I ever got pregnant, that it would be okay and it turned out it wasn’t. And I wasted a lot of years over that and likely lost any opportunity for that to happen. I’m terrified of finding out that something I want as much, almost as much, maybe more, isn’t going to happen. And Ryan never talks about getting married. He’s mentioned it once in November and then he’s said one time since then that he wants to spend the rest of his life with me, but he doesn’t talk about getting married. I’ve put this rule on myself to not bring it up, yet I think about it every day. I want to at least know it’s on his radar. I was going to ask him this morning if he had thought about when we would get married, but he got up to let Honey out and by the time he came back, Vincent was in the bed. And then as I was getting ready to leave, he just came and sat on the couch with Vincent. I wanted a few minutes alone with him, to know he sees me and wants me and to be able to talk to him about important things and it didn’t happen. And then when I texted him (after I went to work) that I felt like it was hard to get his attention, I came home and the same thing happened again. I have to try again. I just don’t want to pressure him.

And of course I did end up asking him if he had thought about when he wanted to get married and learned that he’d been looking at rings! Joy joy joy! I feel a little bad about bringing it up, but also so happy that I just can’t believe it. I don’t know when it will happen, but it will happen.

February 13, 2013

I think my heart may burst from joy and happiness. I love Ryan and Vincent so much, and they love me. Tomorrow is Ryan’s birthday, we have Vincent tonight and tomorrow night and everything is good. Ryan is a good man and I feel his love and support every day. It was such a joy to be home this evening, after a bummer day at work, and be with them. I am so incredibly lucky and happy.

I wonder who invented Valentine’s Day, probably Hallmark if I had to guess. I do know my birthday happens to fall on this day. Throughout my life it’s been a good thing and bad thing at the same time. When I haven’t had a certain special someone in my life (Chris) it’s just a reminder of how you don’t have that love of your life. Since, I’ve been with Chris she has always made my birthday so special,, especially my 40th, we had so much fun. So, if you believe Valentine’s Day is something made up so we buy cards and roses or you believe love is out there and there’s an arrow and bow wielding baby firing away, celebrate it the way you want to. Till next time…


A Love Story Stage IV Could Not Stop

A Ho! Ho! Ho! And A Three! Two! One!

Yes! Yes! Yes! I know it’s April, but like so many things in life you gotta make it work some how. I wish this post would have coincided with the Holiday Season, but unfortunately it didn’t. Sometimes you have to adapt the story or the story has to adapt.

So, here we are the Holidays, the time to get together with family, eat, drink, as a child the anticipation of what Santa will bring, then as a parent watch the magic as your kids run to the Christmas Tree on Christmas morning to see what good ole Saint Nick left and for my Jewish friends let that menorah burn bright and enjoy in the one million ways you can spell Hanukkah. For my Kwanzaa friends (wait a minute I don’t think I have any) if you can explain what it’s all about that be awesome. And finally for my Atheist and Vegan friends keep on truckin’ what ever makes your boat float is cool with me, as long as you’re not breaking any laws.

The Holiday Season should be happy, right? It should be, but for my wife it was stressful for so many years. I wish it hadn’t been, I wish we would have meet years ago, just like my wife is about to explain.


December 16, 2012

It’s been a wonderful Christmas season so far!

January 16, 2013

Christmas was the best Christmas ever. I can’t get over what a good holiday season it was. Everything was so easy with Ryan, I love the gifts he gave me and I loved just how warm and happy our home was. On Christmas Eve, we had my family over. I cooked for 4 days. Ryan helped and he hung out in the kitchen with me. It was relaxed, I wasn’t stressed about how people would behave and everyone had a good time. None of the tension and sadness of previous years. And–we had Vincent for Christmas Eve into Christmas morning! It was so exciting to get up with him and see him discover that Santa left presents! It was just a very happy time.

And since Christmas–things have continued to be happy. Ryan and I have been together for ten months and it feels so right and natural. I find it hard to imagine I had a life without him. We are just happy and content. I love to know that he wants to spend the rest of his life with me. I wish I’d met him years ago, I wish we could have had a child together, I wish we could have met years ago but still have Vincent and I wish we were already married. I feel so strongly about marrying him that it is almost painful to wait for him to ask me. I know not to pressure him, but I’m filled with such a longing to be able to say I’m his wife. And to be able to say Vincent is my step-son. I have to keep reminding myself to take one day at a time, to enjoy the moment, to enjoy being a girlfriend. But I want to be his wife. I want him to be my husband.

Xmas of 2012 was the start of the best Holiday Seasons of my life, as a kid you yearn for maybe that brand new X-wing fighter (Star Wars toy for those of you that don’t know) as you get older you might what that new car, you younger folks the latest cellphone. For me the best two gifts actually didn’t even come on Christmas, the first June 27, 2005 and the second on March 9, 2012. So, Christmas 2012 was the first time I had my son’s love and Chris’ love together, all under one roof. Is that not awesome? Is that not the best Xmas present you can ask for? I think so.

And then there’s New Years Eve, the count down of the best year of my life and start of something new, a new year, a new life with someone special, filled with happiness, joy, and most important of all love. I’ll countdown to that any day of the week. Till next time….



A Love Story Stage IV Could Not Stop

When It Just Feels Right, Is Marriage On The Horizon?

So, I usually start the blog, how rude of me, ladies first and here is my favorite lady, love of my life, my soulmate, direct from my heart, (drum role please) Ms. Christina “Chris” Nienhusser…

August 17

So I told Ryan yesterday that he could get old with me . . . which he said sounded like a good idea. 🙂

September 6, 2012

Every day, I’m happy with Ryan. We’re living together and everything is just still so easy. There are bumps in the road related to Mike, he continues to email me, but things between Ryan and I are easy and happy. I get nervous and insecure because I hate the thought of him suddenly not being in my life anymore. I keep wanting to tell him that I want to marry him and I keep having to keep my mouth shut about it. I need him to tell me that first. I need to know that’s how he feels, I need to hear those words from him. I can’t tell him and then feel like I pushed him into it. I know when I look at him I think, “I want to be your wife.” But I don’t know that he thinks that when he looks at me.

But I do know that he loves me, that we’re happy together. I love caressing his face in the morning, holding his hand while we sleep. I love when he spoons around me and holds me tight. I love when he tugs at my hair. I feel so at peace around him. We work well together in the kitchen or on projects (like building the Ikea stuff).

I’ve realized that when something isn’t right, you spend a lot of energy trying to convince yourself and others that it is right. But when something really is right, it just is right. No one has to be convinced. And with Ryan, things are just right. I love him.

October 9, 2012

Hard to believe it’s been seven months since our first date. I love Ryan more every day. He takes care of me and I can feel that it is because he loves me–not because he thinks I can’t take care of myself. He still feels so good and smells so good to me. He has said he wants to grow old with me. He was caressing and inspecting my left ring finger the other day–but I don’t know if he even realized he was doing it. I will bide my time. I’m not going anywhere, I don’t think he’s going anywhere. I know I want to marry him but I still want him to be the one to bring it up–I think I’m just old fashioned that way. Maybe if we get to a year of dating and he hasn’t brought it up, I will, but for now I’ll wait and remember to revel in being his girlfriend.



October 31, 2012

Still happy–hard to believe, but true. In all the chaos of the month, getting ready for another trial and superbusy at work, Ryan has been my port in the storm. Plus, my aunt Carol died and he went with me to Baltimore for the funeral. He held my hand and comforted me. He was good with my family and they all liked him. He was just himself–and I love him for it. He’s always true to himself. He’s a good, kind, caring person. And he still turns me on so much!! Crazy good. Cheree and Scott were here for a visit and Vincent was here and I still just couldn’t keep my hands off of him. I love to touch him. And smell him. Okay–enough of that!

Plus there’s Vincent–I love that little boy! And he’s told me a couple of times that he loves me, so that is just pure happiness. He’s such an amazing kid. I can’t help but think of him as my stepson, and I have to watch myself to not call him that. But I so wish he was.

November 9, 2012

Today is 8 months since our first date . . . who could believe two people could be so happy together. That everything could just feel so natural. Last Sunday, I overheard part of a conversation between Ryan and Vincent. I heard Ryan saying to him something like, “you don’t have to get married, you can just hang out. But if you want to get married you can do that.” And I thought my heart was going to break. I spent the entire day trying to figure out what to do–because marrying Ryan is important to me. But I love them both so much it seemed impossible to think of being without them. I didn’t want to bring the subject up first, but the thought that Ryan wouldn’t want to marry me was crushing.

When Ryan put Vincent to bed, he was gone a long time. By the time he came back, I was starting to cry. But I couldn’t tell him what was wrong. So we watched the Walking Dead. And finally, when we went to bed, I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep, that I would be distracted for trial and that my heart would just keep feeling like it was breaking. So I finally asked. I said I’d overheard part of his conversation, and asked him if he thought he’d ever want to get married again. He said yes and held me. I said okay. And then he said, “and you?” And I said, “yes, I do.” Then he said, I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I didn’t think I could be happier, and then suddenly I was. He does want to marry me!

And then we talked about kids. Vincent wants a little brother. Ryan doesn’t know if he wants to try to have another child. I talked to him about my conversations with my doctors, that they didn’t say I couldn’t, but that I’d likely have to do fertility treatment, go off the Tamoxifen and getting pregnant carries a risk of recurrence of the cancer. So where does that leave us? I don’t know. I know I would love to have a child with Ryan, that I would love to give Vincent a brother. But I do know the risk. And I feel so complete with Ryan and Vincent. Having a child isn’t necessary to make me complete, I just see what a good dad Ryan is and how much I would love to share that experience with him. But I also love our life the way it is.

November 17, 2012

A week after that conversation, Ryan said, just as natural as could be, “I’ve been thinking, when we get married are you gonna want to change your name?” That phrase, when we get married. I couldn’t have been happier to hear it. How powerful. And how much I love him. It’s funny, too, because I was saying “yes” and he kept going on about how it was okay if I didn’t, he’s not old fashioned like that. I finally had to ask if he didn’t want me to change my name. But it’s not that he doesn’t want me to, I think it’s just out of consideration for how long my name has been Chris Wall and how associated I am with my name professionally. But it doesn’t matter to me, I want his name.

So, when it’s right, it’s just right. Every relationship I’ve been in before Chris, it just wasn’t right, for many, many reasons, but I kept the relationship going for many many reasons. Deep down inside me, I knew, it was like trying to convince yourself that your favorite sports team will win the championship this year, when truly you know they’re a 500 team at best (of course this doesn’t pertain to the Yankees, they’re always good). and actually you know they really just suck, nobody wants to tell you that they suck, but you know they do.

When I first met Chris, I couldn’t believe how right our relationship was, every aspect of it. I’d never experienced anything like it. I thought for sure there had to be something, it was too perfect. I thought maybe Chris is secretly a Boston Red Sox fan or maybe she likes Star Trek more than Star Wars or maybe this whole cute, lawyer thing is a front and she’s really a vampire waiting for me to let my guard down and suck all of my blood from my body (you know that doesn’t sound so bad, okay back to the blog). In short, I knew I had something really, really, really good. Something you find once in a lifetime, if you’re lucky.

One of the many things that convinced me (and I didn’t need a lot of convincing) that Chris was the one was when she met Vincent. As a divorced father, you don’t just want anyone to me around your child. Some online dating profiles would flat out state, they didn’t want to date someone who has a child. Crazy, huh? Vincent and Chris, from the get go had a great relationship. Chris has taught Vincent so much. I truly consider Chris as a mother to Vincent and not a stepmother.

So where does this all bring us to? I’m sorry, but I don’t know and It’s okay not to know, cause our future or destinies are not clear, because when it’s right you’ll know when it’s right. As for me I knew it was right with Chris pretty much from the get go. I wish that you all get to experience that right feeling at least once in your life and yes marriage is on the horizon, I’d say we can see it out there between a dream and reality. Till next time…..


A Love Story Stage IV Could Not Stop

The Everyday Grind (Work)

Work is such a huge part of our lives, it partially defines who we are, how people perceive us. Some of us obsess over it to the point that it becomes more important than our loved ones, while others do the absolute minimal and struggle all their lives. Some of us choose our profession, others the profession chooses them. Most people hate or dislike their jobs, while a small percent of the population love what they do, so if you’re one of those people consider yourself extremely lucky. I do have to warn you guys this will probably be the shortest entry in Chris’ blog, wait a second, I guess I can call it our blog now. I’m not crazy about writing about work, the work environment, etc. etc.

Most of you know that Chris is a successful lawyer. She got her law degree at UGA, worked for a Fulton County judge and later worked at a big firm in downtown Atlanta “The Firm”.

One of the many things, I love about my wife is she likes being a lawyer, but she loves me, Vincent and her family more. Chris always knew how important her career was, but never put more important things in front of it. For a long time her career and work place were a safe place, a sanctuary for her. When she was having all these problems with Mike, her ex-husband. Can some of you imagine this? Preferring to be at work, than home? Even if I was the centerfielder for the New York Yankees or the brewmaster at Sierra Nevada (one of our favorite breweries) no way would I prefer to be there, than in my home with Vincent, Chris and HTD (Honey, the dog). This was Chris’ reality for so long.

It wasn’t too long after I met Chris that she stopped working at “The Firm” and went on disability. See Cancer is a unique villain, with some people it takes away things a little bit at a time, with others it takes everything and I do mean everything in a blink of an eye. To be honest with you I think Chris was ready to move on from The Firm and I do believe she was under appreciated there. I wish I would have been able to have seen her in trial at least once, but with Chris home now she could concentrate 100% on things that were more important at the time like her health (it takes a lot to combat Cancer) and of course her family, now she could be a full time mom and wife something that had eluded her for so long.

One thing I know Chris is grateful for The Firm was the friendships she established and maintained even though they moved on and she did as well. Great friends like Leslie, Stacy, Heather, Nick, Asha, Eric, Ashley and so many others. So, many people who touched Chris’ life.

As for me I’ve done it all retail (yuck), customer service (double yuck), insurance work (that was actually pretty cool) movies (yes worked in the prop department on a couple of movies, TV shows and commercials) and law enforcement (they’ll be more on this later in the blog).

You guys know the drill by now it’s Chris’ turn now.
August 15

In Albany for trial. Ryan was so awesome this past weekend, he was so understanding of me working, having to leave on Sunday and more than that, he was helpful. He cooked dinner Saturday night, made sure we had some quiet/down time. He made me feel loved and cared for. And Vincent was great, it was so good to see him and hug him and kiss him. I told him I love him when I was leaving, though I said it quietly so he probably didn’t hear me.

Kurt sent me an ecard that he signed from him and Vincent that said “we love you,” so I sent him a message back saying thank you to them both and that I love them both.

Ryan’s been supportive this week, too. I don’t know that he’s particularly interested in what I do, but he’s supportive, not critical and I think that’s what’s most important. I think he assumes I do trials all the time, and that says something about his level of respect for me. Or maybe I’m wrong, but either way, he’s been supportive and not made me feel like I’ve abandoned him to do my job.

I love Ryan and I can’t wait to hold him again. I want to always wake up by his side and always have his arms around me.

Not too much this month guys, I promise they’ll be more next month. Till next time…













A Love Story Stage IV Could Not Stop

Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts

You know how the saying goes, “you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family” This is partially true for one of the most important relationship you’ll every pick is your wife or husband. From this relationship a family will be formed or a preexisting family will be reshaped. You pick this individual to spend the rest of your life with, so he or she is your best friend and at the same time you are forming something that will be greater than the sum of its parts, a family.

I’ve always been a family guy, don’t get me wrong I like spending time with friends, but for me being with Chris, Vincent and Honey the Dog is the best, ultimate, grand, you get the point. Our family was formed in a “nontraditional” way, both Chris and I had been previously married and I had Vincent who was six at the time we started dating. I remember the first time they met, we took Vincent hiking up Sawnee Mountain. It was fun and Vincent and Chris hit it off from that very first day. It made me realize how natural Chris is at parenting, at being a mom. For me Chris isn’t a Stepmom, she’s a mom to our son.

I had always just wanted to have one child and after I became a dad this notion got reiterated, especially after my divorce from Vincent’s mom. I did however want and knew that there was someone out there for me and wanted to form a new family with this special person. Along came Chris, I saw how great she was with Vincent, like she’d been a mom for a long time. It didn’t take me long to realize that I did want to have another child, but only with Chris. I often day dream and think what our child would have been like a combination of Vincent and our niece Ella perhaps? We had some much hope, but The Villain of this blog (Cancer) had a different plan for our hopes and dreams of becoming parents and giving Vincent a sister or brother. We’ll touch on this at a future date on this blog.

I remember how warm Chris’ extended family was when Vincent and I first met them. They made us feel like we’ve been part of the family for so long. They even had a Yankee game playing on the TV when we arrived, I was really impressed with that. I especially remember Kellie (my sister in law) telling me, “welcome to the family”. That felt great, well I think it’s Chris’ turn now.

July 19, 2012

And I’m still so happy. I bought my house, I moved in and Ryan is moving in with me. My “guest room” is really Vincent’s room (though it needs to be furnished, and soon). Every day I love Ryan more. I look at him and think that I want to marry him. I freak myself out a little sometimes, being afraid he won’t want that or thinking about other women he’s been with. I have to remind myself to live in the here and now, not the past and not the future. Enjoy the moment I’m in. And I do so enjoy Ryan, every day. I love Vincent, I love Kurt. I feel like I have the life I always envisioned for myself but couldn’t make happen. Now, suddenly, it’s happened. I have this fantastic house AND I have a true partner to share it with AND we have the wonder and joy of his awesome son to share in it with us.

While there will probably always be that part of me that will wish I could have a child with Ryan, I love so much seeing Ryan and Vincent together that I don’t feel the anguish that I used to feel about not having a child.

And I still want Ryan every day. I want him to want me, I want to smell him and feel him all the time. He does things to me that no one’s ever done and I love it. Sometimes I have to look away from him and step away from him or I think that I’ll say or do something to scare him off (like ask him to marry me, craziness I know). I truly did not think I’d want to marry again. And this is the first time I’ve ever looked at someone and thought “I want to marry you.” I want to be Chris Nienhusser.

So–I have to remember, just stick with today. Don’t torture yourself with questions of whether he feels the same way or if he’s always this way with girlfriends. Don’t be jealous of the past when you’re the person he’s with. Don’t worry about whether he’ll ever call you his wife–you’re not at an age where you have to get married. You know what your commitment to him is and it’s pretty clear he’s committed to you. Love and be loved. Let yourself be happy.

August 6, 2012

Yep, still happy. I still have to fight the jealousy and insecurity demons, but I know they’re my demons to fight. Ryan doesn’t do anything to make me jealous or insecure. And really, I’m not used to being jealous or insecure in a relationship. So I have to sometimes mentally shake it off and remember to enjoy the moment.

I love being with Ryan. We went to NYC this weekend, stayed with his brother Kenny and it was really nice. I was a little worried about staying with his brother. But it was fun and we had a great time. I loved flying with Ryan and packing was so easy.

This weekend we’ll have Vincent–I love it when he’s with us. Though I have to figure out how to have some time with Ryan even when Vincent’s with us. Not necessarily for physical reasons, but because sometimes I just need a little emotional support. I know that Ryan loves me, And I will always put Vincent’s needs ahead of my own, and put Ryan’s needs ahead of my own, but I still have those needs and need some undivided attention, when we’re awake, sometimes. With my aunt and all the stress at work, I need the peace that Ryan instills in me. It’s a different dynamic with Vincent here. A good dynamic, to be sure. I’ve never been so happy as I am with them. I just need a way to be able to say “I need 5 minutes of your undivided attention.” And I do the same thing, I give Vincent my undivided attention.

I just can’t believe it’s been 5 months (almost) and I’m still so head over heels. I really got lucky! I’m gonna miss him so much next week when I’m in Albany for trial.


August 10

Waiting for my boys to get here! Can’t wait to see them. I never knew there could be such complete joy.

I wait for you everyday, my love. I can’t wait to see you. My life with you and Vincent is complete joy. So whatever form your family takes, be grateful for them, cherish them, hug them, love them for you never know how long they’ll be around for. Till next time…


A Love Story Stage IV Could Not Stop

From El, O, Vee, E to Chris and Me

Do you remember the first time you fell in love? Have you ever fallen in love before? Do you know how it feels? Do you know how it should feel? If you never experienced it before, how do you know you’re in love? How’s “true love” different from “regular love”, it’s not like going to a gas station, you can’t pick between; regular love, plus love and super love. So, how does “love” work? Lets attempt to find out. God, I so feel like Indiana Jones on a quest right now. BTW we’re tackling a love felt in a relationship between two individuals here. The love felt between a parent and a child, a sibling towards another sibling, etc. etc. is another topic, so bare with me please.

A good place to start is the dictionary (Chris would be so proud, after all she is my Scrabble Queen, I meant that in a non-nerdy kinda way, even though I personal can’t speell weell). Love: attraction based on sexual desire: affection and tenderness felt by lovers, that’s how Merriam-Webster defines it. Simple, huh? No, not really, if it were that easy, people would walk around with a checklist consisting of three things; sexual desire, affection and tenderness. No one would get divorced, countries wouldn’t go to war with each other and no one would care about, The Kardashians. Now wouldn’t that be a nice place to live in, huh? Sorry guys, we aren’t going to find the answers to our questions in a dictionary. Next!!!

Science, what does it tell us? Certainly love is influenced by hormones (such as oxytocin), neurotrophins (such as NGF), and pheromones, and how people think and behave in love is influenced by their conceptions of love. The conventional view in biology is that there are two major drives in love: sexual attraction and attachment. Thank you, Wikipedia. So this is basically saying a whole bunch of stuff going on in your brain, along with sexual attraction and attachment will produce love. We have some hormones, some pheromones, a brain, some sexual attraction and some attachment and bam! We have some love, I feel like Dr. Frankenstein. maybe the formula looks like this HF+B/SA+A=Love. I don’t know guys this kind of explains love a bit, but not to a full extent. Sorry science, you can explain a lot of shit, but not love. Next!!!

Hollywood, maybe we can find the answer in Tinseltown? After all who can’t feel that love between Princess Leia and Han Solo, especially when he’s being lowered into the Carbonite Pit (and you guys thought you were going to escape a Star Wars reference this chapter, I think not). Believe it or not I’m going to use another movie reference, but this won’t be a shocker in Superman II (the one with Christopher Reeves, look it up you younger folks) Superman/Clark Kent falls in love with Lois Lane. In order for them to be together Superman has to give up his powers, in other words he has to stop being Superman. He of course does so, in order to be with the love of his life, his soulmate, as a child (many moons ago) I couldn’t understand this. I’d think to myself there’s no way I’d give up being Superman for a girl. Of course as I got older I started to understand why Superman gave up his powers to be with Lois Lane, especially when I met my soulmate, Chris. Just to get the record straight guys, I do wear an S on my chest from time to time, but I can’t fly (never even did drugs, so I can’t count that kind of flying), I don’t have super human powers (unless you think the ability to drink a lot of beer is a super power) and yes I was born in Long Island, not on some far off planet (even though New York does seem to have individuals who appear to be from at least Mars). I think Hollywood might have something here, at least for me. Next!!!

I guess I’m next let me take a hack at it. Falling in love and being in love with Chris has been the easiest, most natural thing that has happened to me in my life. For me it’s like taking a piece of styrofoam breaking it into two pieces. The two broken pieces will fit perfectly together, they are two, but form one perfect piece at the same time. They’re stronger together and complement each other. It was so easy for me to fall in love with Chris, she’s smart, attractive, loyal, easy going, low maintenance, and the list goes on. I feel so lucky to have met her, it’s like destiny brought us together. It didn’t take me too long to realize that I had met a precious individual, someone you met once in a lifetime. In some of my past relationships, I thought I knew what love was, but I really didn’t not until I met Chris. That for me is love, hope I didn’t lose anybody in my explanation.

I think we’re on to something here. I might be answering some of my questions, if perhaps we combine the dictionary with Science and Hollywood or we can just let Chris explain it. I like the later better.

I will warn you guys, I’ve had to omit some parts here, some of Chris’ writing is too personal and just for me. I hope you understand.

May 18, 2012

And I’m still happy, if not happier. I’ve met Vincent and I love to watch Ryan with his son. He’s such a good father. And Vincent is so sweet. I feel so much joy. My life feels full and good in a way that I never imagined.

I think he whispered in my ear the other night (May 13) that he loves me. I was asleep, and couldn’t make my mouth form the words back. I feel such happiness at the thought that he loves me. I love him. I don’t know if it’s too soon to say that, but every day I fall a little more. When did it start, I don’t know. That first kiss, St. Patrick’s Day, but I digress. I think I started falling in love on the day we went to Sweetwater. I got so sick and he took care of me. He was so sweet, tender. He just handled things. And I think that just every day since then it’s grown. Sometimes it feels like my heart is constricting. I want to shout about it. I mouthed the words against his neck one time and his body tensed up. I dreamed one night that he whispered in my ear, “I love you so much baby.” I think that was a dream, but I think this past Sunday, he really said it.

I love you so much, too.

I love that he isn’t threatened by me and doesn’t seem to be jealous. And I love we have our own things we do. But I would also love to see him every day, to sleep with him every night.

May 26, 2012

I could just shout it from the rooftops. I feel so happy, so complete. I worked hard to get to a place where I could let go of the pain and all the bad things that have happened. They’re part of who I am now, but they don’t control me anymore. I healed and I reconnected to the things important to me. I got to a place where I could feel complete, but I was missing that last piece. And I was prepared to never have that spot filled in. But with Ryan I feel like that last piece has been put in place.

Last Saturday, May 19, Ryan and Vincent came over and we had what was, for me, the best weekend ever. We went to Piedmont Park, Vincent played on the playground, made a friend Forrest (parents Greg and Lynn from Chattanooga), we came back to the apartment, built a fort and made pizza. Took the fort down, had a tickle fight. In mid-tickle fight, Vincent got a call from his mom, and I whispered to Ryan that I love him. He squeezed my hand and said, “too.” 🙂 Then we played some more. Eventually Ryan fell asleep on the couch and Vincent and I made a little kite. And a tape bridge. By this time we had made plans for them to spend the night.

So Vincent kept asking me how we could get his dad to quit snoring. At one point, we were sitting in the chair together watching Mythbusters. And I said to him that he and his dad could sleep in my room and I could sleep on the couch and he said, no we would all sleep in the living room. So we went and got the air mattress and fell asleep watching more Mythbusters.

After a while I got up and went to my room because I couldn’t sleep. But I couldn’t sleep in there either, in fact it was worse. I couldn’t stand being away from them. So I came back to the living room and tried to sleep on the couch, holding Ryan’s arm. But then Ryan motioned me back onto the mattress and that’s where I went. So the three of us slept there. It was so wonderful to wake up with both of them.
Donuts for breakfast, then watching TV, building another fort and eventually the Atlanta Streets Alive Festival. We walked a couple of miles, Vincent rode on Ryan’s shoulders most of the way back, and we just had fun. On the way home, Vincent said he wanted spaghetti for dinner and he asked me if he could help make it. So when we got home, that’s what we did. Ryan was our customer, he wanted a menu, so we made a menu and then Vincent helped me make the dinner. I realized belatedly that I didn’t give him age appropriate tasks. I need to work on that.

We ate and then they had to go. Vincent didn’t want to go and it took everything I had to not beg them to stay. I knew they needed to go. But when they left it felt like my heart had been ripped out. My apartment was so quiet and empty without them. It wasn’t loneliness, but just a feeling of bereftness. I knew I’d see them again, I just hated them not being here.

I love Ryan and I love Vincent. I can’t imagine how I lived without them in my life. And I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to have them both in my life now. I want to tell him constantly that I love him. For all the different relationships I’ve had, I’ve never felt this kind of happiness.

And that ladies and gentlemen is love. Till next time…





A Love Story Stage IV Could Not Stop

A New Beginning

What is it about beginnings? They’re scary, exciting, mysterious at times, intriguing and the list goes on and on. One thing they require is courage (I can almost hear the Cowardly Lion’s song, If I were King of the Forrrrrest), okay back to the blog. Courage, whether you’re starting a new job/school, starting your own business, starting a new relationship or damn you’re starting a new life, it’s critical to possess. Where do we get it from? Well shit, I don’t know. I hope you weren’t looking for an answer from me. What I can tell you is before a change, a beginning, you have to have it. For some of us it comes easier than others (doesn’t mean you’re better than the rest of us) just you have a good courage gene. For some of us it hides inside until, we can no longer accept certain circumstances and like a bullet being fired from a gun it appears in an instances. And others have no choice, “Life” has placed them in a situation where they have to be courageous.

We all know Chris loves books and reads a lot. I mean reads a lot and fast. I mean fast, we can both be in bed reading and in an hour Chris will be on page 300, while I’m on page 3 and my book has pictures. Well one of Chris’ favorite books is, “To Kill A Mockingbird” in this book there’s a quote, “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” Sometimes when we think of courage, we think of someone in the military or a Police Officer or Firefighter (and don’t get me wrong these individuals are courageous as hell) but we hardly ever think of the average person and what they’re going through at any given time. The single mom/dad trying to raise their kids, the addict stopping his or her’s drug use, the individual getting out of an abusive relationship or the millions of people living with Cancer or any other decease.

Chris is the most courageous person I have ever known. She got diagnosed with Stage IV Breast Cancer, what does she do? She lives her life on her terms. She was in a crappy marriage, what does she do? She gets out of it and begins something new.

I feel like I’m rambling on, let me turn it over to my lovely wife.

April 15, 2012

Such an incredible thing to have happen. I had determined that I wouldn’t want to be involved with anyone, that I wasn’t ready for that kind of responsibility. That I would just date, because I should. I went on one date with a guy who was too needy and I realized just how much I was enjoying being single.

Then I went on a date with Ryan. And I’m crazy about the guy. I can’t remember ever feeling so excited and happy around someone. I want to touch him all the time. I want to smell him. I want to know everything about him. I smile when I hear the whistle that means he’s texted me. I want to meet his son and his family. I want him to meet my family and my friends.

He’s genuinely nice, thoughtful, smart, sweet. He’s incredibly easy to be around, insightful and non-judgmental. I feel like the luckiest person on the planet.

I think our first date was on March 9–so it’s early days. Take one day at a time. I have to keep hold of myself–but he makes that easy too. I miss him incredibly when we’re apart, but I feel confident in knowing we’ll see each other again.

Somehow all of the heartbreak I felt for so long–over so many things and so many people–has just gone away. I had been working on that and on healing emotionally from family problems, Mike problems, cancer fears, and it’s like Ryan has been that last piece that was missing to make me whole again.

I am just happy. 🙂

I love reading Chris’ words, I could read them a million times and it wouldn’t bore me.

So, our first date was March 9, 2012, it was a Friday night. I invited Chris to a beer tasting at a local liquor store in Cumming, GA where I lived at the time (please don’t judge). This liquor store had a tasting room attached to the side, where I’d go just about every Friday to hangout with friends. Chris would later tell me that her GPS was sending her to a rock quarry, instead of the liquor store that is why she ran a little late (funny, huh?). I remember it being super crowded that night, like most Friday nights (Let’s face it there’s not too much to do in Cumming, GA USA).

We hung out there, talked, laughed awhile. After the beer tasting was over I asked Chris if she wanted to go some other place and hangout a little while longer, she said yes. I was like wow, that usually doesn’t happen to me, usually by this time of the night my previous dates were trying to leave quicker than us guys leave the doctor’s office after having our prostates checked.

I took Chris to a bar, where we both sat, talked and laughed some more. As I talked to her I was thinking to myself, she’s genuinely interested in what I have to say, she’s pretty, smart, fun to be around, there has to be a catch and all of the sudden she adjusts her hair and gives me that look (you ladies know exactly what I’m talking about).

After several hours it gets late and we decide to call it a night. We go outside to the parking lot. I tell Chris I had an awesome time and that she can follow my car out, so she can get back to GA 400. I look at her, she looks at me, our lips join together, my right hand touches the side of her smooth face, a crisp breeze engulfs us both, time stops and a new beginning starts. Till next time…