Dear Family and Friends,
Just this week, we passed the anniversary of Zac’s first surgery. Looking from where we were a year ago to where we are now…well it’s been an amazing and exhausting 12 months.
Zac’s second follow-up MRI showed tumor shrinkage! A whole 2cm, throughout the main tumor and the four drop tumors. This is great news! His doctor seemed pleased, although he said the rate of shrinkage really doesn’t matter. The tumor should continue to shrink over years, but will probably never completely disappear. Some remaining, inactive, tumor tissue will be there for Zac’s lifetime, thus resulting in the need for yearly MRIs for the rest of his life. However, because he is still so close to the initial treatment, he will have two more MRIs just six months apart this next year before he’s able to switch to the longer interval. In these past 12 months, Zac’s had 12 MRIs! Just imagine how high that number will be by the end of his lifetime.
For those of you who haven’t seen Zac, he looks very different from a year ago. He’s lost 68 pounds!!! And he’s done so in a healthy and sustaining way. He’s working out at least four days a week, has given up soda, passes on desserts most nights, and now has a normal blood pressure. We bought him a new wardrobe about four months ago, as none of his old clothes fit, only to find now that his new clothes don’t fit, and he’s in need of a new wardrobe again! What a problem to have. He is also able to do more with the kids, including wrestling, tickle fights, and rides on his shoulders. It is easy to see the boys are enjoying having their dad happier and healthier. Zac’s pain is virtually non-existent. He does get sore after working in certain positions and he also has to be careful with jumping, but he has not experienced any of the pain that crippled him before the surgery. The numbness, which was the symptom which ultimately got him the MRI that lead to diagnosis, is almost gone. He still experiences intermittent numbness to three toes in his left foot. However, the neurosurgeon at UCLA said he was surprised Zac got any feeling back at all, so we are very thankful. Zac is strong, has no activity restrictions, and is kicking butt back at work. I tell him every day how proud I am of his recovery. He has worked incredibly hard!
As the stress of the past 12 months dissipates, I sometimes find myself in a funk. The same thing happened after Everett came home and I think much of that is finally being able to feel everything I couldn’t while we were actually in crisis. Survival mode has an amazing way of protecting your mind so you can keep putting one foot in front of the other. As time goes on, and you learn to feel safe again, your mind opens up with emotions you thought were gone. The process of acknowledging those wounds is exhausting and overwhelming. Zac too has been feeling some anxiety and has had a few panic attacks triggered by things that made him remember being in the hospital. These attacks are becoming fewer but they always leave him feeling vulnerable. As time passes, I know things will improve for both of us. Time doesn’t heal all wounds but it sure makes them bleed a lot less.
I was reminded today of how loving people are and I want to acknowledge how amazing you, our family and friends, are too! Looking back at the past 12 months (or heck, the past six years), I’m continually humbled by the love you carry for our family. What we have ever done to deserve such love, I have no idea, but I’m thankful for each and every one of you. For every challenge we’ve had, we’ve been immeasurably blessed with amazing people who have helped us shoulder the burden. I only hope we can continue to pay forward the kindnesses we’ve received. I hope our family can be an example that the heart of life is always good, and that the hearts of people are good too.
In closing, you might know that six weeks ago we lost our dog, Jack, very suddenly and traumatically to cancer. On a day when I was feeling particularly angry about his death, Zac’s dad came over to tell me he had had an epiphany about Jack’s passing. He said that he felt that Jack was gone because his job of holding us together through the hard stuff was over. He strongly felt that our lives would settle and become calmer. He believed that Jack was put in our family to help us through the trials of the past six years, and that we have easier days ahead. I choose to believe this as well. I choose to believe in happier days and sweet memories to be made. I choose to believe in the love that holds my family together and in the friends that hold our family up. Life won’t always be easy (whoever said that anyway?), but I know it will be meaningful and overflowing with love!!!
The Bollinger Family