Medical Support For Chris George
Funds from this campaign will help with the following expenses:
Travel to and from Vancouver & to and from accomodation
Accomodation at the BC Cancer Lodge
Living expenses during treatment as Chris and Samara and their children will be away from home and will have no form of income.
Treatment: Four shots which stimulate stem cell production required prior to the transplant. Each shot costs approximately $2000 – total expense $8000.
Chris's story by his wife Samara:
"This summer my husband Chris was diagnosed with a cancer of the blood plasma called multiple myeloma. He'd been suffering from unexplained symptoms for the past three years, but was never tested officially for myeloma, so it was not detected until there was bone involvement. The cancer leaches the calcium from your bones in the marrow, similar to osteoporosis. Chris ended up with three compression fractures in his spine from lifting a cooler into the back of our truck.
The treatment involves several rounds of chemotherapy before they do a bone marrow stem cell transplant in Vancouver. He's done the chemo locally, but the transplant procedure is done in Vancouver General Hospital. The treatment takes a month or more, and Chris needs a constant caregiver the whole time, so that means I've gotta go with him. We have two kids (ages 7 and 14) and animals on our hobby farm, so that's been difficult, to say the least, but family and friends have really stepped up and we've got a house-sitter and places for our kids to hang out while we're away. It's not perfect but it's what we have.
Chris and I both lost our jobs in 2008. I was four months pregnant, so I haven't worked since. I landed my first steady job in eight years this July, five days before we received this diagnosis. My employers are angels, because they've given me a leave of absence until the spring. But of course they can't pay me and my replacement. I'm looking into employment insurance benefits but I've only worked for a few months. I'll be using credit cards to cover our expenses and mortgage.
We are really lucky because we can stay with Chris' sister for a lot of the time on the Coast. The Cancer Lodge is great but it costs $55 per night per person. I don't know what people do who don't have friends or family to stay with. For both of us to stay at the Lodge the whole month would run more than six grand. We'll have to drive in from New Westminster to VGH every day. Parking runs $15 per day. The Lodge will be around $600, so we're looking at about $800 in expenses getting to VGH when we are there, not to mention what it will cost to travel to Vancouver. I'll have to come back and forth a couple of times to figure things out with my kids, I think, so there will be another 16 – 24 hours of driving involved. The BC Cancer Society has a fuel subsidy which totals $360.
Oh yeah, Chris has to have these four shots which stimulate stem cell production prior to the transplant. Each shot costs approximately $2000 – total expense $8000. We are trying to get this covered by the drug manufacturer but I'm not sure if it will be. I'm hoping they take Amex.
We both went back to school after the downturn to upgrade our educations, taking out student loans. We live in a rural area and there aren't many options for work, plus we had a new baby and couldn't afford child care, so taking courses seemed like a good idea. I finished my degree in 2015, and now I'm doing post-grad studies as well. Chris has four courses remaining to get his B.A. We don't know if he'll ever be able to finish.
The Good News:
The good news is the treatment, if Chris has a good reaction to it, is generally very successful. The bad news it that we may have to do it again in a couple of years depending on his response to the chemotherapy. That's our story in a nutshell. I'm grateful to our friends for organizing this for a number of reasons – one is to get the word out to the people who know Chris from his political campaigns and community work – hey there, this is what's happening. There's been no good way to reach everyone, so this may help.
Please reach out & send well wishes, we want to hear from you!
If you know Chris and want to send him your well-wishes – you can link up with him on Facebook @Chris George. https://www.facebook.com/christianleegeorge
You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will pass your comments on to him. We'll be away from our support system so kind words and virtual hugs will be our lifeline while we go through this.
Finally, if you want to donate to help out with the expenses, I wouldn't turn that down. It's a miserable time to be asking, I know, with Christmas right around the corner. So only give if you can and what you can, and never mind if you can't.
And could you knock on wood or cross your fingers or pray to the deity of your choice for us if we cross your mind from time to time?
Every little bit helps.
In love and gratitude,
February we were told the surgeon couldn't help Chris' spine, which threw us into a black depression for a while, thinking this was it, he was crippled and in pain for ever. But the surgeon was very abrupt, and we later discovered that it is likely too early to operate on the bones - usually they won't do anything until six months after a Stem cell transplant. We are going to see another surgeon this summer if we need to.
Chris is currently free of the myeloma. He's tested once a month and he also gets a bone strengthener via IV. He's been going to physio and doing exercises, and seems to be healing (YAY!) on his own. He has cut his pain medications in half, he's starting to put on some weight and his hair is coming back in. Overall, some good improvement!
He still tires out easily though, and can't stand for a long time. We are hoping he will continue to improve. I am back working in Vernon full time (started in April) so Chris is holding down the fort at home. It can be pretty isolated so please keep in touch - email, call or send him a message on Facebook any time!
I have tried to send personal thank yous to everyone - you really got us through a bad patch in our lives and I don't know what we would have done without the support. I want to thank Sarah & her partner Jack, and Kevin Babcock from Salmon Arm especially for setting up the GoFundMe for us. It meant so much and I was pretty much incapable of thinking of this or doing anything, really, when we had to go to Vancouver for this treatment. If I missed thanking anyone, my apologies - it was not intentional.
I'm attaching my attempt at a selfie of us - we went to a local coffee house April 1 - our first time out since this all happened (pretty much since July of 2016!!). We stayed out until 10:30 listening to live music at a local community fundraiser. It was great!
The picture appears upside down no matter what I do to it. Perhaps it is a reminder from the universe how our lives have been upended and altered forever. I'm a different person on the other side of cancer. Chris is different, the world is different. Everything I have is more gorgeous and precious than ever. And it's gut-wrenchingly terrifying to think of losing any of it - Chris, my kids, my own health, whatever.
I suppose this is the human condition - it's itchy and uncomfortable acknowledging mortality so we try to ignore it as often as we can. Then it wakes me up at night, so I try not to do that anymore.
And when I can find my balance on the razor-thin wire strung between those two conditions - appreciation for life and fear of losing it - that's when I find clarity and calm and do my best living.
I wish your best life for you and yours too.
In love and gratitude,
I started working on an update five days ago. My days are like dalmatians, there's a thousand and one spots where something's urgent and can't wait. But that's just anxiety, isn't it? It's hard to let my kids go to school when it snows – I too easily picture the bus on the snowy highway, tires slipping, skidding, sideways screech of metal as the snow plumes up, bus sliding dreamily along, a white flume arching over the concrete barrier, small faces pressed up against the windows...
When I get like this, I don't want to write anymore. Anxiety and imagination feed each other; the same qualities that let me write, let me understand how others feel in particular situations – these qualities can run roughshod over my best intentions and drag me screaming over the edge. Anxiety makes everything a worry, everything frightening. Talking about it helps me figure out what's happening, acknowledge the feedback loop, figure out how to work with it, so I can jam on the brakes while using the momentum to steer myself back on track.
I guess that's not an update about Chris at all. It's interesting. I'm caught in this confidentiality loop, see, I'm writing about my husband's deeply personal experience with cancer and sharing it with hundreds and maybe thousands of people. With his permission, of course, but do I have his blessing? I don't know. Does he know what I write, how I write? How much information is TMI? What right do I have to make these decisions? Is it right to put our lives out in public this way? This illness? Our fears and our dreams? So many people care about what's happening, I want them to know the truth of it, as much as I can put out there. I don't know if it's right or wrong, or if it helps anyone else.
But it helps me, so that tips the scales. Chris can tell me to quit on it, if he wants, he's back on FB and can see what I post now. He can refute or confirm or write his own update if he likes.
A few days ago, I took some pictures of Chris and asked him if I could post them. I thought it might help people to see him directly, as I can't really describe how he's doing in words. The words suck. The longer this goes on the more I realize that I thought we'd be done with this, we'd be back home and living our lives again and...and, we are, but we aren't. I hate that we aren't. That we can't.
There's a shot of Chris lazing about in bed, as is his wont. He's a lot more angular than he used to be. I've got a shot of his back too. His spine reminds me of when Daria was two, making Megablock towers. She'd have long blocks hanging off shorter ones, clicking them together gleefully, working her asymmetrical way higher and higher, wobbling and swaying, until the Lego toppled to the floor in broken, knobbly chunks. That's what my husband's back looks like to me, and his shoulders don't quite align any more. I can't imagine his pain.
We heard from the spinal surgeon, and have an appointment for February 20th. That seems a long time away. So many days, so many minutes in between now and then. I'm afraid of what the doctor might say. What he might do. What he might not be able to do. I'm angry that we don't have any answers yet.
My community has brought me weeping to my knees daily since we've been home. They've showered us with their love, generosity, and support. I can't find the words to convey what it's meant to me. I've not had to cook a meal since we've been home, my driveway's been plowed, my cupboards are full, a hug and a smile are available everywhere I go. People connect with me and lift me up even if it's only for two seconds. Then I can go on a while longer until I feel the fragile cracks forming again.
The kintsukuroi fear pours through my brain like a golden river. These words help to channel it, shaping the letters into canals and diverting the burning flow into strong, shining wordpaths. I hear cracking, and freeze, deer in the headlights, caught by this anguish and this love and this breath. The words float from my hands. Time slows and my heart beats ka-chuk ka-chuk ka-chuk and I'm clear and present as the metal cools and calms, settling in the runnels of my mind, ticking like a clock counting off the seconds of my life.
Ka-chuk. The awareness only lasts a moment, and I realize I can still feel kindness and gratitude despite my fear and rage. Because of you, friendly universe, all of you who've smelted us with your love and generosity. I wipe the tears away and flex my shoulders to test the strength of the gold fill this time.
I think it'll hold for a while.
In love and gratitude,
As promised, I'm up at 5:45 trying to concentrate in the quiet of the morning. It's good to be home, and yet nothing is the same here. There's a bitter-sweet feeling hovering at the edge of my consciousness waiting to sting me with either sadness or joy. There's a war inside me and being here I realize how inadequate the expression “mixed feelings” is. What a stupid way to put it. If they were mixed, there wouldn't be a problem. But this is oil and water, flowing in lazy circles,with the oil on fire. This is the feeling of falling in a dream and the jolt of waking up. This is my husband's bone, fracturing and knitting and splintering and smoothing. I'm fragile as lace. Strong as a grimy cobweb. Smooth as glass. Jagged as ice. I can't figure it out.
Often I feel a rootless urge to run run fast fast fast as I can until I reach escape velocity. What's the speed of the light inside me? Is it matchless? Endless? My heart pounds and I feel like I'm choking and I know it's just my mind trying to respond to this sense of panic but that doesn't make it any less frightening.
The only thing that helps is to keep moving. Move mentally and physically and spiritually. Move around and do chores and not think about how this feels except in teeny tiny increments so I can handle it without a complete melt down. And then I remember I gotta think about it and not resign it to that dark deep flask I keep in the back pocket of my imaginary adolescent jeans, because it's really damn easy to put things in there, twist the lid tight and hope they never get out in the light of day. And I'm used to doing that.
Despair. Joy. Resignation. Hope. Frustration. Resolve. Fear. Practicality. Death, life, love.
If I shut out the negative, the positive goes with it. And then I'm left with nothing. That's some good motivation to try to salvage whatever I can out of this freaking mess.
Sniff. Now I'm waxing poetic and maudlin. I should probably get to work. As soon as I get afraid to post something I've written, I know it's come from a deep place I'm not used to sharing.
But some of you encourage me – online comments, individual hugs, smiles and nods and the welcoming arms of my Okanagan community. The tentative little jokes I poke at my husband again, to see if he's up for them yet. The look on my daughter's face when I show her how to part her hair on the side. The struggle to hang on to my son while he pushes me away with his towering fifteen-year old strength. Falling through the snow on my snowshoes and watching the eternal sky wheeling above me and thinking about life. Thinking about death.
The tears that turn into oh well, can't just lie here in the snow all day, better pull myself back up, back together for one more day.
Instead of webbing and lace, maybe I will make of myself kintsukuroi. The molten gold sears and fills the cracks and seams, and once it hardens, it gleams. I'll create something beautiful from this pain. Something stronger, something better, something that reflects light.
Because to me, the best kind of shiny thing is the one I make of myself.
In love and gratitude,
Samara, we are both holding you and Chris in our hearts and thoughts. Thank you for sharing your difficult journey. Wishing you peace, Cindy and Don.
Every time you share your soul with us I feel that much more connected with not only you and Chris but with myself. Food for thought, food for thought. So many things that make us think are really on the external level. The environment, social justice, human rights... But you stop all that and present the opportunity to really reflect internally. I am grateful to you for your sharing. Please accept my gratitude and know that both of you are often in my thoughts and prayers.
I know you know I don't know you or Chris. But, I feel through your posts that I do in a way. Thank you for sharing your experience. I feel connected and am sending all my energies to your family. Thinking of you. Kara
Thanks for the good news! Out & starting to recover!
Hi Sarah - thanks for completing the information - if they need any other corroboration from me or from Chris, please let me know, all right? I can be available for a phone call ...Chris can be available as well, after Friday when I believe he is going to be discharged. I will update on that next... Samara
I do not want you to be there, but where are you, we are on our way down to visit with our grandbaby and family in Abbotsford and Vancouver, if all goes to plan, thursday the 22nd, can Chris have visitors, I don't think I would want company, but you might like a hand to hold, let me know what you might need, we will be in Vancouver until the 27th, then Abbotsford for a couple of nights. All of my best wishes go to you??
I am stunned by so many responses in so little time. We are deeply touched by such generosity. I feel as though anything is possible in a world where so many people care about what happens to others. We will pay it forward when we can. ~ Samara