By: Jason Howe
Sometimes the question pounces from the most unexpected directions.
I was sitting in our daughters’ playpen, reading “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” for the third time that day. That’s when our nanny sprung it on me: “Are you the father and Adrián is the mother?” she asked. She’d worked for us for nearly a year and should have known better, but then again, we’re her first exposure to a same-sex headed family. While I couldn’t help laughing a little, I patiently explained that, no, our twin daughters had two daddies but that we both do “mommy” things, too: things like changing diapers, making sure they don’t starve, wiping tears, and, you know, generally acting as if we love them.
But what about the man at the antiques shop who asked outright “where’s the mommy” even though he saw us both together with the girls and surely, in a city like Los Angeles, already knew the answer? Or the well-intentioned Lufthansa flight attendant who asked me, baby in lap, about my wife, even though my husband and other daughter were sitting right across the aisle in 26g? It seems that even the most liberal of people don’t realize the rigidity of their assumptions about family and gender roles until they see two men pushing a stroller together. Who does the girls’ pony tails and soothes boo-boos? Who is the strong, stalwart presence protecting the family from harm?
I hate to break it to the “every child needs a mommy and a daddy” camp, but we both are. And you know what? So are mommies and daddies in countless heterosexual families. Lots of straight mommies know how to change carburetors and lots of straight daddies bake a killer chocolate chip cookie.
Of all the arguments in the once-mighty arsenal of opponents of marriage equality, one of the most durable – and galling – has been “what about the children?”; the idea that allowing two men or two women to wed would somehow deprive children of a mother or a father. While other arguments – that marriage for same-sex couples would lead to man-hamster marriage, dissolve heterosexual marriages, or would lead John Deere to paint tractors in a sassy rainbow instead of green – have gradually been ridiculed into obscurity, “what about the children” made it all the way to oral arguments at the Supreme Court.
Children also featured prominently in the opening brief filed by proponents of Prop 8:
Proposition 8 thus plainly bears a close and direct relationship to society’s interest in increasing the likelihood that children will be born to and raised by the mothers and fathers who brought them into the world in stable and enduring family units.
The US Council of Catholic Bishops filed an amicus brief in Windsor v. United States, the challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), saying that:
“the People of California could reasonably conclude that a home with a mother and a father is the optimal environment for raising children, an ideal that Proposition 8 encourages and promotes. Given both the unique capacity for reproduction and unique value of homes with a mother and father, it is reasonable for a State to treat the union of one man and one woman as having a public value that is absent from other intimate interpersonal relationships.”
As if California didn’t already allow gay and lesbian couples to adopt. As if my daughters – born via a surrogate – would exist if my husband and I hadn’t planned and desired them into being. And as if every reputable study hadn’t found same-sex parents just as – if not more – capable than their heterosexual counterparts.
“It has always struck me as a illogical argument that scapegoats gay people for the fact that many heterosexuals already have children outside of marriage,” said Jon Davidson, legal director of Lambda Legal. “And, if having children outside of marriage is such a bad thing, then why not allow same-sex couples to have their children within a marriage? Aren’t those really the only children that will be affected by whether same-sex couples are allowed to marry or not?”
Indeed, as Justice Anthony Kennedy noted in Prop 8 oral arguments, those children are the only ones suffering a palpable legal harm from the inability of their parents to marry. And those claims that allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry would somehow be like peeing in the big pool of matrimony, thereby making marriage less special and discouraging heteros from marrying? While a simple roll of the eyes or even a guffaw are response enough, a study published last week by two Oregon researchers examined marriage rates in all 50 states over a 20-year period. You can likely guess the conclusion they reached: “Such claims do not appear credible in the face of the existing evidence, and we conclude that rates of opposite sex marriages are not affected by legalization of same sex civil unions or same sex marriages.”
As we count down the final days to a ruling, keep in mind a win could take several permutations. “We will have to see what the Court actually rules,” said Davidson, “but there is no question that wins in both cases will be historic and lead to more weddings and more same-sex couples and their children being protected against tragedies and hardships in the same ways as married different-sex couples are.”
But something else is also beyond question – while a loss at the Supreme Court may prolong the battle for the full protection and inclusion of same-sex families, any victory for backers of Prop 8 and DOMA will be a pyrrhic one. One by one, their arguments have been exposed as falsehoods and have no power as American society moves towards full acceptance of LGBT rights. Their arsenal is empty.
Over the past couple of weeks, our focus along with many other LGBTQ individuals has been at the Supreme Court of the United States. As a collective group, we are awaiting decisions on two different cases. One case involves California’s Proposition 8 and the second involves the discriminatory federal Defense of Marriage Act known as DOMA. These two cases are front and center in the movement for equality and the very apparent shift in public opinion.
Since the beginning of June, I have caught myself reading live updates via the SCOTUS Blog on each and every opinion day. If you aren’t familiar with the use of SCOTUS, it stands for Supreme Court of the United States. I consistently set a reminder on my phone to make the loudest possible noise to remind myself to join the 15,000+ other individuals that watch for instant updates. The SCOTUS Blog has a representative (Lyle) in the Supreme Court press-room providing information as it happens. Every time there is an update in the “chat window” you hear a specific sound. When I hear this sound, it seems as if I begin to hold my breath.
I am writing this blog on Monday June 17, 2013. Today is my birthday, my 34th birthday. For the first part of the year, I was telling everyone it would be my 33rd. It was either Matthew growing tired of telling everyone that I actually would be turning 34 or I finally accepted the fact and started welcoming the idea of 34. I think one thing that has made adding another year to my age easier is the quirky fact that my father was 34 when I entered the world and made him a father. That day was Father’s Day (June 17th) in 1979. Want another fun fact? Matthew is the same age as his father was when he was born. This September we will become fathers at the same age as our fathers became fathers for the first time. Can you say that three times fast?
This morning at 10:00, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hand down opinions on cases from this term. I am multitasking and trying not to miss any updates. It is currently 9:56 EDT and there are only a couple of minutes left before the information starts coming in from today’s proceedings. The landscape of marriage equality and the lives of so many could change within the next few moments. Just heard the sound of an update, and I immediately caught my breath. It’s Lyle from the SCOTUS Blog, and he is providing information on the first opinion. I am going to pause writing and take in the moment and watch and hope for what today might bring.
Today wasn’t the day. We now focus on the next scheduled decision day which is this Thursday. There isn’t any insight on when we might get a ruling. Most experts point to the end of the current term, which is the end of June. If it isn’t this Thursday, we will wait for Monday and possibly the following Thursday to find out the Supreme Court’s opinion(s) on Hollingsworth v. Perry (Prop 8) and United States v Windsor (DOMA). We are so close.
June is National Pride Month and there are pride events going on every weekend throughout the United States. Seeing the news and images from these different events reminds me of my first pride experience. It was last October when we were beginning our adoption journey to become dads. Matthew and I had just travelled to Atlanta to meet with our adoption agency and had no clue that Atlanta Pride was happening the same weekend. You can click here to read about that journey. I am amazed how much progress Matthew and I have seen in just a few short months. This progress would not have been possible if it were not for the LGBTQ individuals that educated and pushed the need for equality in the past five decades.
When mentioning those that have paved the way, I have to mention one particular individual. Matthew’s Uncle Dan. He epitomizes all that one would desire or need in a role model. Dan has spent a majority of his life working towards equality in our community and does not shy away from an opportunity to educate about the lack of equality.
In 2008, I can honestly say I was clueless about the Stonewall Riots or the equality movement in general. I didn’t even know that some of it revolved around Judy Garland. Uncle Dan, as I now call him, eagerly and eloquently shared his story and the history I felt embarrassed not to know. During a longer than the usual car ride from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, he opened the door to things I hadn’t really thought of and things I hadn’t even noticed. It was obvious that this community has come a long way but still has a long way to go. Oh, I also got to see a burning RV.
Dan and his husband Josh were present and wed the first day California granted same-sex marriages. That was five years ago today, June 17, 2008 (my birthday by the way). They have travelled across the United States showing their support by getting married again and again in each of the states as they legalized same-sex marriage. Dan and Josh demonstrated by saying “I Do” over and over that we are getting closer and closer to being able to say “I Do” just once and it counts 50 times. Dan and Josh thank you for making this moment in history possible. As silly as it sounds, if it wasn’t for couples like you, I wouldn’t be getting excited to watch the SCOTUS Blog and patiently (not really) wait for decisions on marriage equality.
By Jason Howe
By: Shannon Ralph
I have come to the conclusion in recent weeks that my youngest son may just be gay. Or not. One or the other. The important thing, of course, is that I love him regardless. But I am beginning to wonder.
Why do I think my son might be gay?
Well, there are several reasons and every single one of them is a broad, sweeping generalization about gay men. Of course, all stereotypes have to have an infinitesimal grain of truth to them, right? Or else, how would they ever come to be broadly (and unfairly) accepted to apply to an entire group of people? So while the below list may be ripe with stereotypes, they do have me wondering about where my young son will eventually fall on the gay/straight spectrum.
1. All of his friends at school are girls. He gets along better with girls, as he seems to have little in common with rough and tumble seven-year-old boys. “Rough” and “tumble” are words that would never be used to describe Nicholas. As a matter of fact, the vision of Nicholas “tumbling” with anyone makes me smile. His twin sister could totally kick his ass.
2. He told me recently that there is a “boys” table and a “girls” table at lunchtime. He is the only boy who regularly sits at the girls table because, frankly, he says the boys’ table smells. The heady testosterone-infused aroma offends his delicate sensibilities (that is not a direct quote), so he prefers to sit with the girls.
3. He wanted, and of course received, a yoga mat for is birthday. In what was, by far, the strangest conversation I have had in a good long while, the gay boy stocking shelves in the yoga aisle at Target gave us a knowing look, a wink and a nod as he told us, “You two look like you would be the accepting parents I always wished I had should your yoga-loving (wink, wink) son one day tell you he is gay.”
4. He effusively tells his sister how beautiful she is. Often. As a matter of fact, I have a picture of Sophie as the wallpaper on my phone, and just yesterday Nicholas was waving the phone around to anyone and everyone who would look saying, “Now this is what true beauty looks like!”
5. He is overly effusive about everything. Seriously. Everything. Every tree is the most beautiful tree he has ever seen in his life. His blanket is the warmest blanket he has ever felt in his life. Every grilled cheese sandwich I make his is the best grilled cheese he has ever eaten in his life. Every puppy is the cutest puppy he has ever seen in his life. I want to say, “Dude. Everything can’t be THE BEST.”
6. He is incredibly orderly. There is a place for everything and everything is in its place. Though his bedside nightstand may look like something from a particularly horrifying episode of “Hoarders,” he knows every single thing that is stored there. God help the poor soul who makes the egregious mistake of thinking his Dum-Dum wrapper collection is trash!
7. He is particular about his clothes. Whereas I believe his older brother, Lucas, doesn’t even see the clothes we hand him to put on each morning, Nicholas is quite selective about his clothing. And he has a style that only be described as Nouveau Nicholas. Though it has been known to occasionally involve tube socks and crocs, I see a possible designing career in his future.
8. He helps his sister pick out her clothes. And of course, everything she puts on is “fabulous.”
9. He is the biggest cuddler we have and constantly tells us how much he loves us.
10. I come from Kentucky where every young boy gets sheered like a sheep come summertime. My hometown is rampant with skinny little knobby-kneed boys running around with buzz cuts this time of the year. Nicholas, however, is quite fond of his hair. Whereas his older brother cares not at all about the shape of the hair on his head, Nicholas likes his long. He likes to be able to brush his bangs from his eyes with a mere whip of his head. He likes it hanging over his ears. He does NOT, however, appreciate being called a hippie—a fact I earned the hard way.
11. He gets his feelings hurt easily. Every perceived wrong is met, not with loud arguments, but with quiet tears that he tries his best to blink away before they are noticed. But I notice them. His other mom notices them. And they worry us.
How will our sweet, gentle, effusive, beauty-loving, oddly particular, someone rigid little style maven be accepted by the world? Will he be considered “weird?” The world is changing, but Nicholas is growing older every day. Is it changing fast enough for him? Wherever he ends up falling on the sexual identity spectrum, I will always and forever adore him. And like every mom who ever wondered “maybe…?” I will pray every night for a more accepting, tolerant world.
TNF: How did you meet your wife?
Sara: Sam lived accross the street with her parents when I and my ex-husband purchased a house. We became good friends (platonic) and helped each other through many relationships including the breakup of my marriage (he cheated). Over 4 years of friendship we realized that we were growing jealous when the other was going on dates, but not jealous of each other, jealous of the date for getting to spend that time with the person we loved. One evening we kissed (7/25/03), and we’ve been together as a couple since.
TNF: Do you feel different from other families? If so, how so?
Sara: No, other than the inability to get married and have the security that provides to our property and children. Although in most cases hetero couples would never need to adopt their kids.
TNF: Is it tough being a gay couple where you live? Do you feel accepted?
Sara: Our city, Appleton, WI, is a very accepting and progressive city. We have a prominant private performing arts college, Lawrence University, and that draws in people from many walks of life. We live in a historic neighborhood close to the University that has a large concentration of gay families. We can easily walk hand in hand with our kids and dogs downtown and in the parks. The only time we felt discriminated against was by a fertility doctor when we were in the planning stage of getting pregnant with Graisyn. He was incredible rude and flipant with us.
TNF: What has having a family meant to you?
Sara: We enjoy the normalcy that family provides us. We are really no different than the hetro family next door. We go to work, we raise our kids to be respectful, caring, responsible humans, we maintain a home and vehicles, pay our bills and taxes on time, we have both gone back to school to better the future for our family. I guess we almost feel that we need to prove to others how normal we really are.
Thank you Sara and Samantha for sharing the story of your beautiful family.
By Brandy Black
I realized as soon as I had three kids that balancing attention is a tough job. I worried that they would all blend together in my mind and I wouldn’t notice the little things that I always had with my first born. In some ways that feels true, I haven’t written down the first sneeze or the first smile or the first laugh or the twins discovering their toes. But what I hadn’t prepared myself for, having been an only child, was the very distinct personality differences they would all have at such a young age. Bella, 17 months old, is obsessed with shoes. We may have our very own Carrie Bradshaw in the house. She picks out different ones every day. She not only picks them out for herself but for of the rest of us too. Her concern is constantly about shoes. Why aren’t we all wearing shoes all the time? She insists on wearing them with her pajamas. She waddles around with a confidence like she runs this place. She has also recently taken a liking to a particular floral (floral is in you know) cover-up for her dresses. Yesterday in the hot heat she would not let me take it off. When it’s wet from washing her hands she screams if I try to remove it. This morning, she dug it out of the laundry basket and held it up to me. I told her it needed to be washed and she began screaming. When I put this wrap on her, she smiles and pets it and then waddles off to something else.
There is no blending in for this little girl, she has her own ideas and everyone will listen to them. She has begun what friends of ours have coined “the Bella drop” in which she drops to the ground back rounded and head to the down, screaming when something goes wrong. I remember learning a version of this for Drill Team in high school and it’s quite hard to drop yourself from standing like that. We think she may be a cheerleader. She’s got the moves already.
She is a foodie. She loves any kind of food and fully expects to be fed when anyone near her is eating. She is that kid that will follow other kids to their treats assuming their parents brought enough for everyone.
She sits on my feet every morning while I blow dry my hair. Her brother wanders around picking up toys, babbling but Bella plops down on my feet, stares up at me and waits patiently for me to be done. She is a little lover, she will walk right up to you and sit right down on your lap. She loves to be held and could ride around on my hip forever.
Bella Bell, you are our sweet baby girl.
June is here. I am truly excited! June has always been one of my favorite months of the year. Maybe it’s because my birthday falls in the month of June. Is it possible to have two favorites? Just consider it a tie between June and December. I love the excitement and happiness people show around the holidays and not to mention the cooler weather. The heat and humidity in Tennessee can be a little too much, and I have already reached that point this year. This June is going to be much different from any before.
We both have settled back into routine following our wonderful visit to Abilene to meet the expectant family that we have matched with. I can honestly say that some part of me is still there emotionally, and I guess physically, I think I left a sock at the hotel. Today marks 98 days from the anticipated due date. 98 days! That seems so soon and yet so far away. What do we do? What needs to get accomplished between now and then? We turn our focus to the month of June.
June 2013 has the potential to change everything as we currently know it. The LGBT community is no longer years and months away from a ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) on issues surrounding marriage equality. We are now only days away from the decisions on California’s Proposition 8 and the much broader Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). It is time for forward movement and time to leave inequality behind. No longer talks of separate but equal. It is time for just equal. There are a lot of people anxious for the month of June to hurry along.
I have always tried to figure out a way to celebrate June as my birthday month, and I have been unsuccessful. This year it will be somewhat a month long celebration. June 2013 has been designated as LGBT Pride Month. That is exciting. An entire month! The 17th will be my day though. A day I will be celebrating my 33rd birthday (34th as Matthew would say). We plan to use this month to spend time with family and friends as we continue to prepare for the arrival of Baby T-Rex in September. Since it is officially LGBT Pride Month, I wanted to share an excerpt of an interview we did in the first couple of months of our adoption journey. Sometimes it is good to look back and reminisce. You can read the whole interview here. We are so happy to share our story with you and are excited that you are a part of our journey.
Q What obstacles have you run into as a hopeful adoptive gay couple?
Finding the right agency for us was a definite obstacle. There are a lot of Christian-based adoption agencies in our region as well as in our surrounding states. We both are Christian, and we were shocked about how we were received when it came to our desire to adopt. One agency offered to let us pay them their fee, but they would not promote us like other families. If we found the birth family, they would proceed with the steps to complete the adoption. This was very disappointing to both of us, but we didn’t veer off course.
Q What’s been the best part?
When you make the enormous decision on what journey you will take to growing your family you then learn what it will take to get there. You basically open up your life to be reviewed. Everything from medical history and medical tests to financial stability is scrutinized. Someone even comes into your home, on multiple occasions, and decides if you are going to have a child. Then you create marketing material. The text gets reviewed and edited along with pictures and layout. You read books and attend a weekend intensive course. It takes months to complete.
You might be thinking how does this have anything to do with the best part? The day when everything is complete, and you are an approved waiting family, you feel like an overnight success. An overnight success that took four months. We received our Dear Birthmother Letter when Matthew was working. I waited what seemed like days for him to get home so we could share the joy of opening them together. This is no joke, it felt absolutely amazing to see our very own letter after seeing so many of them of the families before us. We felt like we truly worked hard to represent who we are as individuals and as a couple, and we were truly happy how it turned out
Q Why do you think there’s still so much opposition to gay adoption?
I personally think that the opposition comes from misinformation as well as ideas and a thought process that is outdated and taught. There are a lot of people and organizations that are working hard to educate people that there isn’t any difference in a child raised by a heterosexual couple versus a same-sex couple. While you have one group using recent data from research saying there is no issue, there is another group using data from research several decades ago that didn’t even include same-sex couples in their research.
Q Do you think attitudes are changing?
We both feel positive and optimistic about new studies and commentary that show the tide is changing among individuals in the United States. It is also encouraging by all the changes happening around the world. The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on DOMA and Prop 8, as well as the push for equality is full steam ahead. We have great representation and positive images of gay individuals as well as couples in numerous television shows and media outlets. I guess I will use my chance to reference Dan Savage. I honestly believe that every day it gets better.
Q What do you know about the open adoption process now that you wish you had known when you started?
I wish we had known that we didn’t need to worry about “the what-ifs.” We didn’t need to fit into a certain box to become parents and we didn’t need to say this or that to become parents. All we had to do was be ourselves, and everything else would happen when it is/was supposed to. Fortunately, we learned it truly early on in our journey.
Thanks for reading. You can read the rest of the interview here.
By Tanya Dodd-Hise
It is Wednesday morning, May 1st. I am scheduled to have a PET scan this morning. Nothing to eat since midnight the night before. They are going to see if the cancer has spread.
I arrive at Texas Oncology in Plano, which is HUGE compared to the office that I go to in Carrollton. There were SO many people of all ages, and it made me very sad as I sat among them in the waiting area. Cancer is absolutely a demon of a beast, and it is random, nor is it discriminate in whom it chooses to challenge. Soon, a sweet tech by the name of James came out to get me, using humor to ease my anxiety. I spent an hour in a quiet room, sipping clear contrast liquids and reading Facebook on my phone. Then James gathered me up again and moved me into the room with the giant, intimidating scan machine. He basically strapped me to the table, and explained that it would take a while, but he would be coming in to check on me several times. While listening to all of the whirring noises of the massive machine, I tried to think about anything else – my wife, my babies, upcoming chemo, my friends, any plans that we have. I almost thought that I might possibly be able to take a little nap, if I meditated myself into a relaxed enough state, but then James came in and said that I was all done. Within minutes I was on my way out the door and in search of food, with promises that the results would be in Dr. Perez’s hands before my appointment two days later.
It’s Friday now. I have an appointment this afternoon with Dr. Perez, my Oncologist, to go over my PET scan results and plan for chemo. Erikka leaves work early to meet me for lunch before my appointment, and then we are on our way over to the hospital. We are taken back almost immediately, and put into a room to wait for the doc. When he walks in, with papers in his hand, he shakes mine and asks how I am. “Well,” I respond, “I guess that will depend on those test results in your hand.” He laughs and gives me a warm grin and says, “We need to talk.” Well SHIT. That is NOT what I want to hear, obviously. He sits down, Erikka reaches over and takes my hand, and tells me that the cancer has spread. There are lymph nodes all over our bodies, as we all know; and under the chest wall in the middle of our chests are intramammary lymph nodes. It is here that the PET scan lit up with spots of cancer cells. Just before I was going to ask if that meant more surgery, for Dr. Garner to remove these lymph nodes as well, the doctor proceeded to explain that these lymph nodes are NOT usually removed in surgery, as they are difficult to reach. Well SHIT. So what does this mean? He tells me that it means that they will need to add radiation on to my cancer-fighting regimen. THIS is what makes me cry. Having chemo didn’t make me cry, but radiation? Now THAT was what upset me! I was thrilled when I was told initially that I wouldn’t have to do radiation, so it was a huge disappointment that I was now going to be facing that as well. But I have to see the good in the situation – there always has to be something good to focus on, right?
Dr. Perez told me that it had NOT spread to any organs, or to my bones – a HUGE good. He takes a moment and goes to call Dr. Ilahi – one of his colleagues who is the Radiation Oncologist that I will consult with regarding my radiation. When he returns, he says that they consulted on my case, and they believe the best results would be to start chemo right away and do four weeks of radiation after chemo was finished. I felt stupid that this made me cry, but it is what it is.
A few minutes later, we were all done, with plans for chemo to begin on Monday, May 13th. We were originally going to schedule the first treatment for Friday, May 10th, but decided against it so that I could have the weekend enjoying my family and Mother’s Day.
Cancer may be taking some things away from me, but it can’t take everything. I’m not willing to let it have any more than it has already taken. I can kick chemo AND radiation in the ass, no matter what.
By Tanya Dodd-Hise
One week out from surgery. The pain is intense; the drains are annoying as hell. My post-op appointment with my surgeon is today, and I am SO hoping that she will remove at least one of the drains today.
We get to my appointment right on time, and are taken back right away, as usual. She starts off by telling me that I am actually and officially only a stage 2 with my cancer; and based on the number of lymph nodes affected (9 out of 15), I was actually a 2a. Initially, just after surgery, she had thought that based on the size of the tumor that she took out, I would for sure be a stage 3, which is what she told me in the hospital – thus upsetting me greatly before I was ready to go home. But when I went in for this appointment, she told me right off that she had been mistaken, and I was truly only a stage 2. She said that her first statement was based on the size of the tumor, and that it appeared to be 4 cm upon initial examination in the operating room. The lab returned a result that it was actually 3.5 cm, and therefore only a stage 2. I was VERY grateful for her error in judgment! But this also told us that it had grown quite a bit, in quite a short period of time. When I found it, my doctor estimated its size to be 2-2.5 cm. The mammograms and ultrasounds measured it at 2.76 cm, just two weeks later. The biopsies measured this tumor at 2.8 cm, and the final lab results after removal show 3.5 cm. This is at least a full centimeter growth in less than six weeks! She then went on to tell me that she got all of the cancer, to the best of her knowledge, but she suspected that the oncologist would want further body scans and brain scans, to make sure it hadn’t spread to other parts of my body (since it was so aggressive and fast growing). I pray that the fact that it was fast growing says that it had not been there long when I found it. I then got her to take out the right drain, which was heavenly; but she said I would have to wait a few days longer for the left drain.
While on our way to my post-op appointment with the surgeon, I got a call from Texas Oncology – Carrollton. I made an appointment for my consultation with Dr. Enrique Perez for Friday, April 19th. The very nice lady, Roxann, emailed me new patient paperwork so I could be efficient and ready upon arrival. When Friday arrived, we went to lunch beforehand at one of favorite restaurants – Misto Bistro – run by one of my favorite friends, Janet. We have been friends for a while now, and I have worked with her doing catering (which I love); but our friendship has gone to a whole other level in the past several months, and she is even more special to me than before. After lunch, we headed to Texas Oncology of Carrollton, where I met the chick who will be my supercool nurse, Amy. I was ushered into a room, where I was asked a series of questions that I had already answered on all of the forms that I had previously filled out. Soon, we were being introduced to Dr. Perez – a very nice and very tall man with a wonderful disposition and bedside manner. He was able to put me to ease by anticipating my questions and answering them before I even got a chance to ask them. I told him that my genetics testing came back negative, and my hormone receptor testing came back as a triple negative – triple negative for estrogen, progesterone, and HER2. So now what? I am negative for everything. “What does that mean for me??” I asked the doctor. It basically means that it is harder to treat; but we are going to fight and we are going to do everything that we need to do to keep me alive. Well alright. That’s what I need to hear.
Dr. Perez went on to tell me that he wants me to have a PET scan, a CT scan, and an echocardiogram before starting chemo. He also said for me to go ahead and have the port put in, while I am waiting to start and waiting for my scars to heal. He explained that based on all of my negative results, he was going to do a certain course of drugs (which I can’t remember the names – except that one is the evil red one that I have read about) for four rounds, three weeks apart. The first four rounds will be two drugs together. After that I will do another four rounds, three weeks apart, of a third drug. He said that I WILL lose my hair, and other side effects could include diarrhea. Yay.
Three days later I was back in Dr. Garner’s office to get my left drain out (FINALLY, thank God!). I went over my oncologist visit with her, and we scheduled my outpatient surgery for the port placement. It would be a couple of days later, on Wednesday morning, and she assured me that it was nothing…a breeze. This procedure would be a walk in the park compared to the mastectomies.
So I guess here we go. No looking back. Part one is done. And as hard as it has been in the two weeks post surgery, I don’t think it will be anything compared to what is coming with six months of chemotherapy.
Guess we will see.
By Trey Darnell
Matthew and I matched with a wonderful expecting couple more than a month ago. The time had come for us to travel west and meet them. This past Thursday we said goodbye to our cats and flew to Texas. Our flight arrived in Dallas, and we rented a car to complete a three-hour drive to Abilene, Texas. I am sure most of you are aware of our love of In-N-Out Burger. Driving through Dallas-Forth Worth, we spotted several locations, but we did not stop. We were on a tight schedule and needed to be in Abilene for our match meeting early that afternoon.
To be truly honest, Matthew and I had a lot of anxiety leading up to this meeting. It seemed to escalate while driving to Abilene. A counselor from our agency, Independent Adoption Center, would facilitate the meeting. This would be the first time that we would meet the expecting mother and father. We were overly excited and nervous to meet both of them. The moments leading up to the meeting felt like a first date. We had built a foundation of communication over the past several weeks and now it was time to meet each other.
Our counselor had reserved the children’s activity room at the Abilene Public Library Mockingbird Branch for everyone to get together and participate in the match meeting. There was not much about this exceptionally large room that indicated children or activity. It was full of six-foot tables and chairs. It did not have that small quaint feeling that we hoped for. We picked a table in the middle of the room and allowed our anticipation and nerves to build even more. We heard a library representative say, “The activity room is located in the back”. We stopped breathing.
Matthew quickly stated what I think we all were feeling. “I know we are all extremely nervous”. The ice had been broken. Questions were posed to both couples and with each one it seemed to get more and more comfortable. Thirty minutes quickly turned into an hour and a half. During this time, we learned about the expecting mother and father as individuals and as a couple. Looking back on the match meeting, all the anxiety left as we said goodbye to the counselor and began our weekend in Abilene. I am thankful for the anxieties as it allowed us to be aware of this truly memorable moment and prepare us for the spectacular time we would have the rest of the weekend
Over the next few days, we were welcomed into this energetic, funny and loving family. We were able to spend time with parents, grandparents, siblings and cousins. Each and every one of them made an extra effort to spend time with us and show their support for us as a couple and potential adoptive parents of their future daughter, granddaughter, great-granddaughter, niece and cousin. We told stories and listened to stories. Needless to say, some were embarrassing. We learned about them, and they learned about us. We laughed a lot. Family members commuted from hours away, and everyone made sure they had ample time away from work to meet and support the mother and father and Matthew and I. We felt so welcome and loved by this family, and we are extremely excited to merge them with ours.
The final night was marked by an epic family barbeque Texas style. Many hours went into the preparation of the BBQ. Cloth napkins, table decorations, a T-Rex and a roadrunner. The menu was overloaded with superb food. The menu included brisket, baby back ribs, sausage, green peppers stuffed with cream cheese wrapped in bacon and then grilled to perfection. This evening was certainly a celebration, a family celebration that we were a part of. There was not a better way to end our visit to Abilene than enjoying each other’s company after a terrific Texas BBQ.
I have to say it was a little emotional to say goodbye to everyone that night. Over the previous three days, we felt as if we were a part of their family. We know that this goodbye is only for a short period of time because in just 16 weeks baby T-Rex makes her arrival. We are extremely excited for what the future holds for our entire family, which has now grown much larger. We have already started talking about future family vacations.
Oh, we did stop at In-N-Out on our way back to Dallas before flying home to Tennessee.