I’ve gone back and forth about whether to write this post. It was tempting to leave it out, to keep this website as some kind of imaginary version of our adventures as travel-happy expats, where life was going on as usual. But for the past seven years this blog has been a chronicle of our actual lives, and omitting something so significant seems strange. We’ve been weighing the discomfort of sharing this story publicly against the discomfort of leaving it out; looks like the scales have tipped towards telling it. Here goes.
Back in May we were finally starting to settle into life in Edinburgh after a long, drawn-out move from Munich (a move which involved detours to Italy, the US, and Japan). We were excited about our new city in a new country. We were figuring out which neighborhood grocery stores we like best (Waitrose for the win) and trying very hard to remove the word “pants” from our vocabulary. We were just starting to meet people, taking the first steps towards having a local social circle.
Also in May, Scott’s foot started to hurt a little. The doctor initially dismissed it as a minor injury which would work itself out. Then Scott’s calf started to swell a bit. Another trip to the GP, and a blood test just to rule out the possibility of a clot. A long wait in a small room for the results, for someone from the hematology department to come talk to us. Surely this doctor is in the wrong room; we’re just here because Scott’s foot hurts. Not because he has leukemia.
He was checked into the hospital immediately, no trip home to collect a toothbrush or a change of pants (see look, I’ve learned how to use that word now). Hooked up to an I.V. and started on blood parts and all sorts of drugs to prepare him for the chemotherapy, which was to begin as soon as possible.
That first few days was a blur of new medical vocabulary, tearful phone calls, and disbelief. Who up and gets leukemia like this? How did this happen? As this new version of reality sank in, we also started feeling overwhelmingly grateful. Grateful that this happened when we were home in our new apartment instead of, say, while we were in Japan, or the day before the movers were supposed to come pack up our Munich flat. Grateful that it was happening in a country with universal healthcare. Grateful for caring nurses and patient doctors. Grateful for friends and family around the world who offered their support and comfort.
That first hospital stay lasted five weeks. Overall Scott has spent about half of the past four months as an in-patient. In between rounds of chemo he’s had days when he has felt reasonably good, weak but otherwise pretty healthy. On those rare days we have been able to get out and enjoy our new city – go to the beach, take in a couple Fringe shows, have dinner out (with heavy restrictions on what Scott can eat) with visiting friends or relatives.
As I write this, the leukemia is in remission and we are approaching the end of Scott’s scheduled treatment. We are looking forward to some time away from the hospital, and starting to think about what comes next. Which Edinburgh restaurants do we need to try? Which Scottish islands should we visit first? How long until Scott is strong enough for a hike in the nearby hills? How long until life starts to feel normal again?
Now this blog is probably going to return to business as usual, chronicling our travels and expat adventures in home country number five. But I feel better knowing that when you see Scott’s bald white head in future photos, you’ll understand why.