If the Walls Could Talk

We’ve lived in our house for over twenty years, which is longer than I’ve ever lived anywhere. I often wonder what stories would the walls of our house share if they could talk?

I think they would tell hilarious, comforting family stories. Stories of kids in their swimsuits splashing in the pool. Football games in our yard providing hours of entertainment. They’d probably also talk about all the parties filling the house with happiness.

Painful stories of cancer diagnosis

Those are the stories that warm my heart. The stories I want to hear over and over as get old. However, times in our home were not without challenges. There were painful stories as well.

During an annual physical in 2016, my doctor observed elevated blood levels in all my tests. He referred me to a hematologist who diagnosed me with a rare blood cancer called polycythemia vera or PV. This diagnosis completely blindsided me.

A gene mutation called JAK2, which causes my bone marrow to make too many red blood cells, caused PV. This significantly increases my risk of cardiac events like stroke, heart attack, or blood clots.

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The plan was to have a follow-up appointment in a few months to reevaluate my condition and discuss treatment options in a few months. However, before the appointment, the doctors diagnosed me with a second cancer, invasive ductal carcinoma, or breast cancer.

I spent the next year undergoing chemo and several surgeries for breast cancer. After this treatment was complete, the focus shifted to getting my blood levels back to normal limits.

Grieving in silence for my old life

As a mom, I tried to keep up a brave front for my kids, so most of the time I was stoic, not sharing how devastated I was with this dual diagnosis.

Although my family did not know how I grieved my old life, I’m sure the walls did. They heard me praying, “Please God, let this me get through all this.” They heard me as I cried myself to sleep, mourning the hair that fell into the shower in clumps or surgeries which tattooed my body with scars.

Finding solace in my home

During this time, our house became my solace. I could walk around the house with my pathetic bald head, and no one would stare with their pity-filled eyes. I spent evenings in the living room, fighting fatigue. Often, I’d fall asleep wrapped in a blanket on the couch watching Jeopardy with my youngest son.

A few years later, there were more stories for the walls to share. COVID happened, and I had to stay mostly at home because of my compromised immune system.

However, these stories were happy ones. I expected to feel trapped spending all this time at the house, but my world expanded in new ways I never expected. I turned one of the guest bedrooms into my studio, and soon I filled my days with writing short stories, cancer articles, poems, lyrics, and even a novel.

Soon, instead of sadness, the sounds of music filtered from my room. I started writing songs in 2019, thanks to a Veteran organization called Soldier Songs and Voices. In the shutdown, I continued to compose and started sharing my songs through Zoom.

Leaving my cocoon

When things started opening again, I was reluctant to leave the house, but I did eventually leave the cocoon I had built for myself within these four walls and ventured out.

This house has been my sanctuary and has shaped our family for many years. However, I don’t know the future for us here. We’re technically empty nesters. Two of my three sons are away at college and it’s unlikely they’ll ever live back at the house again. My oldest is still at home and for the moment I take comfort from the sound of the refrigerator door opening and shutting as he hunts for something to snack on.

My life has been a series of anthologies, and I am preparing to start a new volume. Perhaps it’s time for the house to tell another family’s story too…

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