I know I’ve told this story to a number of people before, but here it is again for the uninitiated. In October of 1996, Sheri and I celebrated our 14th anniversary, and she was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. It was an incredibly scary time for us. Just heading into Fall, with all the Ohio landscape turning brown and dying, Sheri prayed that she would see Spring again, with its warmth and colors, and most of all teeming with signs of green life bursting everywhere. With surgery and radiation, she did indeed see the world turn green again, and we celebrated. And so began a special ritual for us, every Spring, welcoming the Green.
This year is the 20th anniversary of that first Green. It’s been 20 years since that scary Fall with its dearth of hope, when we prayed for life, but faced the final ending of the dreams we had of the children we would bring into the world. Eighteen years since we decided to foster to adopt babies who would be the children we needed to parent, 15 years since Sheri was pronounced cancer-free.
In those 20 years, Sheri gave up her own medical transcription business and her passion for performing on stage. Sheri became a physical and occupational therapist, an advocate, a home school educator for our special needs kids. She became a nutritionist for gluten-free me and a daughter with ulcerative colitis. She became an expert in juvenile arthritis, scoliosis, fetal alcohol syndrome, sensory issues, ear tubes, and developmental delays.
It’s been 14 years since Sheri was first personally impacted with a family history of a vigorously aggressive rheumatoid arthritis. It’s been 10 years since Sheri’s world was shattered in a cataclysmic head-on car crash when an oncoming driver crossed the lane in front of her, and she began the long process of recovery. That process was hindered by a days-old dose of immuno-suppressant treatment for her RH, which necessitated a protocol of prednisone, which slammed shut the window of weight loss from her bariatric surgery just months before. Its been 8 years since a vocal cyst cost her the four octave range and angelic voice she was renowned for. It’s been 7 years since she went into surgery for a new hip, and spent 3 months with no right hip conquering an e coli infection before submitting again to surgery for the artificial joint. It’s been 5 years since rampant scar tissue from abdominal invasions caused a bowel blockage that nearly killed her, and 5 years since recurring infections necessitated the abrogation of any more immuno-suppressant treatment to deter her RH.
It’s been 4 years since the excruciating pain of her RH coupled with fibromyalgia and continual infections caused her to seek treatment at a pain clinic, which resulted in her addiction to 4 narcotics in ever-increasing doses. It’s been 3 years since she sought knee replacement surgery, in which her surgeon referred her to a specialist in Cleveland Clinic, but first injected her knees with drugs which necessitated a 3 month delay. It’s been 2 and a half years since that specialist took her into surgery for her knees and discovered an infection in her replaced hip, which required a re-replacement of the hip. Two and a half years since that hip surgery went terribly awry, resulting in Sheri losing 8 pints of blood, experiencing a stroke, and plunging into a coma for 2 weeks. When she regained consciousness, she once again undertook the incredibly arduous task of recovery and rehabilitation, actually fighting to walk again on knees as brittle as eggshells, and once again with no right hip.
That isn’t all of the story. In these 20 years, we lost two sons to a faulty foster care system, Sheri was the victim in a couple additional car accidents and experienced additional physical trials. She conquered addiction, she has kicked ass in rehab more times and more ways than imaginable. She lives with chronic pain and fights with a family services system that is set on making her life more difficult. If determination and fierce will were enough, Sheri would be dancing today instead of grounded in a wheelchair while her RH rages on, but a body can only sustain so much damage. Amazingly, she continues to face each challenge with faith and humor.
One of the few regrets of my life is that our marriage didn’t survive. Too much stress, too much conflict, overwhelming sadness, no time or adequate resources to heal the constant damage. Roads diverge, truth must be spoken, and journeys must be followed. But I still love my Sheri unequivocally. My Sheri? What else can I consider her, my best friend since we were 15, my wife for 35 years, the mother of my kids? She is the only woman I have ever loved, and I always will. Her laughter is still music to me, she still shines, and our history has enough joy to diffuse the sorrow. She still makes the best gluten-free snicker doodles EVER! We began as best friends, and best friends we remain.
So I celebrate joyfully another Green, another year of life with Sheri in it. I continue to care for her, I wish her peace and brightness, love and friendship and family. So Happy Spring, Sheri! Happy Green!