It’s no secret the past eight months have not been easy for our family. Those of you who follow our story have gotten a glimpse into the hardships and twists and turns this cancer journey has given us. But it hasn’t been all bad. This time, I get to share some joy with all of you.
About two weeks ago, Corey, Michelle, and I had all been eagerly awaiting for Corey’s blood counts to come up so we could all go home from the hospital. We were in Tennessee from January 2nd until the 12th. We were transported from hospital to hospital, landing in Moffitt for the remainder of our stay. Corey and I had not seen home in two weeks. Each day at the hospital felt never-ending, and soon they all ran together.
Thursday, January 18th we were finally discharged. The relief we felt to be back within our own comfort zone was immeasurable. Of course, we were all exhausted. The rest of the day Corey and I spent in our room vegging out to TV shows.
Little did we know, we had something waiting for us. Rather someone. Many someones.
At midnight the same day, we come out of our room and three familiar faces were smiling at us. Jason (called Jay), Aaron (dubbed Shaff), and Wesley were standing there with big smiles on their faces. They live in New Mexico and Oklahoma. What in the world were they doing in St. Petersburg, Florida?! Surprise numbers one, two, and three.
Corey met these guys almost eight years ago playing Xbox live. Since then, they have played countless hours of tag-teamed, winner-take-all, beat down matches against other strangers in their video games. All that time spent together, yet we never met them in person. Four years ago Jay and Shaff came to our wedding and since we have been to their own homes hundreds of miles away from ours. However, it had been a few years the last time we saw any of them. Seeing them standing in the middle of the living room was nothing short of joyous.
But the surprises weren’t over.
The next day, we got to spend some quality time with our newly arrived guests. We were eagerly anticipating another Xbox Live friend: Joel (nicknamed Bazz). He lives in Oregon and he is another good friend we had never met in person. We knew he was coming for some time and, apparently, he would be the only one we knew was coming. As he walked in mid-morning, we saw one more guy trail in behind him. Joseph (we call him Fierro) walked through our front door. Surprise number four.
Yet another great guy Corey has met while playing Xbox, Fierro hails from California. They had an intense rivalry in NFL Blitz. The number one slot would constantly pass hands between the two of them. Through the taunting and gloating formed a beautiful friendship. Now that friendship brought him to meet us.
So there was the gang. All the people Corey has played with consistently for the past eight years, gathered in one place. The voices I would hear through Corey’s mic drifted through the house. The teasing, jokes, and stories associated with this group could now be told face-to-face.
In the middle of our visiting another knock came. Everyone was here. Who else could have come? Surprise number five, six, and seven walk through the door. Corey’s old youth pastor and officiant to our wedding came in with a huge smile, bald head, and open arms. Phil has known Corey since he was in middle school. Even after he moved to Pennsylvania a few years ago, he has always kept in touch with us. Joey and his wife Tori joined in with their own hellos and hugs. Joey was a high school friend of ours that was good friends with Corey from the start.
Tori, Joey, Corey, and me
Phil (left) and Corey
By now, the living room is filled with people. The laughter and the stories that went through that room put the biggest smile on my face. Some of Corey’s biggest supporters were here with us, cheering him on and encouraging him up close instead of hundreds of miles away. I had to stop for a moment just to take it all in. I looked around and thought how great this moment was. It’s not every day eight people fly from all over the country to see one person. But here they all were.
Yet, we still had another surprise to go. This time the surprise was solely for me. I was handed a phone that was not mine that had a video chat going with my best friend Brittany. “I don’y know how to say this, so I’m just going to: I’m flying in tomorrow.” I cried. Surprise number eight (and my favorite): Britt was coming to see me from the cold tundra of Chicago!
By Saturday, we had everyone with us. Jay and Bazz made some amazing food and we had more than 20 people over for dinner. Our local friends mingled with out-of-state people. Family met friends. There was a lot of love and laughter and jokes and sharing in that house that night.
The weekend flew by and before we knew it people were leaving for home. Jay, Shaff, Wes, and Bazz left Sunday morning. Sunday night we enjoyed our traditional dinners at our grandfather’s house with some additional guests. One person in articular enjoyed the night so much, he said (and I quote) “This is the best night of my life”.
By that Tuesday, everyone had gone home. Our weekend of surprises was over. But the goodness of that weekend did so much for Corey and me. No, this has not been an easy journey. Yes, I do wish we saw everyone under better circumstances. However, I would not trade that weekend for anything.
Sometimes the morale boost we get from the good things in life is enough to make the hiccups and twists seem so small. It wasn’t just seeing those friends on one weekend. It’s the “just want to stop by” visits, and the deep prayers over us, and the smile on people’s face when they see us. People tell me that I am strong and that Corey is strong. The truth is we are only as strong as our support system.
With the type of people supporting us, we could take on the world.