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Promise

Posted by on July 21, 2013 in My Health Updates - 46 Comments
tybee pier

Ruth 1:16-17
“Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.

Twelve years ago, Chris brought me to Savannah to meet his family and to ask me to marry him.  I was a foreigner to this city.  Unacquainted with its squares and cobblestone streets.  I marveled at the Spanish moss that draped Victory Drive, creating a canopy over the road.

As Chris showed me how to crack open crab legs without mangling the meat, his grandmother complained loudly about the visiting northerners at the next table.  “They don’t even understand the menu, why did they even come here?  That’s the problem with these Yankees.  They come to visit and then like our food so much that they want to stay.”  She was right.

Today, this place is my place.  I crack my own crab legs and have taught our nine year old to do the same.  We’ve come here every summer, at my insistence.  I may not know the name of every square, but roaming downtown and meandering my way back to Bay Street has become second nature.  Candy stores line River Street, but there is only one store that sells the best salt water taffy – I don’t know the name, but I know exactly where it is.  As we drive out to Tybee Island, I scan the tidal marshes to determine the tide level – trying to plan out the perfect moment for a long run on the beach.  I may never have convinced Chris’s late grandmother that I’m a Savannah girl, but this place has won my heart and it’s where I’ll be buried.

As we gather at Chris’s parent’s house in Savannah, I’m surrounded by his family.  His parents, his brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins and double cousins (it is Georgia after all).  His mother who has been my constant partner in care.  We dropped the in-law long ago. These people are my people.  We aren’t bound by a contract, we’re bound through love, laughter and yes, grief.

Eleven years ago, Chris and I stood before God and promised to love one another, to cherish one another, to remain faithful.  For richer for poorer, in sickness and in health.  Until death do us part.

For the past four years, I have cared for him in sickness.  But, it was no burden.  It has been an honor to carry out my promise.  If the roles had been reversed, Chris would have done the same.

As Chris’s physical body becomes weaker, I’m sustained by the love all around us.  E-mails and notes to Chris from family and friends.  Mountains of friends.  Followers of Chris’s writing who we’ve never met, but know intimately.  Neighbors, co-workers, colleagues – all the people that have filled each chapter of our life together.

Eleven years ago, the commitment we made has grown into something so strong that I’m almost in awe of it.  Death may end the vow, but it’s powerless against this fortress of enduring love that we’ve built.  It is my life’s greatest accomplishment.

  • Linda Perlman Tabach

    This beautiful Dena. You and Chris are in my thoughts often.

  • Gail N

    Thinking of you often as a fellow caregiver with sadness….Gail N mother of Cody 22

  • Susan Lowney

    I am in awe of the love and commitment you share. Happy anniversary. Keeping you both in my prayers.

  • Patty Roe

    Beautifully expressed, Dena. Our spirit is with you during this time…

  • Minnie Kriek

    May you be surrounded by the love of friends and family and know that the love that shines from you and Chris is a beacon for some of us who have been a little lost.
    With love
    Minnie

  • Jackie Barnes

    Having followed your blogs for sometime, I’m so grateful for the insight to your lives and the love you share. Chris has been so strong and has endured so much whilst he has been on this journey we share and I wish nothing but the best to all of you at what must be such a difficult time. Beautifully written Dena and it surely has brought tears to many followers eyes. Your combined strength and sharing has given so much hope to so many. xx

  • Maryalice

    Happy Anniversary. I am blessed to know you both. Blessed to be a part of your journey. I am devastated at the same time.

  • Cheryl Matkovich

    I have been following Chris since Caring Bridge, back when I was desperate to find anyone else with this dreaded disease. Your family is an inspiration to me, and my thoughts are with you often. Your strength is amazing.

  • Maria Stepek Doherty

    Deeply moving and inspiring as your journey together has been to so many of us. May love wrap around all of you and bring you a stillness born of peace. Love is eternal.

  • Leighann

    So much love. Prayers, thoughts and goodwill for you and Chris.

  • Pamela Jean

    I have tears in my eyes. It is so hard to enjoy the time that you have left when you are so miserable at the same time. Although I don’t know you, I do have all of you in my thoughts.

  • Karen in Ottawa Canada

    My love and respect and overwhelming admiration and thanks to both of you for sharing your journey with such insight and humour and wisdom. I am grateful , as I continue my own battle with RCC. Hugs and love to the entire Battle family

  • Bill Bro

    May His blessings be showered upon your family, Dena.

  • Rebecca Patterson

    Thank you, Dena, for sharing your heart. Your gift of words expresses my heart as well. Thanks for showing to the world what true love, commitment, and family is all about. It does not go unnoticed. Well done, good and faithful servant. Praying for your needs…physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

    Love,
    Rebecca

  • Dennis Murphy

    It’s often said that it’s not important how many years we live but how
    well we live. the years we have. Chris and you have left a lasting
    legacy of strength and courage with this incredible collection of blog
    posts in the Kidney Cancer Chronicles. I’ve laughed out loud at their
    wit and irreverence, and I’ve cried alone with how deeply you’ve both
    shared your innermost hopes and fears. My prayers are with Chris and you
    and your entire family. And a toast to you both for well-lived lives,
    and the written legacy you’ve both created that will no doubt inspire
    many, many others who face life-threatening diseases.

  • Kimberly gaughan

    Well said Dennis Murphy!!!

    Dena and Chris,

    My heart goes out to both of you. I know what your going through. I too have had a loved one fight for their life with RCC. He did lose that fight in 2010. I am so grateful to you for your blog. It has helped me in ways you will never know.
    God bless you both.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you both.

    Kim

  • Mary

    I have followed your blog since I found your voice. Chris you are a fighter. You have gone down paths I have scurried from. I have seen much of my own emotional drama played out in your musings. Dena I admire and am a bit jealous of your strength, Chris is and you Dena are lucky people to have found one another. I think of you and say a silent prayer for you family. l have always loved that verse from Ruth, it speaks of the power of love and family which you so richly seem to have. I will continue to pray for peace in your journey.

  • Anonymous

    I cannot imagine how much it must suck to be as brave as you all are. Yet, you continue to share poetry about your trials, hopes, worries, and, mostly, love–making us all braver and more compassionate. Envelopes of peaceful hugs for you, Dena, and you, Chris. You continue to show the rest of us what it means to be truly human, God bless.

  • Michelle

    You have both touched so many people through your writings. I think Dennis Murphy said it so very well. I imagine many shed a tear today. You both continue to be in our prayers.

  • Anonymous

    Dena, that is beautifully written. I love that passage from the Bible
    & I feel your sincerity shine through! I, too, have cared for my
    husband for 4 years during his battle with kidney cancer & I totally
    agree that it has been an honor. You both are wonderful examples of
    altering the direction of an awful & ugly disease into a path that
    shows your humor, love & above all, unfailing commitment to each
    other to the end. A love like yours (and mine) is a priceless gift! We
    will pray for you both – God knows your cares.
    Steve & Darlene

  • Julie.corrigan@mybga.org

    It will be both your privilege and your heart break to help and love Chris through his final journey. You’re both so fortunate to have found each other and your girls are a testament to your true love and devotion. Crawl into bed with Chris and hold him to your heart – don’t be afraid that you will hurt him. Whisper all the tender, loving words from your soul. Thank you for sharing your lives with all of us who care. I’m so sorry for what brought us together – but so grateful to know you and Chris and witness such a beautiful couple. Wishing you both peace.

  • Jim g

    For as long as I live I will remember the amazing human experience that you both have had the incredible strength to share with all of us. It will make all of us better people, and better for having known you.

    Love on this level is known to few of us; how lucky are you and Chris to have shared so much, good and less so, over these eleven years.

    I remain in awe of you both.

  • Lesa Larsen

    What a beautiful message, Dena! God’s blessings on you and Chris and your family. May His love and strength give you peace and comfort in the days ahead. Your love and courage are inspiring to us all. Lesa Larsen

  • Terri H

    So beautifully written, thank you for helping all of us deal with this disease with grace and confidence. I remember finding your site shortly after my diagnosis and sharing it with my terrified husband, we laughed and cried with both of you with each new post. Many prayers are going up as Chris takes his final journey home, and many of of us are praying for you and your family as well. I can’t thank you enough for all you both have done for the KC community. Hugsssssss!

  • Asa Hutchinson

    All we can say is that we love you and Chris and we are blessed to know you! You and Chris have so encouraged and inspired me with your love, courage and spirit. Asa

  • Anonymous

    Dena,

    You have a beautiful way with words. Reading this put me to tears. I hate that your family is experiencing the slipping away per say of someone that has so obviously etched his print into your souls permanantly. I pray for you all daily. I have since I learned of Chris’s illness. I work with Cheryl and have known Pat since HS. My heart aches knowing that you have two little girls that have to face this so young. You are a pillar of strength. I will continue praying for each of you. I hope that God will somehow bring you comfort through the pain. In light and love, Nicolle

  • Dori

    Dena and Chris – you and Chris are the strongest friends I know. Thank you for sharing your humor and your hearts with us. You, Chris, the girls and your families are in our thoughts and prayers every day!

    Big hug – Dori

  • Pat Yovich

    The love and cherishment of you both are things that you will always have in your life and in your heart. There are many miracles in life, but 2 very special ones as I learned in a chaplain class…the first being present at the “birth of a child”, truly a miracle, and the second, being with your loved one and taking the journey with him and handing his hand over to our beloved Father and all those waiting on the other side to see him and embrace him. I know and experienced it with my mom..I can’t even explain how it was – a journey, another “space”, almost an “out of body experience”…I treasure that every day, Your faith, family, friends, and most of all, your God and Chris will always be there.. We continue to pray for you and all the friends in these chronicles going through their journeys…Sometimes, life is not fair, but the true love and devotion to each other and true faith carries us through – from one miracle to another.
    Many God’s Blessings to you all,.
    Love, Alan and Pat
    Pooler, GA (and yes, the Best Place in the South!)

  • Dana Moon

    Well said Dennis Murphy! You speak for us all. Dena and Chris, you have provided a family for so many of us to share our journies with. I’m glad we have been able to share in yours. Chris, yours is a life we all marvel at. You have accomplished great things and inspired so many in your life- your writings, your fight, the way you have lived your life and now with the love and dignity you end your final chapter. As I know you all will, hold each other close and “live like it’s heaven on earth”. God Bless you.

  • Jill Geer

    Dena, Chris is not the closest friend I’ve had in my life, but he’s one of the very most important I’ve ever had, and the one who, by virtue of timing, geography, life events, and cups of coffee and glasses of alcohol, was the one friend who almost by accident was there when I truly became the grown-up version of myself. And I can’t tell you how much I’ve marveled at how you two became this super-couple and really made something way greater than the sum of your parts. You are an inspiration and an example to everyone. I have been thinking about him and your family so much in the last week especially. Over the weekend I remembered how, when we were in Fayetteville and working for the newspaper there (and both going to grad school in history), he said he used to constantly have dreams about sharks. These were dark dreams that revealed a soul in torment. And as I remembered that, I thought, “I am sure that, since being the Dena, those dreams subsided.” The peace you have brought to all parts of his life is something I can just FEEL and have felt through the years, even though I haven’t seen Chris in forever. I will be forever saddened that I missed seeing you by one day on my trip to Alexandria July 1-2 … I think you guys left for Savannah the next day. Maybe I just wasn’t “supposed” to see Chris then. Much peace to you and your family in coming days and weeks.

  • Erica

    I’ve really enjoyed following your blogs Dena and Chris. My mother died of breast cancer when I was young and always been afraid. Your humour and positive attitude and genuineness feels like there’s someone who can relate. You’ve made me laugh, you’ve made me cry. I’m so glad you’ve opened your lives for us to share with you. It’s been an honour. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. Erica

  • Tina

    Dena, you are Chris are two of the people I admire most. Since my Dad was ill, I check your blog everyday to seek for courage. As Chris, my father does not respond well with many drugs-some do not work at all, others keep effective for only a short period. His latest scan shows progressed disease again… Although I feel exhausted sometimes, I do wish my Dad to be with me longer and longer, and I want to share all the pain with him. I hope Chris can suffer less during the last journey, and stay longer with us if possible. I love your whole family and my thoughts and prayers are with you. BTW: maybe you’ve read of this, but I still want to send it to you in case it is useful. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23339124 it is a drug called Dovitinib and it shows anti tumor character in previously treated RCC patients. The side effects seem to be manageable, so I am wondering whether it can be a choice.

  • Chris Fegles

    Dena, I have no words that can express my heart right now. All I can say is that I am and will continue to pray for your entire family! I’l pray peace and joy for Chris as he continues on this journey. Peace as he prepares for eternity and joy as he enters the presence of our Lord. For you, I pray immeasurable and continued comfort by those who surround you with their strength and their love, but mostly for something which only He knows, that will carry you & your children through and beyond. Huge hug to you!!! ~chris f

  • Mary Pattison

    Absolutely beautiful. You and Chris have shared in 12 short years what many people never experience in a lifetime. God be with you.

  • Jamie Zuieback

    What an amazing tribute. Thank you for sharing your strength. You and your family are in my thoughts.

  • C

    I have lurked on this blog for a long time, not wanting to intrude on your open and personal discussion. But I need to let you know how much this blog has helped me. Thank you for generously sharing your personal experience with us online. My father was diagnosed with kidney cancer a year and a half ago. And this blog, and your and Chris’ voices were and have continued to be of tremendous help to me. You showed me grace, humor, strength and courage. Just what I needed. I am so sorry you are in this situation, and I send you my support and best thoughts and wishes. We may not know each other, but I care.

  • Lisa & Chris Morton

    Spoken so beautifully, straight from the heart. While our hearts hurt, it is with so much love that we e-hug you all from Dartmouth Road. Peace during this time and space. Aloha nui loa.

  • Margo Braunstein

    Dearest Dina, Chris and family,
    You have been on my mind and in my heart for days and days now. If there truly are angels here on Earth, I think your secret is out. Thank you for your candor, your guidance, and your ever-present grace as you lead all of us in our battles against cancer! Keeping you close in prayer…much love, Margo

  • Connie Belsito

    Dena – this was so beautifully written. The journey that you and Chris have shared through this blog has been inspiring, heart wrenching and often laugh out loud funny. His legacy will always live on through his amazing gift.
    I haven’t seen you both in some time, but the love and bond that you have between you has always been so amazing to see and is something that many will never be lucky enough to find. My thoughts and prayers are with you both and your beautiful girls. No matter where this journey takes you, there have definitely been no wrong turns along the way. Peace and love to you.

  • Helena Britsch

    Truly what life is all about.

  • Marianne

    Thinking of you all….hold each other ….(hugs)

  • Bill White

    “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God.” I John 4:7 You got it. The word is agape (self-givng love). Wonderful.
    –Bill White

  • Laura Townsend

    Dena,
    I tried posting once but don’t think it went through…so I’ll try again. My friend Ritta shared your blog with me. We work together at a publishing house in IL and I believe she shared with you an Album of Hope, something we donate to treatment centers through an organization I started two years ago after losing my husband Brad at age 45 to cancer. I just wanted to tell you how touched I was by your blog. I know that you are drinking it all in now and savoring every single moment together with Chris. If there is any way I can be of help, lend a listening ear, or whatever, please know that as a young widow I am here to listen. Brad and I enjoyed a trip to Savannah and Tybee Island before he got ill. It was such a wonderfully relaxing place. One that is good for your soul. So I know that you are in a good place during this oh so challenging time. Blessings to you and your family and to Chris. Know that many others are thinking of you and wishing you courage and strength. May you cherish all the good memories of your lives together.

  • Judy Kreamer

    Chris and Dena:

    I feel my words are so inadequate as to be of much solace for you at this time. But, thank you for permitting us to travel with you on your journey.

    Your journey chronicled courage and determination, encouraged kidney cancer research, found moments of humor, overflowed with love, and led us through your faith to the Light.

    Our prayers continue to follow you.

    Judy Kreamer

  • Vicki Loucks

    Thank you both for sharing your love, for sharing your lives and for sharing your journey. We have been honored to be a part of it and have treasured the opportunity to share stories and laughs along the way. You’ve touched us in unexpected ways, allowing us to laugh in dark times and celebrate even the smallest of victories. Take comfort in your family and know that this virtual family you’ve built holds you close in prayer, wishing you all peace, understanding and rest.

    May the love you have, and the love you receive sustain you in your journey. May the memories you’ve made keep your heart forever full.

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