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This Moment

Posted by on August 6, 2013 in My Health Updates - 61 Comments

I make my way from Chris’s parent’s house just outside of Savannah to Tybee Island.  The girls are staying there with my parents.

I’ve come to love this drive.  A tour though downtown Savannah, the turn onto the island expressway as we shift from city squares to tidal marshes.  My heart always lightens a bit when I cross the bridge that covers the intercoastal waterway.

But, not today.

Today’s drive has a purpose and I’m frightened and unprepared.  I still haven’t entirely convinced myself that I’ll follow through with it.  I haven’t planned what I’ll really say.  Over the last few days though, I’ve become more resolved about what needs to be done.

When I arrive heavy clouds have moved in and light rain is dusting the beach.  Not the hard rain that comes in and leaves quickly in the afternoon, but an out of character morning drizzle that threatens to linger.  I make small talk with my parents hoping that the rain will dissipate, but it doesn’t.

My plan to walk on the beach is dashed and Kate and I are relegated to the upstairs balcony.  It has beautiful sweeping views of the Atlantic.  But, we’re more focused on finding a dry place to sit.  I finally give up and resign myself to wet shorts.  Kate sits for a moment, but when I say, “we need to talk,” she immediately rises.

Sounding more like a 25 year old, she looks at me and says, “I think I’ll stand for this.”  I have to wonder if she heard this line in a movie, but I don’t question her.   In an even voice that sounds alien to me, I tell her that her dad isn’t going to get better.

She turns to me crying.  “This is what I was afraid of,” she says.  “I don’t understand.  I’ve been praying every day since we got here.  I’ve been praying for God to make dad better.”

I start to cry too.

She pauses, suddenly serious, “Just so I know exactly what you’re saying…  could he just stay with us?  Not get better but just stay?”

“No,” I say quietly, “he’s going to die.”

She doesn’t cry harder.  I can tell she already knew the answer.  But I’m heartbroken to watch that little flicker of hope dash away.

We cry some more together.  We discuss the mysteries of life and unanswerable questions.  I tell her that I don’t know why it had happened to us, but that we aren’t alone.  That other families suffer the same losses, many suffer worse.  She nods in agreement.

Her biggest concerns are not for herself.  She’s worried about me being on my own, raising both her and Josie – how hard that will be.  I do my best to reassure her.  I remind her that we’re surrounded by family and friends, so many people who will help us.

As the conversation winds down, she looks up and says that she needs to go see Chris right away.  Then she wipes the tears from her face and says, “I can’t let Josie see me this way.  She’s only four.  She’s too young for this.”

She talks and cries intermittently the whole drive back.  She plans carefully what she’ll say to Chris when she sees him, explaining to me that she’s sure he’s scared and she doesn’t want to make him feel worse.

In the way that children operate, she drifts from serious conversations to pointing out roadkill on the side of the road – wondering aloud what kind of animal it might have been.  She talks about dogs.  Then she cries softly again about the purpose of our drive.

As we get closer to the house, she raises concern that she still wants to go shopping later as we had discussed the day before.  She pauses making it clear that she feels conflicted about this.  But, I stop her before she can go on and tell her that we will still go shopping.  I tell her that we will cry when we want and we will be happy when we can – and we will definitely shop when we want to shop.   She accepts this, and I know it was her first instinct, but she needed approval to feel that way.  I’m in awe of the simple brilliance of her nine year old mind.

When we arrive at the house, she’s thoughtful and gently navigates Chris’s oxygen tubing.  She holds his hand and tells him that she’ll miss him so much.  Then she suggests that they watch Sponge Bob together.  “You always like Sponge Bob.”  She laughs at the show while Chris rests while I cry quietly in the background.

When we leave to go back to the beach, she doesn’t cry.  As we pull away, she declares that she isn’t going to be sad.   “I don’t want dad to be sick anymore, “she says emphatically and adds, “I know he’ll be healed in heaven.”

Then she tells me that she’s relieved that I have told her the truth.

I apologize for not telling her earlier.  In that beyond-her-years voice, she says, “No, Mom.  Today was the perfect day to tell me.  You were so brave.”

I’m flooded with relief.  This giant weight has been lifted off of me.  I know her declaration is unrealistic, that she will bear that same grief that we will all bear.  But, her capacity to live in this moment, to be so strong shocks and amazes me.  I smile my first smile in weeks.

We get daily e-mails, asking for updates, reminding us of your support and prayers.   We’re grateful.  The truth is that any update would be inaccurate.  Our circumstances change by the moment.   And most moments aren’t fit for sharing.

Years from now, when time has melted these two weeks that have felt like two years into two minutes – this moment with Kate will serve as a beacon.  She may not feel like her prayers were answered, but this moment she gave us was an answer to ours.

  • Wendy

    You all are always in my thoughts. What an amazing family. xoxoxo Wendy

  • Elizabeth B. Stone

    I am so very sorry to hear the sad news but I hope you will let Chris know that he has kept me, a 30 year old girl, moving as my 28 year old fiance was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer in January. You both have given me hope and a place to feel normal, if anyone can feel normal during this journey. Please know I will continue to find inspiration from you and will continue to pray for you and pray that we will all be ok when our loved ones move on. I am so very sorry again but I hope you know that you have had an amazing impact on the world, on me, and have helped so many others.

    • LaDonna Buskirk

      Elizabeth,
      I just wanted you to know that my husband was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer in December of 2005 .. He was one month from being 59.
      It has been tough but Miles is doing quite well. The tumors are in the area where his cancerous kidney was removed and have not varied in size for around 9 months. Keep the faith, Elizabeth. And good luck to you from LaDonna and Miles

  • Stacey Shrader Joslin

    Dena – Thank you for sharing such a personal story. My heart breaks for all of you. Give my love to Chris. I will always regret that I did not make it to DC for the Asa reunion just to hug your neck. Stacey Shrader Joslin

  • Michelle

    Dena – We are so, so very sorry. We are crying right along with you. We will continue to keep you in our prayers.

  • Karen in Ottawa Canada

    Kate is so very thoughtful, thinking of Chris’ suffering and your own anguish – that’s a remarkable girl you’ve raised together and she will help Josie understand when she must. My heart breaks for all of you – cancer took my dad just as I turned 13 and it was so so difficult. But we were told to not speak of him, to avoid upsetting my mother further. I know you will encourage your girls to talk about and with their dad always. Hugs to you all

  • Rebecca Patterson

    You, dear Dena, are amazing! Hurting with you…grateful for the assurance of heaven through that personal relationship with our Lord, Jesus. Continued prayers for each of you.

  • LaDonna Buskirk

    Dena,
    You must be an amazing woman.. Wife and mother. Bless you and please know others share your sadness and tears.

  • Mary Prazma

    You are all still in my prayers! What a strong young last you have there. Know Dena, and Chris, we are all your family.

    Mary Prazma

  • Leighann

    Praying daily for strength and so many beacons that will comfort and ease the heaviness. Dena you’ve been such a blessing to Chris and both of you have been the same for all of us who care so much. I am so moved that Kate was able to bless you this way. Love always. Love always.

    Leighann Stephenson Heling

  • Marianne Kocak Cashman

    Dena……your words awe me, inspire me, and bring me to tears. Your writing, I’m sure, is cathartic to you…and little do you know..cathartic to those who read it.
    Your girls and Chris are blessed to have you and you ARE brave. Hugs to your family across the miles.

  • Kay Olive

    Dena – I have such tremendous respect for you and Chris, and the way you have traveled this oh-so-hard journey. As a cancer survivor, we know that many will not survive the journey, yet you and Chris have inspired us all to be better, more loving, more supportive and more thankful for the gift you brought to all with your incredible faith, strength and love. Chris has such wonderful things ahead! Our God is an awesome God, and He will guide all of you forward. Please give Chris a hug for me and thank him for his friendship. I will continue to pray for all of you.

  • Greg Dawson

    I read this, started crying so hard for you, my Wife came over to read it, and we cried together for you all. Our prayers for all of you and our respect for such as strong and faithful family which is fighting this battle daily. We will continue to pray for you daily and hold you tight in our hearts during this difficult time. May God Bless you all and please know we are all here to support you in every way possible. God’s blessings upon you all. Greg and Shellie Dawson

  • MARYALICE HAEST

    Dear Dena, once again your post takes my breath away. My heart is broken. I am so so sad. I hurt for you, the girls, and all of the Battle family. I know that my dear friend will be in a better place soon. I hate the thought of this world without him in it.

  • Jason Cabel Roe

    My heart hurts so much for you, Dena. He’s a wonderful man, great husband and father, and brightened up the lives of every person he touched.

  • Janet Friedl Kavinoky

    A big hug to you and Chris and the girls. I would wager that even those of us who do not know you well, but have followed this journey, stand ready to support you all. I know I will. It might involve irreverent cocktails at Sidecar in Chris’s seat of honor under the heading “be happy when you can, cry when you want to.” Until then you are all in my thoughts.

  • Phillip

    Dena, I wish I had 1/2 the strength and 1/10 the wisdom of Kate. I lost my parents at age 9 in an accident I seriously doubt I could rationalize or understand my loss.

    God blessed you and Chris with a beautiful angel.

    You have my love,

    Phil

  • Janet Curtis

    Dearest Dena and Chris,
    My heart is breaking after reading tonight’s post. This journey filled with fear, pain, unfairness, and loss is a cross no soul should ever be made to bear – but especially beautifully loving and kind souls such as those of your whole family. I will never pretend to understand. And yet you and Chris continue to so honestly and selflessly share the intimacy of it all with those of us who care about and love you both so deeply. We remain in awe of your strength and grace. We are humbled by your gifts. We are better people for the honor of knowing you.
    Dena, you are an amazing wife, mother, daughter, friend, woman. Chris, you are an amazing husband, father, son, friend, man. You are two incredible people who have the remarkable talent to make the world a better place simply by being who you are. No matter what the future brings, none of that will ever change or be forgotten.
    Please remember that an infinite load of hugs, love, tears, prayers, strength, and support continue to come your way. You are first in our hearts and minds.
    Love, love, and more love,
    Janet

  • Greg Painter

    Dena, words can not express the sadness and grief I feel for you and your daughter’s. Chris is an amazing strong man. The couple times we met up at hopkins I could see what a great man chris is. I am just heart broken. Give Chris a big hug from all of us, tell him he is in our prayers, I am just so sorry..

    Sincerely
    Greg & Rian Marie Painter

  • Minnie Kriek

    May God bless and keep you in his loving hands, now and forever. You and Chris have and are fighting a battle that would broken lesser people. And in this turmoil you have managed to raise two little girls who are a blessing. You are indeed God’s good people.
    Much love and blessings
    Minnie

  • Debra

    You give me strength to know I can get through the cancer battles. Both if my children have been diagnosed with kidney cancer in the past year. Thank you for sharing. I continue to pray for your family.

  • Phillip

    I love you guys

  • Tony J

    You are in our family prayers. God bless you guys. Chris you are a wonderful man and father.

  • Anonymous

    Very touching words. Your daughters are obviously intelligent, clear thinking young women. They are, no doubt, Chris’ children. We pray for all of you. We take solace knowing that before long he will be reunited with his friend Brent.

  • Margo Braunstein

    Dear Dina,
    There are no words to adequately describe all of the emotions that fill my heart when I think of you, Chris and your beautiful little girls! LIFE IS SO VERY UNFAIR AT TIMES! My love and prayers to the entire Battle family…

  • Leslie Nunez Steffensen

    We continue to pray for you and the girls and for Chris each day at Grace Church. It is so beautiful to read about the moments of grace within this very difficult time. May God continue to bless you and keep you.

    Peace,
    Leslie

  • Paul Suplee

    Dena, thank you for sharing these sad but brilliant words with us. You, Chris and the kids have been so brave throughout this. We love you guys and you know our thoughts are with you every day.

  • John Neary

    Chris, Thanks for all that you have done and continue to do! Hang tough and never lose hope even when you want to. You have an amazing family who support you and I’d say that you just might be as lucky as I am in that regard! Let’s plan on getting together for a nice tall glass of something when we both get through this. OK?!

    John Neary

  • Kenny

    Dena, Thank you for everything. You and Chris are so giving to the RCC community, there is so much that so many of us would not know or understand with out you two. Please say hi to Chris for me, and express my gratitude for sharing so much with us. Your daughter wisdom is so beautiful. We too gain strength from her words.
    Kenny

  • Jill Geer

    Dena, I just read this, most powerful blog again. The second time reading, I feel even stronger that your 5th and 6th paragraphs are written in exactly the way Chris would write them. And your penultimate sentence. It may seem weird that those words and sentences and paragraphs jumped out at me and yelled “Chris!”, but they sure did. You guys co-wrote this piece, to be sure. Love and e-hugs to you all.

  • Karen

    I am in awe of the simple brilliance of the love of your family: from your parents to your siblings to the relationship between you and Chris and the amazing brilliance of love standing out so strongly in your children. I know it is what holds all of you together… and all of us to you. We, all of your friends, feel the brilliance Kate eminates. Thank you, Dena.

  • Libby Camp Elliott

    The courage and strength you all have shown during this journey is
    remarkable. Sending prayers your way for peace and comfort for you all. God
    bless.

  • Tom schranck

    It is quite obvious, by Kate’s reaction and thoughtfulness, that the apples have fallen very close to the tree.

    With love and prayers for you all,
    Tom and Sandye Schranck

  • Joannah Labrador

    My heart goes out to you, Chris, and your girls. I lost my husband to RCC in 2010. It is absolutely devastating, but God is so faithful. He will carry you all. Lean into Him.

  • Tracy Freeman

    Kate’s words and response was an answer to your prayers. What a wonderful way to finish this chronicle. I am so glad you shared your story with us Dena and Chris. Where there are no words, you both seem to find them and put down on paper (or a computer screen) the most deeply felt, but often not heard, yearnings of our hearts. Your pain is our pain, your sadness, our sadness, your smiles, our smiles and your grief is ours too. I have prayed for years for healing for Chris, now I feel humbled by Kate’s simple words that he will be healed in heaven. I love you guys.

  • Kate Ackley Zeller

    This is so beautifully written and so heartbreaking. I will keep your family in my prayers and thoughts.

  • Anonymous

    Dena, my heart is with you, Chris and the girls in every possible way. Your writing is so perfectly poignant. I know better than many how important it is to have a caregiver who is also a gifted communicator. The love you have given Chris has been closely watched by your girls. You have left a mark on them that a lifetime of wear will never wash away. In doing so, you’ve left that same mark on the rest of us. Please give Chris a hug from me.

  • Mike Moore

    May the Lord bless you and keep you, may his face shine upon you and give you peace…The Battle Family is in our prayers. Thank you and Chris for sharing your story.

  • Meredith Martino

    Oh, Dena. My heart is breaking for all of you. I have always prayed for God to “make Chris whole and strong.” Like Kate, I know he’ll be healed in heaven, but it won’t make the loss any easier for everyone living here and now. Kate is such a special little girl, and I’m glad she can be some strength for all of you.

  • Cara

    Dena and Chris – You guys are always amazing. Chris is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. His stories about Kate and what she says always made me laugh. I pray that your family will remain strong. My thoughts are with you guys!

  • john neary

    Chris, Keep hope alive even though, at times, you might not feel like it. Keep the thought of healthy days foremost in your mind. Focus on the things that you will enjoy again down the road. When we get through this all, we can get together and have a beverage.

    Dena, We are praying for you all. It is clear however, that God has blessed you and is working in your lives. Stay strong.

    John Neary

  • Deborah Garner

    I am so glad to know that you will have the comfort and strength that your faith in Jesus is supplying you. I know that your and your children’s hearts are breaking – but one day you will all be together again. And on the day that God allows me a lowly sinner to enter into His house I hope to meet your dear husband, and if this sick body of mine makes it longer than I think– then I may also have the joy of meeting you as well. My prayers are for you that you may feel God’s loving arms around you everyday. Love and Prayers in Jesus’ name. And all of God’s children said “AMEN”

  • Tina

    Hi Dena, I cannot express how sad I feel when reading your post. Your girls are wonderful and you and Chris must be very proud of them. Although I will keep fighting with my Dad until the last minute, I know the day will finally come. It would be extremely sad to lose someone you love, but it would be less painful to know that his disease can be cured in heaven and he will be in a better place. I just can never stand with the idea that someone I love feel lonely. We have an old Chinese saying: a day in heaven equals to a year on the earth. (sorry for my poor English, but I know you can get that) So even if someone leaves, he will not feel lonely for too long. He can just have a rest after the tough fight, get used to the new environment, talk to someone he did not get a change to talk to (maybe Steve Jobs) and time just flies so fast there. He would be happy looking at you living happily. Please tell your girls if they have the same concern. I will keep praying for you. Hugs.

  • Bonnie

    Dear Dena,
    I am so touched by your very poignant story of how you shared such sad and difficult news to Kate. Your relationship is so special for her to react in such a caring way and for letting you know how hard this was for you. And then to acknowledge her concern for her little sister is so wonderful. She has all of the best attributes of you and Chris. You have both taught her well and it is so sad that she has to learn one of life’s most difficult experiences at such a young age. This will make her strong in the years to come and she has learned that she can trust you with the truth. Our prayers continue in the most powerful way possible that you will all have peace. You will have no regrets, Dena, because you have been there for your family EVERY step of the way.
    Love always,

    Bonnie

  • Michelle Hutter

    Dena- I know you don’t know me, but I am a friend of Theresa Fish from Michigan. I lost my Dad to cancer in April, so I can only imagine how much pain you and your girls (and his parents and your friends) are feeling right now. Thank you for sharing such a wonderfully written and extremely painful experience with your daughter. You both are TRULY amazing people. My wish for you is that this overwhelmingly painful and exhausting time for you goes by with lots of hugs and crying and knowing that Chris will be in a better place without the f’ing cancer anymore!! I just remember telling myself how much happier my Dad was going to be once he wasn’t sick anymore. We are all just so angry about it. Cancer sucks!!! Draw all the strength you can from all the wonderful support I know you have. Michelle Hutter

  • Amy w.

    A friend of mine shared this on her Facebook page and I just read your words as I travel home from vacation with my family. My father is traveling in the car behind us, but for the first time he makes this trip alone. We lost my mother to breast cancer on Christmas Day this last year. We are learning to live life without her. Your words and insight through your daughter’s eyes were especially touching and healing to me as I deal with my own grief. I thank you for that. I find the comfort of knowing we are not alone in this, especially helpful. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your beautiful family.

  • Peg Landers

    Dena,
    This is so beautifully written. You blow me away. I’m bawling like a baby. God bless you and your family. I will never forget Chris.

  • Maria Stepek Doherty

    My heart weeps for you and yours.

  • Nadene Cheney

    Hello Dena, This is Karen Hanretty’s mother, Nadene here. Karen has kept me updated on Chris’s journey. I am sad he is gone, sorry for all he went through, glad he had such a wonderful family, relieved he is no longer sick.
    I think you could write a book someday about this experience. I hope you will.

  • Amber Pearce

    In such hard times, the moments written and now read, reflect that you have together created a beautiful, loving and kind family. To react with such loving courage is proof. May God continue to bless your beautiful family! Heaven has received angel!!

  • WendySueSwanson MD

    Just so beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing this intimate moment. And giving us all hope we can deal as gracefully as you do with the seasons of our lives.

  • Tina

    Dena, I burst into tears when knowing the sad news. Sorry so much for still bothering you with possible treatments yesterday, I really did not know. I just do not want Chris to leave us. I know he is still not far away. He will always be with us, and he will be healed in heaven and be happy if you are happy. Please take care of yourself and the girls. I will always pray for you. Chris, although we never met, you has been and will always be my beacon of light. Thanks for the courage you give me and thanks for making the journey of fighting cancer less lonely. I will always remember you, your optimistic, your sense of humor and your beautiful words. Thank you.

  • Helen Frith

    I am so sorry for this very difficult phase of your lives. The love and superior coping skills you have used to navigate Chris’ illness has been modeled and utilized by your daughter. Although heart wrenching, your sharing this chapter in your lives is, as always, helpful and hopeful for the rest of us. Thank you! God Bless You!

  • Anonymous

    Having been with Dad, Mom, my mother-in-law, all of whom died from cancer, I know how you feel. God bless you all. Chris is in His arms.

  • Garrison

    She is the both of you in one. I remember the day she was born and how we had to drag you and Chris to the hospital because you were both wanting to make sure everything was perfect. Chris will always be here for you am so will we.

    Garrison

  • Pat Yovich

    Dena…How very “special” the moment and one of many you will cherish forever! Kate is a brave little girl…And you, mom, are even more so….God gave you soooo much courage for “those moments”… Many more prayers and hugs to you and your family.

  • Wendi Iserman

    My thoughts and prayers are to you in this time. I just wanted to say that seeing you write about your experiences, have made me want to do so about my own experiences with cancer. (Sage IV, Head and Neck) My prayers are with you and yours.

  • Jay

    Dena, research CD47 at Stanford. They may be able to put together a “compassionate use” study for Chris if you are out of options.

    Jay

  • Momo

    Hi Dena, So sorry for all that you’re going through. I’m a few weeks/months ahead of you in this horrific battle. Our battle did not have a happy ending. Although no one truly knows what to expect, I’ll be happy to share how things panned out for us. Your kids will be an amazing source of strength for you.

  • Brock Moon

    During my own time and battle like so many others, you come to find there are those that you follow and can relate very well to when you are in a battle for your life with the very same disease.  Chris Battle was that gentleman, husband, father I never personally met  But found a connection with through this site and then his offshoot to create his “Kidney Cancer Chronicles” website which I followed intently through his  journey of trials, tests, treatments. His creativity of writing and colorful comedic descriptions filled with satire, He helped me realize it was okay to poke fun at what Cancer cannot and should not ever take away, given everything it will try and take away.  It has no biases, it cares not who you are or who you think you might be. When I started my battles and Dana linked up with Chris’ caringbridge site,  It helped me turn more of my, inconviences, pains, side effects and tears into my own sense of humor as that was a much bette rway to deal with the feeling of knowing all too well the sword the disease was going to hang over me.  It also made me feel good and eased my nervousness about all the things a body can go through and still come out mostly whole and unscathed and slowly rebuild itself.  It allowed me to share with others that normally I would not do, especially something that would under normal circumstances should be kept to ones self, but pride can dissapear quickly and pride is not always a good thing, but being humble is. I was just out of the hospital after having my brain mets removed and was home recovering when I read that Chris passed on August 8, 2013, at the age of 45 I showed an unfortunate weakness I still have and stopped reading immediately and did not want to face another loss.  I not being who I am now, took the easy way with only a short amoun of pain and tears and got myself  to a quickly peaceful place so as not to completely lose it.  I did say a prayer for him, his wife his daughters and the rest of his families, but that is where I thought I could leave it.  But life and emotions haunt me on a more normal basis than anyone even knows, especially late at nights, early early in the mornings, and espcially when I am alone, medicines help but they cant take away the totallity of life itself and how either long or short your path might be and how easy or hard the walk is.  What I put off the day of the 8th cumulated and came to a head this morning while Dana was away taking Nathan to school at 6:00 am. I dont think I need to go into detail but I cannnot remember a time that my emotions and body has ever come to that much of a point.  I feel I betrayed Chris’ and the support I received from his stories, his strengths and fight for life just like mine, and I have made a promise not to let that happen again, as tears and sadness and times of joy are going to be a larger part of my life. May the light of God Shine on the face of Chris Battle.  Thank you for helping and being a part of in my on going journey.  I wish I could of personally met you and shook your hand. You were and are an inspiration to me and many. Brock Moon

  • Minnie Kriek

    Dearest Dena and Family, I’ve just read on Brock Moon’s post of the passing of Chris. He had fought so hard and so bravely and with such humor. May God bless and keep you in his love and shelter you in this sad time.
    With love
    Minnie

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