Sunday, August 29, 2010

Righty's last ride (pts. 1 & 2) and all the beautiful people

Like i mentioned in another post, the day after T-dub got home from Europe we met with Doc Jones and decided to go ahead with the amputation of my right foot a mere two days later on friday. My brother the suburban cowboy kept referring to a song by Tim McGraw, "Live Like you Were Dying," about all the things we should do with my foot before it went off to the big cancer lab in the sky. Because of the two previous surgeries i hadn't been able to ride my bike a whole lot since the end of June, so one thing i knew i wanted to do was ride again with both legs. I put the word out to a few friends that thursday morning i'd be meeting at Revolution at 7:00 am for "Righty's Last Ride." The artist put the word out to quite a few more people, unbeknownst to me. So thursday morning T-dub and i got up, rolled over to Revolution, and were surprised to find 30-40 people there for Righty's last ride.

We had a good ride out through Draper and back, with more folks joining along the way, and i appreciate the opportunity to ride next to so many great people from the cycling community, both those i know and have ridden with for years, and those i barely know. I appreciate everyone who pulled up by my side to offer encouragement, give references or offer help, or even share their own experiences. It was impressive to see everyone, from some of the fastest guys in the state to my high school humanities teacher, show up to bolster me with their spirits and strength on such short notice. Thanks as well to all of you who didn't hear about the ride till afterwords (i know, one day wasn't a lot of time) or had other commitments, but expressed your desire to be there. Thank you!!

Yes, he was a state champion, and the CX old guy series points leader, but that was all back before he started brewing beer.

A big shout out to Melissa and the whole crew at Revolution who have been incredibly supportive. I've been buying bikes and bike stuff from Melissa for well over ten years now because she knows how to take care of people. Thanks!!

But to all you who came out for Righty's Last Ride, i have a small confession to make. It wasn't actually Righty's last ride. It was, in actuality Righty's second to last ride, see, when i got my surgery schedule and found out i didn't have to be at the Huntsman Center until 2:00 in the afternoon on friday, the artist asked me if i was going to ride my bike up to Huntsman. It hadn't occurred to me before that, but since he mentioned it, yea, i decided i would ride to the hospital. So this time i invited my family to join me for Righty's real last ride. I got up friday morning and shaved Righty one last time (old habits die hard i guess), then ran a few last errands.

At noon Luke showed up to offer his support, then T-dub (who was taking the picture), the artist, the fashionista, and José and I all set out for Righty's real last ride. It was a pretty surreal experience. Here was this leg, that by all accounts, was doing what it was supposed to be doing. It looked healthy! It pedaled and powered the bike forward! and yet, this cancer was growing inside it that had the potential to destroy me!

Righty's last pedal strokes!

The closer we got to Hunstman, the more surreal it became. Our pace was easy, and we were laughing and joking, but right there in my mind i kept thinking, "this is so natural, so normal, so much a part of my daily life, but this is it: the last time i will pedal my bike with both legs, something i have taken for granted my whole life." I am grateful i had my brothers and Ms. Cheetah with me to share Righty's last ride (for real).

When we got to the Huntsman, the artist, the fashionista, T-dub, and José "dropped me off."

Then we found a valet (yes, they have free valet at the Huntsman for patients) to take a group picture. He asked us where we had ridden from, thinking that if the ride merited a group photo, it must have been quite a ways. We told him Sandy. He pretended not to be unimpressed, then the artist, with all his usual tack, pointed to me and said, "he's going in to get his leg cut off now," at which point the valet's expression turned to part horror, part shock. He clearly didn't know what to say to that, muttered "i'm sorry" a number of times and we rode down to the parking lot to find my dad.

After my dad got there, the rest of the group rode home, T-dub and I went in and changed, and then headed up to wait for the surgery. Even though i was scheduled to arrive at 2:00, and they got us into the patient waiting room rather quickly, the surgery rooms were backed up and it wasn't until almost 8:00 that they finally got me in for the surgery. That gave me a lot of time to hang out with my Dad, T-dub, and my leg.

Finally a little after 8:00 they rolled me back to the surgery room and the next thing i remember was waking up at around midnight. I was in the post-op recovery room where the nurses were telling me they were going to "boost" the epidural, which would take about ten minutes, and then once i was feeling ok, take me up to my room. I was feeling a good bit of pain, but waited and waited, hoping the epidural would kick in. It didn't. Finally, after about fifteen minutes i told the nurse (between deep breaths), that i didn't think the epidural was working. I knew this for two reasons: 1) it hurt like hell and 2) i could scratch and pinch both legs and feel it just fine, i had total sensation in both legs (or at least what was left of both legs). The nurses worked quickly to get an IV drip painkiller going, but all in all, i spent about 45-50 minutes between when i came to and the painkiller kicked in. Finally the pain started to subside and they took me up to my room where my Dad, the artist, and T-dub were waiting for me. T-dub almost fainted when they told her it had taken so long because the epidural didn't work and i was in a bit of pain. The artist almost fainted when he saw the pic of my foot in a bowl.
Then the worst part of the whole experience happened. I had to pee real bad, i mean real bad. So after a little discussion with the nurse it was determined that T-dub would hold me while everyone else waited outside and i peed into a small plastic urinal, so T-dub propped me up and held me at the bedside, i held a urinal up to my junk, and the nurse, the artist, and my dad waited behind a curtain ten feet away. Talk about stage fright. It didn't help that every 45 seconds my dad was asking me if i had gone yet. Although i had to pee so bad my teeth hurt, with such an audience, it took me a good six or seven minutes and a bit of coaxing before i was able to relieve myself. Finally, the job done, i was put back in bed, my dad and the artist said good night, and T-dub pulled a reclining chair up to my bed as close as she could and held my hand throughout the night.

The next morning the "pain management team," including the resident who had administered my epidural the night before came to see how i was doing. I told the resident that he was lucky he hadn't stopped by last night when i was in the post-op recovery room because had he done so, regardless of whether i had only one leg or not, i would have punched him hard in the face. He didn't see the humor, but that's ok, cuz i hadn't been laughing the night before either.

Other than that, however, i can't say enough for the hospital staff, Doc Jones and his staff, and all my good family, friends, unirvesity colleagues, students, and the cycling community who have shown me so much support. I had a number of great visitors at the hospital, who certainly made the time pass. In fact, i had to remind Cait, who was having so much fun, that it wasn't a birthday party, i had, in fact, just had my leg amputated.

My nieces signing my cast.

My mom sporting her "Livestrong" hat, just for the occassion. She came to visit twice, though her own health is deteriorating rapidly. Thanks Mom!!

The artist, the fashionista, and DC all stopped by after riding the four canyons. Don't worry DC, i won't tell anyone, you only met them for Emigration and didn't really ride the other three.

All the kids wanted to see the pics of the surgery. It probably didn't help that Ernie couldn't help but gasp, "holy cow!!" with each new picture as she scrolled through them.

Willy made me a new prosthetic foot out of play-doh.

Cait asking if she could eat the chocolate she had brought me as a get-well gift.

But that's ok, because Cait also made me these "guardian monsters" out of the play-doh she brought.

Early sunday morning visitors, i like that Cait wore her jersey, even though she drove to the hospital.

After a few laps around the fifth floor on Sunday with my new crutches, and some stair exercises, they figured i was strong enough to go home and i was discharged before noon.

It was nice to go home, to sleep in my bed, to not have a nurse's aid waking me every hour to check my vitals, and to have so much care and support from so many. I don't know how to begin to express my gratitude. I have felt such an incredible and strong sense of community and love over the past few months, first since Bunny was killed, and more recently after my own surgery. I don't know that i can thank everyone and i'm afraid i'll leave someone out, please forgive me if i do, but i want to try.

Thanks especially to T-dub for being there every step and taking such unbelievable care of me. I can't imagine what Luke is going through because i would be devastated without you. I am so grateful and lucky to have you in my life.

Thanks Dad for doing everything you can to help me through this in every way: financially, and in terms of my overall well being and comfort, and for being there for every surgery to pick me up, take me home, and make sure i'm taken care of. And thanks mom, even though your mind is not what it used to be, i face my challenges with the attitude i do because that's what you and dad taught me to do.

Thanks to the rest of my family, who all help in their different ways, so many of which i'm sure i'm not even aware. Niki for coordinating and communicating; Seth for being a jackass, i mean for his sense of humor (really though, i appreciate Seth for all he has done to support me through this); Luke for stepping up and supporting me, even when he is going through his own challenges that overshadow mine immensely; Miah for wanting to take my big toe skydiving before i lost it; Zach for helping with so many little things including a great meal (actually it was Brenda who made it), but most especially providing me with a photo that brings me to tears of laughter everytime i see it; and Trigger for checking in and keeping up from southern Colorado. Thanks as well to my amazing sisters-in-law and José who have fed me, chauferred me, helped clean my house, and yard, and supported T-dub.
Thanks to my nieces and nephews who decorated my cast something wonderful, came to visit me often, and continue to support me even if it means a get well kiss or good luck rub to the stinky end of my stubbly stump.

Thanks to all my extended family who have sent get well messages, dropped off music, visited me in the hospital and at home, sent food, and even provided or offered medical advice and services. To Bob and Lonnie for the music and visits, to Jim and Shauna for coming by for a pre-surgery visit, to the Parrys for the visits, the food, and the help in the yard, and Grandpa for the steaks. Thanks likewise to Lindsey for enough tasty and healthy food to keep me and Tay well fed for a month, and all of T-dub's family for the visits and help.

Thanks to Leti and Cait who made sure my hospital stay was comfortable as well as my transition home. You two have been wonderful, and although i tease you both (sometimes, just a little) i love you both and am grateful for you in my life. And thanks Leti for braving the insects and biodiversity to help T-dub in the garden. Thanks Lu and Vero for the incredible mole, and everyone who showed up for my 40th with plenty of Virgils root beer. Thank you Ms. Soos for your small and simple, but incredibly meaningful pictures and messages. Thanks all my other friends, even those from afar, who kept up with me and sent me messages of strength and support. Thanks TaLaisa, Eli, and Caleb for the visits, the incredible cookies, and all the other goodies.

Thanks to all my colleagues at the university for all of your support and offers for assistance, from the LEAP program, to the Honors College, UNP, ECS, the Bennion Center, and AMES. I appreciate the concern and support you all have shown, the cards, messages, phone calls, meals, treats, visits, and offers to cover my classes that so many of you have sent my way. Most especially thanks to Marti who, despite her own health trials, has been there every step of the way to offer her support.

Thanks likewise to all of my students who have sent messages, visited, made extra trips just to get me that mango-raspberry boboli smoothie i was craving, and provided a great system of support and love. Thanks to the good folks at Free Minds/Free People for the great care package that kept T-dub and i entertained while i was recovering. And thanks to the Mestizo community for your support and stepping up to take care of things when i was at the hospital or getting scans or tests of some sort or another.

Thanks to the cycling community for all your support and messages. Thanks Gardie for declaring a "matt bradley day" up in PC. Thanks Bryson for looking to hook me up with sponsors and other connections so i can keep cycling. Thanks DC for being an all-around good guy, a great teammate, and an amazing support. Thanks to the Glenn brothers, smartasses they may be, for their support. Thanks Bruce for looking for ways to keep me motivated and involved with cycling, Bart G. for some pre-surgery advice, and Shane for the crutches. Thanks to everyone who came out to "righty's last ride," and offered your support in so many ways, as i mentioned previously in this post. Your presence and companionship carried my spirit and gave me an incredible amount of encouragement to get back on the bike as soon as i can.

Thanks to Doc Backman who initially found the tumor, Doc Jones, Nancy, and all the other incredible staff at the Huntsman who got rid of them, and everyone else who took care of me during my stay.

And finally, thank you to everyone who has offered prayers, fasted, lit a candle, and put my name in prayer circles in the variety of congregations you attend from LDS temples to the Buddhist monastaries.

Though i certainly wouldn't have chosen to lose my foot, i am grateful for the ways in which it has deepened my relationship with so many of you, both those with whom i was already close and those with whom i had more casual relationships. I have seen new sides of my own family members, developed an incredibly deep respect for T-dub, strengthened my relationship with many family and friends, and opened doors to new relationships with many others that i look forward to developing.
I hope i can even begin to repay all the kindness that you all have extended to me. God Bless!!


Erin Bradley said...

Matt, you continue to amaze me(and make me cry)!!! You really have been a rock through all this. Thanks for putting up with all of Miah's inappropriate comments about righty. You really have so many people who love and admire you!

We are so grateful to Tayler as well. She has been so incredible to you and has really eased our worries as she has been there every step of the way with you. Thanks Tayler for taking such great care of our Mattman!!!! We love you both!

lonnie said...

You know what they always say, "That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger." Something really good is coming your way. Just wait and see.
Love you,
Aunt Lonnie

Ms. Fu-Daddy said...

You're the bessstttt!!!!