*Please note that I write this post expressing how Greg and I were both feeling during his 3 month ordeal with cancer. I do think I understood some of the things he was feeling, but certainly not all. I maybe should have written it as simply my own thoughts and feelings, but I like it how it is. There’s always the chance that I got some of this wrong so I apologize to him if that’s the case. Stick with me though. These are some hard thoughts to explain and I hope I’m going to make some sense…
“It is what it is.” I can’t count the number of times I have said or thought that in the last year. When we found out Greg had cancer, we accepted that this is what was happening to us. This was being forced on us so we were going to make the most of it, like we always did.
In my life with Greg, we didn’t do a lot of complaining because no matter what hardships we had, we had each other and that made things okay. And not only okay, it was almost as if good or bad, we loved each other so much that even the bad times still seem like good times. Greg was always appreciative and that really came out when he got sick.
Even after finding out that his cancer was incurable, Greg allowed himself to be fascinated by the experience. It was this newness of what he was going through that was almost exciting. He had always loved science and astronomy and the mystery of things in this world, things that make us feel insignificant. He thought it was actually kind of cool that he could see the cancer in his eye, a flashing, white fuzzy spot. After seven treatments of radiation, he literally watched the cancer retreat, only to come back in retaliation with a stronger, larger fuzziness after radiation stopped and we switched to the chemotherapy to treat the rest of his body. His radiation mask was this strange and haunting thing that he wanted pictures of.
I also think he felt a sense of responsibility to do this right (and maybe even a sense of honor), like he was going through this for the rest of us – so that we didn’t have to. He felt comfortable walking us through what was going on in his head. In his own words posted on Caring Bridge, “This has been a wonderful experience in it’s own warped way.”
He could literally feel the love from family, friends, even strangers from virtual and personal contact and that really kept him going. He now had this audience that he had never had before and felt that sense of responsibility to share what he could with us. If we were too busy and hadn’t posted anything in a couple days, he would say, “We should really do another post to check in with everyone.”
And once we were sitting in one of the patient rooms at the Cancer Center, there was a sense of comfort and belonging, even when we knew that it WASN’T going to be okay. Of course there was no comfort in the reason he was there, especially since virtually all of our appointments revealed devastating news. But there was something about that little room, something monumental, where we talked about such important things as life and death. We weren’t insignificant there.
Greg pretty much loved his oncologist too. Toby. First of all, Toby reminded Greg of Andy Partridge from his most favorite band, XTC! But Toby gave Greg the time to take it all in and I think he realized that Greg needed to talk. Are all his patients like that? I have no idea. But Greg was an expressive, deep thinking person who could articulate his thoughts well. And for the times we would get bad news and all sat silent, it was Greg who spoke. It wasn’t ever anger or complaint. He never once verbalized, “Why ME?”. It was always thoughtful and in respect to me, our girls, our family, all those around him, and the things he needed to do for us and the plans he needed to make. He was valiant. He accepted it and I think he knew, we all knew, that this was it.
We spent almost two hours with Toby in that first meeting. I almost wished I could have cracked open a Guinness for him and his new friends. Now that is something I know without doubt that Greg would have loved. :) It’s hard to describe what happened in those patient rooms but Greg usually had the entire room (at times there were up to 7 people – family, doctors, nurses, researchers, etc.) completely absorbed in what he was saying. We just wanted to take in as much of him as we could, while we still could.
We knew as soon as we walked back out into the waiting area, we were like everyone else there, a cancer family, fighting through the stages of this horrible disease. That made it hard to leave. And as we stepped outside and drove away from the hospital, we weren’t exposed anymore. It wasn’t written on our foreheads. We were physically closed up – our winter jackets zipped – being shuffled back into the world of traffic lights and Starbucks and strangers who didn’t know that Greg was dying.
I have such happy memories of my time with Greg. Even at our most mundane, I loved simply being with him. I liked driving in the car with him. I liked doing chores with him. I liked waiting with him. I liked telling him to ‘stop talking’ when he was telling a long, drawn-out story to someone while I was in labor. I liked being bored with him. I liked telling jokes with him. I liked being the only couple to volunteer so we had to demonstrate EVERYTHING at our birthing class. I liked arguing with him. I liked being embarrassed when he shouted out in the middle of the movie theater, “Enough with the commercials!!”. I liked struggling to make a decision about something with him. I liked laughing with him and crying with him. I liked being annoyed with him. I liked making our marriage stronger with him. I liked being there with him and for him during his 3 months of cancer. I liked kissing him. He liked that too. :)
It is what it is. Good or bad. And I’m going to be thankful for what I have had and I what I do have. And I’m going to make the most of this life, just like Greg did.