Reality Of Cancer
“We were desperate.
We were in Arizona, waiting to meet with doctors from T-Gen. We still had hope, but it was the beginning of him experiencing noticeable pain.
Maybe we shouldn’t have gone. I don’t know. I question everything. But, he wanted their opinion. But, man, the pain. It was still off and on, but it was awful. What we didn’t know then was it was a tumor in his intestines causing a blockage where the pain was equivalent to child labor.
We had rented a convertible and at some point, when it got dark, I drove to grab us some food. I remember how warm the air was driving with the top down. I remember how the desert smelled. I remember what I ordered. I remember trying to figure out the seat coolers. I remember what the hotel looked like. I remember he wasn’t hungry. Then I remember him getting up. I remember we took a walk. We talked to a guy from the Midwest, who Chad made laugh. I remember he grabbed an apple on the way back to the room.
It’s burned in my memory. I don’t know why. Crisis, I guess. Subconscious snapshots.
It kicked off three months of horror. Up to this point, his cancer battle had gone well. This was the first time things had not gone right, and we didn’t have a plan. We were scared. We felt alone. We didn’t know what to do. All we knew is that we had to keep fighting.
When the memory popped up today, I almost deactivated my Facebook. Because I know what’s coming. I remember it now. As much as we tried to be normal, and go to work and live our lives, I know every, single memory from this point on is going to bring back the nightmare.
I don’t want to relive it. Who would?
I thought about turning the notifications off.
But, I won’t. Not only do I need to remember so that I can heal, but it is also to continue to offer you this story.
We did not talk about it a year ago. He didn’t want to. But he did tell me that after he passed, I could use his story to help others, and that is what I intend to do.
Dear Facebook Memories:
Even though I have a love/hate relationship with you, I thank you. I really do.
On some days, your reminders are sweet. Birthday parties, graduations, anniversaries, funny posts and some of the greatest ‘remember when’s.’
Then some days, your reminders stab me in my heart, and deep in my core.
But even then, I thank you.
I thank you because you remind me of the things that are important, and not just the good things, but the crappy things too. Because for every post that comes up this time of year that reminds me of the days leading up to my husband’s death, you also remind me how I felt last year when my priorities changed, and the little things just didn’t matter anymore.
A reminder popped up yesterday, a funny one about the seat cooler in the rental car I was driving that day. I remember the post. I remember where I was. I remember the question, the warmth of the air and the exact place I was.
What I didn’t know at the time was that my husband was dying, and would be gone 26 days later, but I do remember the person I was.
You reminded me of a difficult time. At first, I just wanted to ignore it, to delete it, and to stop looking at them. But like any train wreck, we just can’t turn away.
While painful, you reminded me where my mind, and my heart was at this time last year during our crisis. Some things were so clear then, and I needed to be reminded today.
*I no longer cared about the opinions of people who had opinions just to have them.
*I weaned every judgmental person out of my life.
*I tapered my circle of friends down to the chosen few whom I trusted.
*I learned how to pick and choose my battles.
*I learned how to take in small moments, even if they didn’t seem to have value at the time.
*I learned how to stop and be present.
*I learned the absolute importance of telling somebody you love them and not let that moment slip by.
*I learned to not waste one single moment on people who were not genuine.
*I learned how to fiercely protect people I love.
*I learned how to change, to figure out a new reality – sometimes day by day.
*I learned how to breathe, even when I was holding my breath.
*I learned how to find the good, even when everything was so bad.
*I learned how to grieve and prepare for the inevitable.
*I learned that you can be kind, even when your world is falling apart.
*I learned that your friends, your real friends, will rally for you – whether that’s bringing you food, alcohol, or showing up at 2 a.m. because you called them to sit there while you cry on your bathroom floor, driving you wherever you need to go, or even just to sit silently in your pain. Your real friends show up.
*I learned how to be free.
*I learned that above all, you will survive, even when you think you can’t. You do. You take it second by second at first. You consciously remind yourself to breathe, to eat, to get out of bed; but you do it, and you come out stronger on the other side.
And, as the year after progresses and you go back to your real life and your people go back to theirs, life calms down. And it gets ‘normal’ again. Toxic people start creeping back in, you start getting involved in situations that cause stress again, and every now and then – drama rears its ugly head. You start fighting battles that aren’t important and you start caring again about what people think. And they judge you. You’re doing your grief wrong. You’re saying the wrong things. Sharing too much, sharing too little, not waiting long enough to date, or waiting too long. You’re not following the rules. And you find yourself getting caught up again in the craziness of life again.
And then a Facebook reminder comes up. On a random Tuesday about a dumb seat cooler in a rental car in Arizona, and it slams you back to a time when you knew what was important, and what wasn’t. And it changes you, again. It brings you back to remembering how you wanted to live, who you wanted to be, the trials you faced to get there, and the loss you endured to ensure you would never let your soul settle again. You’ve refocused my focus.
So, for that, my dear Facebook Memories, I thank you.
Keep them coming.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Diana Register, 45, of Meridian, Idaho. She is in the process of writing of a book about her larger journey with grief after her husband’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis. She has been chronicling her journey with grief in a series of stories for Love What Matters:
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