April 25, 2017

Reality and Love

You would think that four months into this, it would get easier.  More predictable.  Less uncertain.

Actually, cancer is never easy.  Totally unpredictable and extremely uncertain.

You already knew that.  But when you're knee deep, you forget and you keep waiting for a reprieve.

You know those moments when you're so tired or so done? Let's say you're on an amusement park ride and your stomach is starting to turn or your back is getting knocked around and you just want OFF.  You think it would get easier after the first drop, but no.  Every dip, every climb, every turn, every jolt and shake and stomach flutter becomes more and more intense.  Uncertain.  Unpredictable.  It leaves you uneasy.  It gets harder because you just want the wheels to come to a full and complete stop back at the station, so you can feel that lap-bar release and you can get OUT.

That's sort of how this feels for us.  We go to the "Clinic" 1-2 times a week.  Sometimes three.  Each time you go, you hope you will end up leaving with answers.  Clarity.  Sometimes you do, but not quite the kind you're hoping for.  Say, for instance, your cancer is gone - get back to your life.  Nope.  Instead, we get a bunch of numbers listed on a page on a printout to tell us how low or how high Anton's blood results are.  How sick or unwell he is likely to feel.  What appointments or procedures he will need next week.  And the next week.  And the next.  We have a long, winding road ahead of us.  We are not a 1/4 through this process.

I'm going to be transparent with this next bit because I need to say it.  Or write it.  Either way...

I sometimes look at Anton and think "I wonder if he'll be here for Christmas?"  Or Easter next year.  Or his birthday.  Or the kids' next birthdays.  Our Anniversary.  I think about simple and normal every day things and then I follow up with "I wonder if I'll need to do that alone".  Like...cleaning out the garage.  Stupid.  I know.  Who cares about the garage?  I don't.  But it's one of those every day things you think about.  Sometimes when we are watching TV together at night, I wonder...how long will he be here, by my side, making me laugh at this stupid stuff we watch?  We took Quint to a professional soccer game recently.  I wondered as I took this picture "is this the last time we get to do this?"

I know everything in you right now wants to say "Stop!  It's not the last time.  He will make it.  He will be fine."  I get that need to right the ship.  To auto-correct what you perceive as giving up, being negative or pessimistic.  I really do.  I've done it.  For others.  But when you live with cancer...and it's in your house...in your life...in the body of someone you love and trying to take them down; you see things differently.  Trust me.  Anton and I have had these conversations regularly.  They become a part of your dialogue when you're staring down crappy statistics and signing Advanced Directives.

We are foodies.  It's a huge part of our bond and always has been.  Anton has lost his sense of taste from the chemo.  It's devastating.  He's my chef.  He's amazing and well-known for his culinary skill set.  But he neither has the ability to taste nor the energy to prepare and cook meals.  

Anton is my front-runner.  Outgoing, extroverted, gregarious and a people person.  We balance each other because I am actually none of those things.  When we go out and about, he runs interference for me.  He's the front-man and I'm the wing-girl.  It's a nice setup.  Now I find myself running front and center without my larger than life best friend to navigate.  Cancer has robbed him of his immunity and his energy to be out in public.  

Theatre is and has been our life for years and years.  Anton pours himself into his work and his students and we chug along through production after production.  Enjoying and yes, sometimes grumbling through the grueling schedules but delightful results.  As you might already know, Anton has had to take an extended leave of absence from his passion - teaching.  It kills him.  It brings him down lower than I have ever seen him.  A big part of our life is missing and it's extremely difficult to know that "the show must go on".  Even when we can't be a part of it...

Now we face transplant.  Our only hope for Anton's survival per the medical world.  But there are so many potential complications.  The chances for remission/survival are around 60%.  Anton asked me if I wanted to take $20K and go to Vegas and put it on one color at the Roulette wheel.  Of course I said "no!"  He replied, well baby...those are basically my odds of surviving this."

I cried.  So did he.

The longevity of this race.  The overwhelming financial burden.  The grim diagnosis, treatment, and recovery options.  The exhaustion and total life interruption.  The vague timeline of getting our life back.  The potential complications.  The unending "what if" that takes up residence in your mind.  The sadness.  The depression.  The medical terminology and paperwork.  The IV's, PICC lines, medical supplies, blood draws, clinic visits, and transfusions.  All of these things and more have become our life.

We have both said "I wouldn't wish this on anyone."

And yet.  Here we are.  Living it all.  Every day.  Still in shock.  Still numb.  Still wading through the process with questions and uncertainty and confusion.  Still in disbelief that my best friend, my chef..my front runner, TV partner, co-parent, love and overall hand-holder...is fighting for his life.  

It's mind altering.  Painful and overwhelming.

And yes, for as long as is physically possible or until God calls Anton home (and trust me, I'm crying out that it is many, many, many years away) - we will keep fighting this awful disease side by side and we will continue showing up to treatments and clinic and chemo and transplant and whatever else it requires.  

At the end of the day, the house doesn't matter.  The cars don't matter.  The bills don't matter.  

What matters is relationship.  Notice I didn't say "survival" or "beating cancer".  There is nothing Anton can do to work any harder at "kicking cancer's butt" than he already is.  He is doing everything.  And in this way and for so many others, we don't get to decide if that will be enough.  It's not up to us.  Only God knows Anton's final breath, and don't think that's easy for me to type.  Because I sit here crying like a baby.  Except that it's true.  No one is promised tomorrow.  Not me, not you, and not Anton.  Cancer will not decide.  God has already ordained Anton's life.  And He has already ordained yours and mine.

But what is up to us are the relationships we forge and tend and build.  With each other, our children, our families, our friends, and those who rally around us.  That's what matters.  Because we don't get to choose the rest. We do get to choose today to love each other better, practice patience and kindness, let things go, forgive, rejoice, enjoy each other, laugh, cry, build memories and recall old ones, hug, kiss, and stare at each other across the room, take pictures and silly selfies, and cherish what we have today.  We get to do that and so we do.  We choose to love.  

For today and all the tomorrows that we get.

Every one.