Here’s a story for people who think miracles went out with the dinosaurs:
Per the lab work results we got yesterday, Will’s tumor burden—the amount of cancer his body is trying to cope with—has dropped dramatically in the two months since he started chemotherapy. As in a value of 48,600 compared with 621,800 at the beginning of treatment. (Normal values range from 0-95.) I don’t really know what those numbers mean, really, but even though they are still way out of normal limits, the shrinkage is STUNNING.
We’ll know more when he has his CT scan in another few weeks, but for right now things are looking so bright that we gotta wear shades. We’re still being realistic; we know this is not going to cure him, but even if it gives us only another year or two to be together, it’s a whole lot more than it looked like we were going to get four months ago.
It’s amazing how much changes when a terminal illness turns life upside down. The priorities we had before turned to dust and blew away in the wake of Will’s catastrophic diagnosis, and when we talk now, we wonder why we ever thought those were the important things. He used to be grumpy and impatient with the grandkids, get stressed over things that made no sense (to me anyway), and worry himself into massive headaches every year over that stupid Art and Air Festival his club sponsors (and which he inevitably wound up doing all the work to organize). With me, it was the pressure of being the breadwinner and never feeling I was good enough, and of course I’d get stressed over things that made no sense to him.
Now it all seems like so much petty bullshit. NONE of it matters. Not money, not prestige, not even being the best at whatever we were doing at a given time. It’s OK if the grands make a little noise or fight over which of Grandpa’s movies they’re going to borrow. It’s OK if he wants to work on his models for hours……at least we’re in the same room, and we can talk or enjoy the companionable silence. It’s OK that I don’t make the money I used to, and that I’d rather spend this precious time with him than work 50-hour weeks. And, it’s OK that we’re poor again and we’re each fighting vastly different but dangerous illnesses, because—thanks be to God—we’ve still got each other to hold on to.
As sappy as all that sounds, it is 100% the truth. I see couples who have the same level of busy-ness in their lives that we used to, and I want to scream “Why are you doing this to yourselves? Don’t you know that none of this is going to matter in ten years when all your kids are grown and gone, and one of you gets sick? Stop and smell the freaking roses before they all die!”
In a way, this experience is liberating…..suddenly, there are no expectations for the future, only gratitude for what is ours at this moment. Every single day is a gift that we dare not waste, because we have no way of knowing how many are left. We have even been freed from anxiety about what we’ll eat or which bill we’ll pay today, because those things are only a small part of life—there is food in the refrigerator, and while bill collectors may be able to harass us by mail and by phone, they can’t take away anything that we don’t have.
At this point, it’s not even worth it to ask why it takes something like Will’s diagnosis to make people understand that life isn’t about who has the most toys or who’s willing to sacrifice the most for their job. The simple truth is, we are blessed to have found this peace while we’re both still here, and to have wised up enough to take satisfaction in all the little things that make up a life.