March 28, 2017: Prep Day

March 28, 2017 began bright and early with a 7:30 appointment for blood work at the Duke Cancer Center. From there, Matt and I headed to the Duke Medicine Pavilion (the DMP) to meet with a neurosurgery PA, who placed fiducials on Matt’s head. (What is a fiducial? See picture below for the green jewel looking things; their purpose is to somehow help guide the neurosurgeon during brain surgery.) For the rest of the day, Matt walked around the Duke campus with these things on his head.

We joked about how ridiculous he looked, cracked ourselves up when we noticed the strange looks he got around campus. But this is what Matt and I excelled at all throughout his treatments: making each other laugh, pushing away the darkness and the looming weight of what was about to happen.

We’d always been good at making each other laugh. Matt liked to call us the best couple ever. He liked to say everyone wanted what we had. While I am completely sure that’s an overstatement (what we had was perfect for us but perfect isn’t a one-size-fits all word), our sense of humors just clicked. I knew from our first date that we were something special. I don’t even have to close my eyes to remember laughing with him about The Love Boat after dinner at The Coffee Shop or the way his eyes crinkled up at the corners with laughter at himself as he poured me a glass of wine from a bottle of Riesling he admitted was meant for another girl.

At 9, he had another MRI. At 10:30, we met with the neurosurgeon to discuss the next day’s biopsy and were told we couldn’t leave Friday as planned; we’d have to stay one more day just in case. At 11, we met with our neuro-oncologist to review the MRI. If the tumor had grown more than a certain amount since the last scan, Matt would be disqualified from the polio trial at the eleventh hour. Turns out, the tumor had grown, but not too big. We were cleared to go.

At 12:30, he went for pre-op screening. Sometime after that, our day was done and we had nothing to do but wait again.

We didn’t go out for dinner that night. A sense of humor can only take you so far. Matt’s dad flew in to be with Matt for the next day’s biopsy. The three of us ordered sushi and ate in the hotel’s outdoor seating area, despite the thick layer of yellow pollen on the chairs and tables and my wildly out of control seasonal allergies.

I couldn’t tell you what we talked about. I can tell you what we did not talk about though: the possibility that polio wouldn’t work.

Because it never crossed my mind.

If you ever wondered what hope looks like: it’s walking around all day with these sci-fi looking things on your head and a doctor’s initials scribbled behind your ear.

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