We had a busy day planned on Saturday, August 12, 2017. H had a friend’s birthday party, we had a meeting with a contractor to finalize details on a home renovation project, and we had plans to go car shopping (because my car’s lease was up and I was way over mileage…a five digit number of mileage). That night, we had dinner plans with friends.
Matt woke up and he wasn’t quite himself. The exhaustion and flash headaches had become more noticeable, more intrusive, but also, there was something slightly off. Something that impacted his logic and humor just enough to simultaneously raise my panic and make me wonder whether I was imagining things.
During the meeting with the contractor, I remember Matt made statements that weren’t quite relevant, he asked questions that had answers he already knew, and his tone was just slightly harsh, not rude, but not in line with Matt’s usual friendly, joking tone. I remember looking from him to the contractor and wondering whether I should intervene, pull the contractor aside and explain that Matt had brain cancer. I didn’t, because I remember thinking that felt mean, like a betrayal to Matt. Maybe it also felt like acknowledging and admitting something I wasn’t capable of admitting.
I don’t remember what we (G and I) did while H was at the birthday party. I don’t remember what Matt did while he had the house to himself. We didn’t text even once in the two and a half hours (or so) that I was out of the house.
I do remember car shopping together later that afternoon, and I remember looking from Matt to the salesman and being so impressed with Matt’s negotiation skills, his business acumen and his wit. He was back to himself in a way that negated the morning.
When we left the sales office, Matt was struck by another headache. It lasted just a few minutes longer than the ones prior. He asked me to cancel our plans for the night. I did. And I knew doing so was insignificant—it was just one night,—but simultaneously momentous. More so than the weekend before, it was the first time Matt admitted he needed to slow down. It was the first time I agreed.
The day was marked by highs and lows. Matt was sometimes off and sometimes not, sometimes himself and sometimes someone I couldn’t recognize. After this point, when friends asked about Matt, I never knew how to answer. We were simultaneously fine and falling apart. Our world was simultaneously burning to ashes and blazing with the promise of cure that would eventually work.
Poliovirus would work. Of that, we were unwaveringly sure.
About that, we were incredibly wrong.
Contradictions. The contradictions of brain cancer are exhausting and isolating and so very impossible to explain, even to yourself.
But in the space between every contradiction, for us, was hope. And that was reason enough to simultaneously slow down and keep going.