As awful as the day before had been, the day we lived one year ago today was fine. Relatively fine. Matt went to work—headache and confusion free. But that doesn’t mean he was completely himself. By this point, more often than not, parts of Matt were simply missing. That flash of humor, the quick smile and the razor sharp wit that I had fallen in love with on our first date thirteen years ago, were victims of the tumor’s growing aggression. That fact (opinion? observation?) isn’t reflected in text messages or emails. It’s just my truth, the way I remember the days before the August 16th MRI.
The night of August 15, 2017, Matt went to a fantasy football draft. Every year since the year I met him, Matt was involved in fantasy sports, heading up a league or two or three. He was proud of the fact that he’d started playing fantasy sports in high school, before the Internet and fantasy-sports-dedicated websites made fantasy sports mainstream. (I think he thought of himself as a pioneer of fantasy sports. Which is why I couldn’t honestly tell Matt’s story without at least one fantasy sports post.)
Matt came home around 11 that night. I wasn’t at the fantasy football draft and Matt was not a reliable source to gauge whether he was himself or not. (He could recognize a blip or a headache, but it was—understandably—impossible for him to see that he wasn’t himself, that some spark was missing.) So, I have no idea how Matt acted at the draft. I have no idea if anyone noticed anything slightly off about him. I do know it doesn’t matter. Matt came home happy. He’d had a good night. He’d come home ranting about the bad picks he’d made—a rant I’d heard after every draft, every year.
August 15, 2017 is a last. It’s the last day before the August 16th MRI. It’s the last day before our fight against Glioblastoma became more complicated—another treatment, another set of doctors, another swing at a cure with a bat that was becoming increasingly brittle and splintered.
Matt wasn’t able to finish out any of the fantasy football leagues he’d started. Sometimes, because he was hospitalized, sometimes because his ability to use his phone and computer were destroyed, sometimes because he didn’t possess the focus and cognitive ability required to participate. During those periods when he couldn’t function the way he wanted, he often asked me to help him set his lineup, or whatever weekly work is required in fantasy sports. I was happy to help Matt in every way, but in this I balked at the request—what did I know about fantasy sports? (The answer is less than nothing. In the days before brain cancer, Matt frequently teased me for zoning out the moment he started discussing fantasy sports.)
I’ve said that Matt and I weren’t lucky medically, but so, incredibly lucky to be surrounded by the people and community that surrounded us. When Matt couldn’t participate in the activity he loved, when I was completely incapable of helping him participate, so many of his friends swooped in—without being asked—to help. They called to talk fantasy sports, set his lineup for him, took over for his league commissioner duties…and did so, even when sometimes Matt’s confusion got the better of him, when maybe his inability to see that he wasn’t himself caused him to be less than grateful for the help.
I will always be grateful to Matt’s friends who swooped in to give him that normalcy, give him the activity he loved, when I couldn’t.
When the days got terrible, when there was nothing anyone could do to help and we felt the darkness closing in on us, this small act of friendship and kindness was the ember of light we needed to fight another day.