One year ago today, our ski vacation was coming to a close. While G and H went sledding with their grandparents, I prepared myself for the days ahead. Those days didn’t promise to be easy.
That morning, Matt had woken up and hadn’t brushed his teeth. When I handed him the tooth brush, he handed it back up to me and asked, with a fair amount of frustration, what I expected him to do with it. We didn’t argue. I didn’t try to remind Matt that he’d been brushing his teeth for forty years and he should know what to do with the toothbrush. I was simply tired and discouraged, and struggling to remind myself that his worsening cognition could be a symptom of brain swelling, not a sign that his tumor was progressing. In truth, it was harder and harder to convince myself that what I was seeing was treatment effects and not tumor progression.
I called Columbia. I’d long ago realized that the doctors could do very little for Matt—in reality, aside from increasing his Dex, which we’d already done, they could do nothing—but calling the doctor made me feel as though I was doing something. Calling the doctor was the only action, however insignificant, I could take against a disease that struck harder with each passing day.
The doctor at Columbia said she’d like to see Matt the next day, on the 27th. As it turned out, our one month reprieve was little more than a week.
Matt slept for most of the drive home. I texted a friend about a scene that occurred when we stopped to pick up pizza at our local pizza place. I didn’t go into detail over text—nothing more than that Matt “flipped out at me” about something—and the details didn’t stick in my memory. I only vaguely remember the look the owner flashed me. There was something like pity in his gaze. He didn’t know that Matt’s anger wasn’t his and wasn’t truly meant for me. He didn’t know the anger was the tumor, and Matt couldn’t help it. Why don’t I remember more about this scene? The sad truth is that by December 26, 2017, we’d made enough scenes in enough public places that this particular one didn’t even phase me.
December 26th did stand out in one important way. That night, I was upset with G, who wasn’t listening when I asked her to get ready for bed. Maybe she truly wasn’t listening, maybe my patience was short. Either way, I was upset with her and she was upset with me. And she went to Matt for comfort—the way she had a thousand times in the past. She curled into him and he consoled her, the way he had a thousand times in the past.
And I remember being relieved at the sight, thinking that no matter how tired or discouraged I felt, as long as Matt wanted to keep fighting, I would keep fighting with him. So he could have more moments like that. So G could have more moments like that.