Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Yesterday, I went to the Oriole's Opening Day. I didn't have too much interest in the game, other than seeing the Yankees lose. And of course, to see Dan's friends who are just a great bunch of people. Last year, Dan and I went to Opening Day in Boston. It was one of only a couple of trips we ever took that didn't have anything to do with cancer. I remember he was still recovering from chemo, and was so bummed because he wasn't feeling 100% to go on a mini-crawl that I had planned to show him all my old haunts.

It's hard not to be angry at cancer. Yet, if it weren't for cancer, I would never have met Dan since the only reason he moved to the DC area was to work for NCCS. When you are the healthy person in a relationship where someone is sick, life can seem completely focused on the the one who is sick. I used to joke (though sometimes I probably believed it) that our relationship was all about Dan. He would always hate when I said that, because in our daily life, he focused so much attention on me and being as normal as possible.

But it's true- people's first question when they would see me was "How is Dan?" Schedules had to made around chemo, and sometimes we missed out on events because Dan wouldn't be up for it. I can see how, if a relationship wasn't strong, cancer could cause havoc. Ummm- you better like spending a lot of down time together! And even in a strong relationship, anger and resentment appear. Yes, I was super angry at points... sometimes that Dan got stuck with lung cancer (you know you know way too much about cancer when you wished that it was testicular cancer or something "easier"- not that any cancer is easy, but some are much more treatable)... sometimes that Dan was so darn postive and focused, making it tough on myself and others to be vulnerable or outwardly concerned... sometimes that we were never told "you have 6 months to live, go travel"... and of course, we're all angry that he was gone too soon.

One of my good friends, a cancer survivor herself, said that she often thought that the cancer experience was harder on her husband than it was on her. She had doctors, nurses and all the resources directed at her. Yet, her husband (like many in his shoes) was kind of floating out there alone. But he was still expected to work full time and pick up all the slack around the house. It's true- there aren't a lot of resources other than support groups (which aren't even helpful for people, myself included) for significant others. Even Dan, who knew more about cancer than anyone, often commented that he could talk to any cancer survivor and offer advice, but when it came to talking to me about what I was going through, he was totally lost.

So yes, I was angry. And now, I wish I hadn't been at certain points while Dan was alive. But I also had a lot more insight into what was really going on, and the realization that no matter how hard we tried, Dan's odd weren't good and there wasn't anything I could do about it. But, I always come back to the fact that without cancer, I wouldn't have known Dan. And that, even if we'd known we were spending our last Christmas together or going out to dinner the last time, it wouldn't have made a difference. We're only human, and **newsflash** none of us are getting out of here alive.

Dan knew that he would eventually die of cancer. He just didn't know when. I think that is why he was able to live the way he did, with no regrets. Statistically, he should've died within 6 months of his diagnosis. Everything else was gravy. I think the anger that some of us feel is that we can't understand how he could just be so normal, and not let us in on what was going on in his head and not acknowledge how serious things were. But, it wouldn't have made a difference to him. He was probably angry at points, but he didn't waste too much of his time on it because I think he was keenly aware that he was living on borrowed time.

For me, the anger has given way to motivation. So I hope I am following in Dan's shoes with respect to when he was diagnosed. I am finally able to believe in a lot of things he said, as opposed to wondering if he was for real.

But I am sure he is probably angry at one thing- the Pirates were picked to finish dead last in their division... again.

PS- Was going through pictures and found some from Opening Day last year- Can you tell were at Fenway in April? Nice win by Beckett today!


hughesd2000 said...

I was just watching Opening Day for the Sox (delayed after yesterdays monsoon!) and was thinking of last year with you and Dan! Good times and glad we were both able to spend that time with the both of you. You are a great writer so keep it coming!

Love You,
Dana and the Haxton Clan

Anonymous said...

Meghan, As I read through your post, I kept thinking--coping --both you and Dan were in full coping mode as you reckoned with the cancer fallout. And your anger, well, we know that anger is a coping mechanism and can be motivating, so your anger just might have served both you and Dan in a positive way. Just as Dan's minimal attention on whatever anger he might have had worked well for him, while at the same time revealing something valuable to you; likewise, your anger might have revealed something valuable to Dan. It seems to me that whatever occurred between you and Dan was so natural, so real, so fully human--an experience of life that is deeply altering with consequential gains of a deeper understanding of the value of life and love and virtue--that is what you are showing us.

cousin P

p.s. Oh, and your comment about the Pirates--well, it was positively hilarious (Dan is surely laughing) what a great sense of humor, Meghan.

Carl said...

Eloquent testimony, Meg. Thank you.

Made me think about my wife, Claire, and wonder how many times she got (and still gets) asked that question, "How's Carl?"

Obsessedwithlife said...

Thanks so much for sharing. I think it was probably harder on my family and friends when I was sick too. It's interesting to hear your perspective!

Erin said...

Beautiful insights, Meg...about the ways in which our deepest emotions, both positive and negative, are interwoven. And a beautiful picture of you and Dan. Thanks for sharing both.

Erin & Brendon

Anonymous said...

Meghan - I just checked the blog for the first time in a couple of months.

I'm so sorry.

You - and Dan - will be in my prayers.

-Russell Groves

whitneyann said...

Hello. My name is Whitney Drumright and I played golf for Wagner College in 04-05. Dan was our assistant coach. He was such an awesome person, although I know we all used to give him a lot of crap! He was always rolling his eyes at the stuff us girls would come up with. I'm sure we drove him crazy, but he always had a great attitude every day on the course and put up with us! I was so sad to hear that he had passed away. I am truly sorry for your loss. He was an amazing person and an inspiration to me. He always used to tell me to keep my head up because things could always get worse! He was right, although at the time I would always get mad at him and tell him to leave me alone! He was a great coach, a great person and above all, a great driver of huge 18 passenger vans!! Did he ever tell you about the time he got pulled over on our way home from a golf trip and he got a ticket? It was pretty great! He was so mad! I have so many great memories of Dan and I think of him often. Whenever I hear the song "I wear my sunglasses at night" I think of him because we would always sing that song when he was around! He ALWAYS had his sunglasses on at night at the golf course, actually anywhere! We used to make fun of him every day for the crappy VW car he drove! It was literally falling apart but he didn't care! He would laugh and say it was a great car. I was so excited to find your blog and I can't wait to read the whole thing. You are such an amazing person and Dan was lucky to have you! He is in heaven playing golf right now, I guarantee it! You are in my thoughts and prayers and I wish you the best.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the posts!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Megan, I am also going thru the "angry phase" of the grief process. I am really angry that Danny did not live long enough to get married to the woman he loved so much, didn't get to have a child, and did not get to have a dog in the place where he lived. I still cry a lot, have bad nightmares, and do not want to be sociable some days. My chriopractor tells me that the grief still shows up a lot in my body and the pain shows on my face. Who knows when it will ease up? I see photos of Danny as a baby and a toddler and I think, " Gosh, who could have known what that adorable baby would someday have to contend with?" You do such a marvelous job of writing this blog. Thank you so much. You are in my heart. Cicily

monster said...

Meg -- this one really spoke to me. Yes, I think I am motivated now by Dan's example. At his diagnosis we asked him if he was angry and said, anger isn't going to cure the cancer. So, I believe that's what I'm living now -- getting angry about all the unfairness in life isn't going to change it. So, hopefully it does motivate us to live a better life as he did. And, I agree about borrowed time and the fact that none of us are getting out alive -- so carpe diem!