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!
December Supporter of the Month: Pam Whitehead
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