Monday, March 1, 2010

In Like a Lion

Well, the appointed month is here... many of us have commented that it can't possibly be a year since we lost Dan, and I am at the top of the list. I have never been one for anniversaries of bad days. Mainly because if I wake up and feel ok... then what- should I feel bad that I feel ok? But there is no denying that this month will be hard... his death falls the day before my birthday, and on the birthday of a dear family friend currently battling the disease. We were engaged March 21, and our wedding was to be March 28th. I can't say that I am looking forward to this month AT ALL... but I also can't hide away for the next 28 days.

I know it's a hard time for me, but it's also a hard time for Dan's family, friends, colleagues, my family and friends. No one really knows what to say- people say they can imagine it must be a tough time. I don't always know how to answer that line- some days, it's the last thing I want to hear because I don't want to be reminded (though I am so thankful people are thinking of all of us). Other days- you might get an earful from me in response!

Lately, I have been feeling very tired. I think part of it is my body physically remembering what it was like last year for me- not sleeping and a absorbing an awful lot of emotional trauma, as well as physically caring for someone by myself for the most part. I don't sleep all that well- at first, I thought it was stress of work or something else. But duh- the body remembers. At this point last year, there were no nights of restful sleep for either of us... we were in the business of round-the-clock care.

I am somewhat amazed at how much we handled ourselves. Pretty much all of of it... there were no nurses here, no doctors in & out... just a few hours of visits by close family and friends each day. How did we do that- so young and not knowing a thing about what was happening to Dan physically. But we managed, as we always did. Recently I had the chance to sit with my doctor for about an hour and ask her all sorts of questions about what happened those past few weeks... why certain things were going on physically with Dan. At the time, we just knew he didn't have long to live, but I had no idea what I was watching. And understanding that now has been a relief for me... I didn't even realize it was bothering me. As my doctor said- who else would you ever ask these questions of... you're not a doctor or a nurse or a health professional! It was all happening so fast that it was a very reactionary time for us.

Not long after Dan died someone told me that when he lost his mom, it took a full year to really start to acknowledge/understand what had happened. When I first heard that- I didn't believe it. After a year, you've gone through all the major holidays. You've gone back to work. You've put a little distance in between the loss and your everyday life. Well, I get it now. I just had no idea that it would take this long to comprehend the enormity of the whole situation. Not just the personal loss, but the complete uncertainty in my life now. I've learned that things can always get worse, and you just have to focus on what is in front of you at the moment.

After a year, people have this idea that you should be ok and that you should be moving on. No way. No way at all folks. After a year, I only look back and really how thankful I am that I just survived it. Moving forward is a whole other topic. Some days it seems like a dream. I imagine for Dan's family and friends that didn't see him every day, it feels like they just haven't talked to him in awhile. I've thrown everything at this grief to make it go away- triathlons, work, volunteering, traveling... filling the void without stopping to really acknowledge or understand what really happened. I've been told I've handled it exceptionally well- but by what standards? That I didn't "fall apart"... I have a little, at least in the way I normally do things. I don't feel sorry myself, because I did have Dan in my life, and he never felt sorry for himself. But to say that this isn't hard, that it doesn't hurt, that it doesn't make me question things... that doesn't do anyone else who is grieving his loss any favors. It doesn't say- it's ok to be angry and emotional and sad some days. What happened to Dan was tragic. For his parents to lose a son, his siblings to lose their brother, his nieces and nephews to only know the story of who he was, his friends... it's not right.

Dan made us all feel hopeful that we could take obstacles and overcome them. And when someone so young leads by such a strong example, we can feel guilty when we don't feel so positive. But Dan had all those emotions... our life wasn't inspirational every day. But what we did do was not attempt to solve everything in one day- we would have drowned. I didn't know him when he was diagnosed, but we spoke often of what it was like for him emotionally. And he had emotions- doubt, fear, loneliness. But he somehow managed not to be overwhelmed. Because he channeled them into good things- his passion for cancer advocacy, being a "normal" guy, his family and friends. He was an exceptional person- no doubt. And perhaps the greatest thing he gave me during our time together was the right to cry and be scared. He didn't let it go on too long, but I he always let me go when I needed to, and somewhere along the way this year I forgot about that gift. So it's ok... if you want to be angry, scared, sad, lonely... joyful, inspired, determined... it's plain ok. Get it out... do something with it. Don't withdraw. Do something with those emotions, even if it's just to say you miss him. Or like me- to say WTF happened here.

March is coming in like a lion folks.... it's gonna be a bumpy ride.


Ryan said...

Hi Meg,

You may not remember me, but I attended the 2008 Livestrong Summit in Columbus with my friend, Matt Wallace. On the last day of the Summit, I met both you and Dan at the picnic at the zoo. We talked briefly about possibly having you both visit the College of William and Mary (our school) to speak to students.

Earlier this evening, I was glancing through my pictures from the Summit, and I remembered meeting the two of you. I searched Dan's name on Google and was deeply saddened to find that he passed away last year. Even though I only had the chance to spend one afternoon with you guys, I want you to know that you and Dan were both a tremendous inspiration to Matt and I. We shared your story with many friends and family members.

I am so proud to see that you are continuing to fight for a cure--Matt and I are as well. Dan seemed to be an incredible guy, and I'm so thankful to have met him. I'll certainly keep both of you in my prayers. In May, I will be graduating and moving back to Montgomery County. I would absolutely love to help with any fundraising or advocacy efforts. Please let me know if there is anything that I can do.

All the best,

Ryan Eickel

Anonymous said...

We miss him Meg. Thinking its been a year already is shocking! Thanks for keeping this blog up. For those of us who were friends and saw him rarely...this is a dose of reality for us. When you said that reality doesnt always set in for those who didnt see Dan as much you are truly right. Thats how we felt at the Waeger tournament this year...we felt like we should keep looking around for Dan...even though we went to the funeral and know he is gone.
I know this is a rocky month for you...but reading the blogs and seeing how much you have accomplished this past year makes it feel like you've walked around the world in a year. We're praying for you this month,
Karin and Lee Geraci

オテモヤン said...
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monster said...

Meg -- well said. I agree that this month will be extra hard on everyone -- I'm already much more emotional the past few days. But in looking back through exchanges with Dan, I'm reminded that he would want us all to just say what we're thinking and really wanted someone else to share their thoughts and feelings and not put all the pressure on him to do so.
I miss him - there is just a void there that will never be filled.
But, I continue to be inspired when sharing his story with others and continue to share his pride in NCCF and his ability to inspire and help others while he was going through so much.
Every night Alex asks Uncle Danny to watch over us :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Meg,
I'm living in both the past and the present as I write this. The most painful thing for me last year was to be in NY and not be able to be physically with you and Dan--perhaps more so for my sake than yours. I mean that I thought being able to touch you both would have been some comfort to me if not to you.

Love, Ruth

As I write this, tears are pouring down my face and I suspect they'll keep flowing over the next few weeks. But I'm sill going to put on all my Irish cd's and get ready to come down for the annual get-together. Up the Irish!