We’d been on a downward spiral for at least a few days by April 16, 2017, but up until then Matt had been able to rally. Just the day before we’d gone not only to a 104th birthday celebration in the afternoon but also to a 40th birthday dinner.
But the next day, Matt couldn’t rally. He had a headache. And we started to plummet.
He had a headache, like he so often did after a Saturday night out. And many Sunday mornings I’d find him nursing a hangover outside in the cool air or pacing the living room or popping Advil like Tic Tacs. But the odd thing was, a lot of the time, he hadn’t more than a drink or two at dinner. It became kind of a joke about him being a lightweight.
I remember reading an article, just after Matt was diagnosed, about Edgar Allan Poe. I have no idea what I was searching to come across this article, and clearly I’d fallen into some Internet rabbit hole during those first sleepless nights, but nevertheless, the article struck a chord in my mind. It mentioned that Poe was notoriously bad at holding his alcohol; he was, by all accounts, a lightweight. Then it went on to list the possible causes of his mysterious death. One theory was brain tumor. Which got me thinking and making wild, sleep-deprived logical leaps: what if every Sunday morning “hangover” had been an early symptom I’d missed?
Although, if I’d been looking for symptoms and signs that something was wrong, I didn’t need an obscure article from the bottom of the Internet. I didn’t have to look past the Advil bottles. Not a typo. Bottles. A handful of them. Travel size. Industrial size. Whatever’s in between size. Completely or nearly empty. Months and months worth of Advil. It was only when I went to pack Matt clothes to wear in the hospital (this is before the time when I kept a hospital bag packed by the door for quick grabs), that the truth of those bottles hit. How could I be blind to something so obvious?
On April 16, Matt woke up on another Sunday morning with a headache. This time there was no joking about unearned hangovers. We were supposed to take the kids to my aunt’s house. Matt was in too much pain, but he didn’t want to spoil the day for G and H who’d been looking forward to seeing their cousins. He insisted that I take them, that they shouldn’t miss anything because of him. Need assessment, right? I called Matt’s parents who were on their way home from the city; they’d come right over. Matt would only be home by himself thirty minutes and he promised he’d sleep the entire time.
He did sleep and I don’t think I breathed for the entire thirty minutes Matt was alone. It was the first time I’d realized Matt’s condition was bad enough that I was worried about leaving him alone. That fast the descent to the bottom picked up speed. But that’s brain cancer. The Advil bottles pile up, the symptoms creep in, the declines are slow and subtle until they aren’t. But the upswings, when they come, (and I promise one is coming soon) are lightning fast and capable of leaving you stunned, dizzy with the effort to catch up and fully whiplashed.