On May 8, 2017 any small step forward felt like a triumph over the cancer. Matt was well enough, and had been well enough for a few days, to drive himself to work. He’d been gracious about getting chauffeured around by me or his parents (while bemoaning the long wait for self-driving cars to become mainstream), but the lack of independence wasn’t easy and by Monday morning he was ready to go to work on his own schedule.
It was his first day driving, but not his first day working. Incredibly, Matt had returned to work the moment the Avastin kicked in and cleared the swelling from his brain. As if he hadn’t missed a moment. At least that’s how it seemed to me as I watched him pace the kitchen and listened to the recap of his day. At work maybe his colleagues had to catch him up, but I doubt it.
Because he jumped right back into his role as our family’s leader, too. He beat me to emailing my brother and sister about the last few open items concerning that rented house. He started working on the logistics of actually finding a local doctor to administer Avastin to save us another trip to North Carolina. He changed flights and hotels to accommodate the new MRI schedule and made sure I scheduled the guy to install the window blinds. (Yes, still with the blinds.)
I’m not sure how he managed it. Jumping in as if nothing had happened. Stepping right back into his role at the office and as the family leader without stumbling over the days that he’d lost. Possibly it was that amazing brain. Possibly because he fell into his leadership role, both at work and at home, pretty naturally. Or possibly, because at the end of the day, he had no choice but to take the steps forward.
In this post hope year, small steps don’t feel like triumphs. I don’t even know if there is such a thing as a small step. Every step is a mountain and often when I think I see the top something comes along to cast me back down to the bottom. Apparently those erratic lows and highs are grief. Because grief, I’m learning, is not just sadness. (I also learned if you Google: how to feel better from grief, Google will not have a good answer.)
In an odd way, where Matt was on May 8, 2017 and where I am on May 8, 2018 aren’t that different. We both had to find a way to dust ourselves off and take those steps forward, even though the chance of being knocked back down was and is very real. He made it look easy. But that’s hope in all its messy glory.