Ten days into our upswing, on May 12, 2017, Duke advised me to decrease Matt’s steroid dose and to monitor for a reaction or any return of symptoms. Easy. Little did they know, I’d never stopped monitoring his reactions; I was constantly hyper-analyzing all of him.
I probably studied every word and dissected every text message he sent on May 12th more than usual. And best I can tell, even now in retrospect, I came up empty. He seemed unchanged from the day before. Which meant only that the Avastin was working as promised to keep the swelling in his brain at bay.
I didn’t see it that way, though. Decreasing the steroid without increasing symptoms felt like a triumph. For some reason that was all my own, I’d linked Avastin and the Polio virus vaccine. In my mind, if Avastin was successful, then the Polio virus vaccine must be also. And if Polio was working, then Matt was closer to cured than ever. (I started writing about logic equations and if P then Q statements, but it’s Saturday morning and no one wants to go back to middle school math.) The point is, Avastin and Polio were completely independent of each other. Whether one worked did not impact whether the other worked, and the only link between them was our hope.
A few times now I’ve compared our story to fiction. So, in keeping with that theme, and assuming I’m writing myself as the protagonist in a Young Adult (YA) fantasy series, this would be the point where I’d write: I let go of the breath I didn’t realize I was holding. This cliche line in many YA novels, including the one I started yesterday, is usually found at the end of a scene, after the threat has passed, when the protagonist is ready to move forward. Many critics take issue with the line. But there’s a reason it’s so overused.
Sometimes breathing isn’t intuitive. Sometimes, when waiting for the threat to pass, it is possible to forget to truly exhale.
On May 12, 2017, I don’t know if I remembered to take more than shallow breaths as I watched for changes. Matt and I talked about Memorial Day weekend plans. We ordered in sushi and watched Jeopardy. Not glamorous. Not particularly memorable, either, except for the fact that nothing happened. The threat had seemingly passed. We could move forward. And that night, thanks to some crooked logic, I released the breath I didn’t know I was holding.