June 15, 2017 was one more day closer to the sale of the company. One more day closer to H’s graduation. One more day closer to an appointment that, we hoped, would tell us Matt was cured. It sincerely felt like all the rushing and anxiety and drama of the last year was winding down.
Two years ago today, the day was similarly quiet, but all the rushing and anxiety and drama was only beginning to wind up. We were one day away from Matt’s very first appointment with a neuro-oncologist. One day away from officially entering the fight against brain cancer. One day away from learning how it felt to sit in a doctor’s office and wait for a near stranger to tell us our fate.
On June 15, 2016, Matt was home from work and banned from electronics (phone, iPad, and television) on neurosurgeon’s orders. He didn’t quite obey for a dozen reasons, one of which was because of a choice I’d made a week earlier.
On the day of Matt’s surgery, while Matt was in the operating room and his phone was in my possession for safekeeping, I made a decision to email his close friends and let them know what was happening. Up until this point, most people in Matt’s life had no idea he was in the hospital, let alone undergoing brain surgery. And I told myself that he needed people; he needed a reserve of positive thoughts sent his way. But looking back, I also remember hesitating. I remember asking myself if I was doing this because I thought Matt needed support or because I thought I needed support.
I pressed send without truly resolving that question for myself.
The next day, when Matt awoke from the brain surgery, he was furious with me for sending an email to his friends. Very honestly, I don’t quite remember why he was so angry. Possibly, he hadn’t processed the information himself so he wasn’t ready to share the news or discuss it. (Fair.) Possibly, some part of him–the part that didn’t realize the gravity of the situation–thought he could just sweep this entire ordeal under the rug and save the story for a funny anecdote at some ugly sweater party months down the road. (Denial.) Possibly, the cocktail of drugs he was on heightened all his reactions. (That Dexamethasone.) Or, maybe, he wanted to control his own narrative, and who could blame him for that?
I remember feeling awful for sending that email, for doing anything to make Matt upset. I remember feeling—somewhat, completely—selfish because maybe I’d sent an email simply because I needed support.
Then the responses started coming in. Matt’s friends reaching out to him, sending a note to make him smile, texting an inappropriate GIF to make him laugh, bringing up old memories to remind him that he had people spread throughout the world that would support him no matter where his fight led him. He grumbled, constantly, about having to respond to so many texts and emails, but he did so with a smile on his face and with a chuckle as he thought of an eye-roll-worthy joke to include in each personal reply.
I truly believe those messages, that outpouring of support he received in those first few days–and everyday after–, gave him something to smile about daily. And that daily ounce of joy helped keep him standing when the weight of it all crashed down. Which is all to say, I’m sorry I made him upset back then, but I don’t look back and regret that choice, even if it was somewhat completely selfish.
So back to June 15, 2016, when Matt was supposed to be avoiding screens. He spent some time answering emails that had been written in response to the email he didn’t want me to send. He ended the note to his friend with this line, which summarizes his unfaltering positive outlook more succinctly than I’ve been able to in 83 posts: “don’t know everything but I’m confident I’ll be ok.”
Looking back, re-reading that email, I actually don’t see hope. I think there might be something stronger than hope hidden within the words of his email. Some tangle of faith and love and determination that buoyed him even when hope failed me.