On November 13, 2017, one day after the BT5K sponsored by the American Brain Tumor Association in support of brain tumor awareness, after a morning questioning whether the warning bells pealing in my mind were based on nothing but my overdramatic tendencies, I called Columbia.
While Matt was in physical therapy, I explained to a nurse all that I’d noticed. The posture. The way he moved somewhat stiffly. The long trips to the bathroom. The cognitive decline—memory lapses, word finding difficulties, logic troubles. The personality shift. I told her that Matt insisted he felt fine. I told her that I didn’t know anymore whether I was seeing what I thought I was seeing or whether I was imagining all of it. I think I admitted that I’d rather be the crazy wife than the wife that missed something important. If that other shoe was going to drop, I was determined to catch it.
The nurse relayed my message to the doctor who called me back in the afternoon. The doctor said it would be wise to move Matt’s MRI ahead, which was scheduled for November 29th. Unfortunately, the MRI machines were completely overbooked. She told me she’d fit Matt in either Monday or Wednesday of the next week, and someone would call me to confirm an appointment later in the week. It was the best she could do.
On our way home, I asked Matt about therapy. He strung together words and sentences and I couldn’t make sense of what he was telling me. I can’t remember if I pressed him for a more rational story or if I nodded and accepted what he said. Sometimes I pushed him to be himself—and found myself disappointed. Sometimes I didn’t—and found myself broken hearted. And there was no pattern to explain my choice.
Along with Matt’s cognitive therapy homework, Matt was also assigned a number of physical therapy exercises to do at home. He often—even before Glioblastoma—struggled to motivate himself to exercise and stretch. In our decade plus together, he’d often lament his lack of flexibility and expressed a desire to be more fit. Usually that meant more tennis. Sometimes that meant he’d use a treadmill, but, he’d inevitably get tired of running in place after a week or so. Sometimes he’d use the elliptical, but then he’d forget to make time for it. Sometimes, he recruited me to help.
When Matt was first assigned the physical therapy exercises all those weeks ago, he instituted family yoga night—G’s and H’s favorite night of the week—wherein Matt, G, and H were the students and I played the role of yoga teacher. I ran them through Matt’s exercises and added a few basic stretches. Inevitably, G and H would collapse in a fit of giggles and Matt would laugh at how quickly he worked up a sweat.
One year ago today, we—our family of four—held our last family yoga night. It was a short-lived session. Matt couldn’t. He wasn’t Matt.
That night, after G and H went to bed, Matt and I sat on the couch to watch T.V., as we had almost every night since G started sleeping through the night. Matt told me he couldn’t see, but because of his word finding, logic, and cognitive processing difficulties, he couldn’t explain what exactly was wrong with his vision—double vision again or something else? He said his glasses didn’t help.
Panic ate away at the rest of the night. The other shoe was about to drop.