Tuesday, February 15, 2011

All In

The poker game was on Sunday night, Monday was a holiday, and I left for California on Wednesday. My wife said she’d tell me by Monday night which side she had decided. Initially, she said that she had come down on the sitting and monitoring it side. She had handled everything with great grace from the first moment (though losing five pounds initially showed that it stressed her out more than she let on) and this was clearly difficult for her. At some level, it was likely tougher on her because the consequences of whatever happened to me would weigh heaviest on her and Kiana.

At the poker game the night before, I had explained everything. I was grateful for all that had been done and mentioned it: my friends had held a fundraiser to help with my medical bills, people had brought groceries, several people had been very creatively thoughtful and bought gift cards for my wife and I to “continue going on dates” during a stressful time, the tattoo was still in the works. But after thanking them I pointed out to them and they knew it was true that the only thing I had asked for in the past 2 months was the one thing I could not legally do, I had asked for nothing besides rides. If I had the surgery, I would need their help because the doctor said that for some patients they get up, take a shower and shave and that’s all the energy they have for that day. He mentioned this lasts usually about six weeks (though he added that someone with my medical stats and reported energy level might be bugging him to get back to work after just two weeks).

I obviously had no way to know how it would go but, and this is when I started crying, that I would need their help. We had no family in town; they were my family. I asked them to make sure that someone took Kiana to museums or to the zoo, to make sure that someone took my wife to the movies or dancing. I wanted them to make sure that my wife and daughter kept being ‘human’ not just the cancer patient’s daughter and wife. I pointed out that I would likely still not be asking for much help directly and highlighted a point from one of the cancer advocacy brochures. Everyone is asking what can I do, the people who were helpful were the ones who said this is what I can do and did it. I didn’t know what circumstances people were in, what their time resources were but also knew that if I asked many of them would try to do it but I’d never actually ask because I feared being a burden, feared people would help out of obligation. I told them, if you want to help, say something like I can babysit Tuesday night and my wife can go to the gym, or I have Thursday off, let’s spend it playing with Kiana.

Someone later that evening pointed out that when I spoke about brain cancer, brain surgery, my own possible death and complications it sounded as if I was discussing an oil change, no affect, no nervousness, no fear. Then I talk about how this might complicate Kiana or her mom’s life and that’s when I cry. I appreciated the honesty where they said they would likely share the second approach but could not wrap their mind around the first. The simple truth is I’m a Hispanic male or whatever stereotype you want to label me with but I’ve been helping people out my entire life. I was supposed to be the reliever of stress, the one who assisted, not the one that created stress, the one who needed assistance. Failing at those things was what moved me, scared me.

My wife weighed in last, the day after the poker game. She had, as had I, initially been on the side of monitoring it and if and when there were more symptoms besides this seizure to react then. She eventually made the argument that the entire time she’d known me, since I was 17; I was never about the past, so who cared if my memory was slightly less effective. I was about what was next, the next project, the next dream, the next trip, the next race, the next tournament. “You live in the present and in the future and are unbound by the past and I can’t imagine anyone taking that out of your brain.”

I told her I would sleep on it and let her know in the morning but the truth is that when she said that I was sold. I woke up the next morning and told Duke I would be there the week after the marathon and I haven’t looked back since.

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