Saturday, August 6, 2011

Narrating the Senseless

The old human approach has long said that everything happens for a reason. We've had religions, philosophies, psychology, cults, governments and many many things trying to figure out/dictate that reason. Oddly enough I've always said things happen and we find reasons for them. I'd taken a diagnosis of a cancer that has no known genetic, environmental, dietary or lifestyle components well. A divorce immediately after was hitting me much harder. As I went through my wife's list of complaints, some typical of marriage like the way communication, finances and parenting are approached were typical. Others were fairly unique to our own relationship but at the end of the day, the only major change in the last year was the cancer (and Dre?). I was going to counseling, a divorce support group, church, on the phone and in person conversing far more than I ever had. I had also put Kiana in therapy where sheand I alternated who took Kiana. Kiana's therapists commented to me that Kiana's mother appeared to have compartmentalized the cancer and divorce thing and neither of them seemed like a big deal to her. She also asked me if her mother had abandonment issues. I wasn't aware of any but her father had been in the military and when we were dating in high school she said if I joined the military she would break up with me. I asked her why she had said this after hearing this from Kiana's therapist and she answered flatly that she didn't want to be with someone who could leave her at anytime.

There's various theories to dreams in psychology but the one I subscribe to is that it's the way the mind incorporates that day's narrative into the life one. This became how I tried to narrate the view of my wife leaving. I called the Livestrong Foundation and Imerman Angels and came to find out that divorce immediately after cancer was far more common than I would have imagined. One of the Imerman Counselors said that it drives some couples closer together and others very far apart. I'll never quite make sense of why it had such opposite effects on her and I because it was clear one of us was very interested in making our family a whole lot better and the other one of us was committed to the idea of being true to yourself to pursue your own happiness, two values that while best served together sometimes have to make some compromises to coexist. As I tried to find a narrative to help all this make sense, this was the one I went with, a sentiment made louder when I found out that Dre's previous wife had been raised in foster care and that perhaps this was how Dre approached life, fulfilling his own needs as the rescuer of girls who were emotionally in crisis mode.

As divorce negotiations went on, the cancer kept being a factor. There was a point where her attorney threatened to pursue full custody where I would only have supervised visits due to my medical conditions. She wanted less than half of the medical debt and no liability for any future incidents (this apparently is sometimes ordered by a judge since it would be considered an existing condition that the person knew about when they left). She appeared to be more interested in finances than anything else. This may well have been an echo of the poor way that I had handled the initial diagnosis. After all a huge concern about me dying was how it would affect my daughter and wife financially (call this a fear from growing up poor) and I had too easily dismissed her desire to take Kiana to wonders and worries, a counseling session for children whose parents are going through cancer. In retrospect, I wish she'd pushed harder or just taken her herself. As I tried to make sense of it all, I reached out to two organizations that helped out a lot Livestrong and Imerman. One let me talk to a counselor and the other to a survivor who'd had a similar experience. It was intriguing that that was much much easier to find than someone who had the same astrocystoma diagnosis.

Waking up from surgery had reminded/taught/encouraged the values I now realize I'd rather have. I initially was more flexible about which one of us would have primary custody but was never open to the idea of the 50/50 arrangements not wanting my child to live out of a suitcase. It's funny I was so afraid my family was supposed to have this huge upheaval if I didn't come out as mostly myself from brain surgery and it did shortly after brain surgery but according to her it was because I'd come out exactly the same. The support you get going through divorce is a joke compared to that when going through cancer because in cancer, no one wants you to die but in a divorce plan where one person clearly wants out and one person wants to save a family people a) don't want to be in the middle b) believe in marriage and family and think you should at least try or c) that you do what makes you happy even if makes someone else miserable and you are willing to sacrifice time with your children for it.

People were sad, surprised, encouraged, disappointed, confused as to the fact that I kept holding on for her. But the last thing I'd given her before brain surgery was a card which in hope said, "come grow old along with me, the best in life is yet to be" and the last song I'd listened to was "I want to spend my life with you." Less efficiently, far more excruciatingly I accepted the death of our marriage than I had my death sentence.

I'd gotten my job back (Though as a side note I was making some typing errors like words ending in ign and and being spelled as adn due to those being left right left signals and my left signal still being weaker. I did some typing games to help me get back to at least par on this), I was cleared back to the sports and activities I thought might be gone, I was cleared back to drive and there was a real possibility that I was going to be part of that minority that beats brain cancer (12% nationwide, 18% at Duke) but somehow I was losing the most important part of my life perhaps because I'd never perceived it was in danger till it was too little too late and thus hadn't looked for the best professional to take out the cancerous parts.

As I waited for that significant follow up at Duke, for a while, I kept hoping Shanon would return but realized that wasn't going to happen and just waited for her attorney's draft of the divorce. There had been gallows humor that hadn't gotten me through the cancer and brain surgery waiting stage with positiveness but also with inappropriate jokes. Some of those were told through the divorce stage as well but this forum I'll only repeat those that were connected to all of this
1) Brain cancer messed with your wife's brain more than yours
2) You had brain surgery, qualified for the Boston marathon and it's still not the biggest story of your year.
3) After a night where I kept waiting up from dreams in which things went horrible at Duke and where she had come back to the household, a friend commented well you had really bad nightmares all night long.

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