So much has happened since the last time I posted, it feels like a lifetime ago. At the beginning of March, Mike, my ex-husband and best friend was told his cancer was back and this time it was terminal. His doctors told him he’d likely have a good year with chemo. He only had one round of chemo before they discontinued treatment because he didn’t weigh enough to handle it. That Tuesday, only two weeks after he found out about the cancer, he went back to his mom’s house. I followed him there a few days later.
Those few weeks were some of the most difficult I’ve ever gone through. Watching someone you love waste away is so painful when you know there’s nothing you or anyone else can do. Mike wouldn’t let me or anyone else help him get dressed because he didn’t want anyone to see how horrible his body looked. At 6 feet tall, his doctors stopped chemo because he dropped below 100 pounds–and kept losing weight. At the end, my arms were bigger than his legs. You could barely recognize him until he opened his mouth. Then you realized he was still Mike.
For someone who loved food as much as him, not being able to eat much more than a cookie or two a day seemed so cruel. I almost broke down when I found a list called “Things to eat when I’m better” when going through his things. I brought him one of his favorite treats (and one of the few things his stomach could handle): Cadbury creme eggs. I asked him what was wrong because his face contorted in disgust. He told me he was so sick of them but he could probably eat them again next year. And we both laughed because we had forgotten there wouldn’t be a next year for him.
The night before he died, he told his mom that he was really happy. He explained he had everything he wanted: coffee, cigarettes, tv remote, Playstation all within reach and someone to call if he needed anything else. And he really was happy. We weren’t there to comfort him; he was there to comfort us. Mike let us know he was at peace–and we would be too.
No one was allowed to cry or sob at Mike’s bedside. If you needed to cry, you needed to do it away from him. He didn’t want people to mourn his death; he wanted them to celebrate his life. He planned his memorial service to be just that. We ended the service with Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” Even in death, Mike wanted people to laugh. After all, he did die on April Fool’s Day. I can’t think any other day that could have been as appropriate.
I have shed a few tears. I still can’t listen to Pantera’s “Cemetery Gates” without crying. But I know Mike didn’t want me (or anyone else) to sink into depression. A few years ago, while we were still married, Mike was about to go into surgery and didn’t think he would make it through. He told me then that he wanted me to be happy and move on with my life. That sounded impossible to me then. I didn’t want to believe he wouldn’t be there to grow old with me. But as time went on, I realized that was never going to happen: I was going to outlive him by decades. I’m not sure if our marriage ended because divorce seemed easier than being a widow, but I think things worked out the way they were meant to happen. I wouldn’t trade anything I went through with Mike.
My experiences with him were not easy. Most college students only have the stress of finals. I was worried about the love of my life dying and not being able to pay the rent while working on finals. Numerous people have told me how impressed they are with my strength in dealing with everything (even though I don’t feel particularly strong). Sheer necessity forced me to deal with the situation. If I didn’t, I would have fallen apart. Now, when something happens that most people would worry about, I’m not really bothered. It can’t get worse than what I’ve already been through. I’ve also realized worrying doesn’t help; it just stresses me out. Things are going to go wrong regardless of my attitude, so I might as well laugh about it.