To say a lot has happened in the past two years would be an understatement.
You know about most of it. You know that Aaron’s brain tumor revealed itself in a grand mal seizure (the medical terminology sounds far more chic than “a seizure at his desk while we were chatting online during work hours”), he was diagnosed with brain cancer, we got married, he did a year of chemo and 30 days of radiation, we moved, his brain tumor came back, he had another brain surgery, he threw me a surprise party for my 30th birthday EVEN THOUGH HE WAS IN A HOSPITAL BED. We had a baby! We moved again. And in between those last 12 months he spent 5 days a month in the hospital for some gnarly chemo that makes me nauseous to describe.
What you don’t know, or maybe you do, is that it’s not just chemo. It’s a total disruption to his life that he has handled with such grace and class that I honestly wonder what on Earth he sees in me. I got the flu for a day last week and literally cried in bed while screaming “GET AWAY FROM ME! I NEED GINGER ALE! NO, TAKE IT AWAY!”
In 12 rounds of chemo, Aaron has only complained like 5 or 6 times. Something along the lines of, “oh, I just don’t feel very good.” He’s never puked. He is kind and patient and loving towards me even though I am the kind of person who writes a letter to a Papa Murphy’s franchisee when their teenage employees fail to “live the brand” and are rude to me. Even though I’m the kind of person who kind of sees how that sentence looks ridiculous but would do it all over again if I had the chance.
Every month, Aaron has packed a bag and kissed his family goodbye, has put his work on hold and been held hostage in a hospital wing where his fellow inmates are typically on the other side of 70 and have all but given up on life. He withstands poisons that have brought others to their knees, and keeps smiling (and playing soccer). He lives his life as fully and joyfully as ever, even though he got dealt a shittier hand than most of us, who are busy doing things like angry tweeting about how Starbucks got our name wrong on our latte cup or writing letters of complaint to Papa Murphy’s franchisees about their surly teen employees.
The thing about cancer (okay, there are a few “things” but here is a thing I will say right now), is that it isn’t special. It’s not. It’s kind of like an iPhone: we’re all getting one eventually, we just don’t know which model. Aaron got just about the worst kind of cancer you can get, and since his diagnosis plenty of my other hot, young friends have found cancer hiding in their young, hot bodies.
Let me be frank here: this sucks.
I’m not a scientist (sorry to all you readers who thought I was) and I’m not a doctor (again, my apologies). I’m a girl with a blog and two legs and too many opinions and too many friends fighting an invisible enemy inside their own bodies and a feeling that god damn it, I want to do something more because Aaron and my friends aren’t the only people with cancer and unless we all do our little part, they won’t be the last.
Purmathon was a start.
Next up, 3 friends and I will be running the New York City Half Marathon in March. Each step of the way, we’ll be raising money for the American Cancer Society.
The world is a better place if you’re the former.
When it really, really, comes down to it, all of our problems are First World Problems to the max.
Yes, my husband has cancer. A bad kind.
And we’re married. We fell in love so hard I’m surprised our bones didn’t break. He is being treated aggressively by a compassionate and curious group of people for a disease that just 20 years ago would have been a swiftly executed death sentence. We have a sweet little human and a sweet little house and a sweet little dog who in full disclosure actually annoys me with how much she loves us.
We have more than what we need and nearly everything we want but lately, I want less and less and less because what we have, as unconventional as it may be, is more than enough.
You don’t need a BS Facebook meme to remind you to be thankful for the life you have. You just need a brain and a heart, and if you’re using a computer right now, I’m confident you have both.
It’s a big month, November.
Three years ago, we had our first real date, even though I tried to decline because he hadn’t given me 48 hours notice and I had a hair appointment. Gosh, WHY WAS I SINGLE?!
Two years ago, we packed a brain surgery, a cancer diagnosis, an engagement and two weeks of wedding prep into one brutal month.
Last year, after a year of clear scans, his MRI showed a spot. A smudge, I thought, but a spot that just four weeks later had grown into another brain tumor, another surgery, another round of chemo.
This year, Aaron’s oncologist crushed his dreams of running the Twin Cities Marathon at the end of October. It was beyond a bummer, but when your oncologist says something along the lines of “ARE YOU INSANE? THAT COULD KILL YOU” and he has a mustache that predates Movember, you listen.
There’s a phrase that echoes through the hallways of my place of employment and has seeped into my personal life: don’t tell me why I can’t, tell me how I can.
So I focused on the possible, grabbed Aaron’s best friends and focused on what we can do.
Four weeks later, we had nearly 200 people lined up near the Mississippi River, and a handful of others scattered around the world, ready to run the oncologist-approved 3.1 mile marathon with Aaron.
It was perfect. Just a week after our first Minneapolis snowfall, the sun was shining and the trees had left their red and orange carpet of leaves along the winding running path.
Not one but two local news stations showed up because in a world where kids are shooting each other at school and the oceans are getting so hot that the scary fish won’t be able to live there in a few decades, people being nice to a guy with cancer is really important news.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this isn’t a cancer story. This is a love story and a life story and a reminder that in the wise words of my Twitter Prophet Neale David Walsh, life is not happening to us, it is happening through us.
There are things that you want to do and things that you want to be and things that you just want, right?
Don’t tell yourself why you can’t, figure out how you can.
Kayla is another internet brain tumor buddy. And she’s doing what she can.