Duke went as well as could be hoped for? That’s such a strange sentence to write because I walked down halls where I’d once held my wife’s hand and we’d called my little girl every day and now only one of those was happening. Still the MRI said what they hoped for, the brain had refilled in, scar tissue appeared to be minimal, none of the tentacles had grown in any form and the center mass had not grown. My resting heart rate was 52, a little bit worse than the last time but that one was 10 days after the marathon. My anti-seizure medication was going to be reduced to a lower amount than I was currently on but it would still be forever. The MRI’s would be less frequent but again still forever. The complications of the right side of my body having been weaker due to a decreased signal appeared to be back and Duke brags about how their brain cancer survival rate is 18% (vs the 12% nationwide) and it looked like I was going to get to be a part of it.
It was great to be part of that minority. It was relieving and I walked out of that office and just stood and stared at the sky, both relieved and grateful. The appointments finished a little early and so the friend I was going to have dinner with before heading back to the airport would not be there for an hour. I’d forgotten my phone elsewhere so I couldn’t call anyone or say anything. It felt incredibly appropriate and inappropriate that I’d just gotten some gigantic news and I had to absorb it and process it alone. I had actually invited Dre’s parents to a meal that day before. Making that phone call had felt very awkward but I didn’t feel like the sins of the son should be visited upon the parents so I had tried. They had been very polite and declined and said that because of things I had said about their son and because of the private matter going on (oh if it had been a private matter only between the two of us) that they would decline but graciously they wished me luck and pointed out that I would be in their prayers. Well, the prayers and good vibrations and everything else that had been sent twice had now worked twice. I was in the minority that didn’t need radiation but still looked like I’d beat it.
It was getting customary to be a minority in my life that week. A few days earlier a friend had sent me an article that children raised by single fathers are also a huge minority. Only 8% of children under 8 are raised by their fathers away from their mother (as compared to 24 raised by their mother). Most of those are actually not from divorces but from widowhood. Ironic is not the right word.
I told my friends on Facebook that it looked like I would be part of the brain cancer minority and there were lots of “likes” and comments but my favorite one had to be my friend Egon who posted “Would it kill you just once to go along with the crowd?.” A single father to a little girl, the guy who beat brain cancer, and whose job, hobbies and finances were all at risk but then got them back. It was good to be a minority.
That night as I sat on a delayed plane home I again just broke down crying. Supposedly this tumor was near some emotional centers but even if wasn’t I was well aware that I owed my life to many people. I started texting people who had helped build the website for the tournaments, to the people who had organized them, to the people who helped feed me when I couldn’t sleep through the night because my brain was still swollen. I thanked people who had done tiny things like let me help out with something when I couldn’t drive and it still helped me feel useful. I thanked Dre’s parents for having hosted me as the tears just kept pouring down my face. I even sent the ex a text that she was the main reason I survived, something I’ll always hold to be true despite how she walked away from me and her daughter as someone we don’t recognize. I thanked every person except one. I couldn’t get myself to send Dre a text despite the fact that the most significant run during the marathon training, the one who had hugged me first when I broke down crying the first time during the tournament, the one who helped me pursue and sell me on Duke. Call it petty but I am human and while he may have helped saved my life he didn’t have enough of the right type of boundaries to not take advantage of my wife and to compete with me on what I’d most fought to stay alive for. Yeah, they may say that half of all marriages end in divorce but that’s of all marriage. It’s closer to a 1/3 of first time marriages, far smaller for those who made 10 years, and even far smaller for those with kids the age of Kiana. That was the only place that was so hard to be a minority.
After thinking about all of that (the only point where I didn’t cry), I started thanking tons of people who had given me a ride here when I couldn’t drive, who had sent a Christmas card, who had taken me for lunch and the tears flowed again. I am sure for some of them to receive those texts it was cheesy and awkward at best and they may have thought I was going over the top but I really do think everyone of them contributed to saving my life at various levels. I hope everyone who goes through cancer does this but if not I’ll take being the one leper.