Happy: A Quest for Life After Death

Friday, September 24, 2010

This is rated PG-13

I'm beginning to hate September.

I enjoy a colorful leaf as much as the next New Englander, but this is the third September out of four when the warm glow of a summer blissfully free of crisis has been doused with a bucket of cold water.

(Notice that my standards are not that high. Our summers are not free of cancer, or chemo or pain medication or infusions, just fear of imminent death, which makes them delightfully low-stress.)

The latest treatment Mat has been on is not working. I really thought this drug was on our side -- treatments were only every three weeks and side effects were mild. It was a kinder, gentler drug that apparently is useless. Some tumors have grown as much as 20 percent, including the one in his rib that was radiated about a year ago and is again approaching the size of a lemon.

I don't know if he meant to be, but Dr. Ryan was more fatalistic today than he's been before.

"You could just say, 'Enough's enough. I'm done with chemotherapy,'" he said.

Quite frankly some days Mat does want to be done with chemotherapy for good, even the kind and gentle variety. It looks like he may have one more try left in him, though, so next week he will start a platinum-based chemotherapy treatment. It's an old standard for treating neuroendocrine tumors, and Mat's disease has responded to old standards in the past, so we're trying to remain hopeful.

Damn. Fill in fifty more of your own favorite words and you'll have a window into my head for today.

At the same time Mat seems bent on destruction (and not via motorcycle), the boys are wonderful. They're now both at the same elementary school, and they often cross the street after school to the park to play soccer. Most of the kids who play are Ian's fourth- and fifth-grade friends, and they're very kind to tolerate a kindergartener.

The other day, though, one of them said to Colin, "Little kids aren't playing today."

Ian put his arm around Colin and said, "We're a package. We play together."

They both played, and when Ian ran down the field with the ball later in the game and saw that the goalie had wandered away from his post, he stopped just short of the goal and passed it to Colin, who scored.

The juxtaposition of disaster and heart-melting brotherly love makes a very sharp contrast.

How can life be so good and so painful at the same time?