A week ago Monday morning at 10:36 Max took his last breath and lay down to die. I made it through the first week without him, but I’m beginning to realize I have a form of Survivor’s Guilt alongside my grief. I look back at Max’s pain and suffering—especially over the last 14 months—and I feel guilty for being so alive while he was dying. It was a horrifying time and I’ll never forget his descent into hell. The bleeding. The bags and tubes. The obstruction. The infections. The utter despair and desolation. I remember him trying to put on pants over catheter and nephrostomy bags. Walking with a walker, or worse yet, riding in a wheelchair. Feeding by way of IV and having his stomach suctioned manually. And the irony in all this is that I couldn’t really see him for what he was at the time. As I said in an earlier post, denial is a powerful tool. Only at rare moments during his last months did the clouds clear enough for me to truly look upon him and what he was going through.
But in retrospect, I am beginning to see his suffering more clearly and, the more I can see, the worse I feel. Guilt gnaws at me for being so alive. Even when he was trapped in his body and his bed day after day, I could still take walks, do yoga, join friends…all the things we take for granted until we can’t. The unfairness. The torture. The trauma of cancer can’t really be understood without first-hand experience. Bless your lucky stars if you have never been touched by this devastating disease and don’t regret what you don’t know…Just hope it stays that way.