Max asked me a couple days ago if I have ever mentioned his progress in my diary. Of course I have, but every day there are new encouraging signs as well as more than a few set-backs. To think that two months ago Max couldn’t rise on his own, was unable to walk without help or a walker and had barely tipped the scale at 149 pounds, he’s come a long way, baby. He now regularly makes his way into the kitchen to snack because of his gnawing hungry, and yesterday he weighed in at 157 pounds. That’s not to say the edema has improved at all. It’s still causing him suffering and anxiety. We fully comprehend the concept of ‘one day at a time’ because it’s one moment at a time with this disease. We never know what the next minute might bring.
And I, too, have undergone tremendous change over the course of Max’s illness. Physically I’ve aged a decade in a year and often feel worn out and easily overwhelmed, but it’s the emotional changes that are the most profound. I received an email from a reader that not only touched my heart, but triggered my mind. ” I wanted to acknowledge the impact reading The Cancer Diaries has had on me and David. Just last night we spoke of the tremendous strength and courage you and Max must draw from each day; the courage to be terrified and fearless; the courage to be fragile and strong. We spoke of Max’s resilient body and spirit and stood in silent awe of his relentless determination to live.” Her words brought tears to my eyes because she poetically and accurately described what I’ve been experiencing but had difficulty putting into words. The dichotomies of this disease are mind boggling. I have often been terrified, yet that has never stopped me from forging forward and doing whatever needed to be done. To walk whatever path was laid out for me. I have felt both unbelievably fragile one moment, but strong enough to face two of our most frightening foes…disease and death. And, yes, Max’s motivation and resilience has galvanized me when I’ve been the most discouraged.
This has been one of those major growth periods in my life. I have had to make a commitment to put aside my personal desires in the service of another. Whoever thought that possible? And yet that’s exactly what I’ve done over the past couple of years, rarely complaining. This experience has made me aware of my limitations. I have always thought of myself as a loving person, but now with the challenge to be exceptionally giving, I’ve come to recognize the limits of my “loving” and generous nature. While I’ve always wanted to let myself be open to others, I have held my hand fairly close. And the irony is, while I did this to protect myself against pain and rejection, it created the very thing I was most afraid of. It’s so true, what you give is what you get.
Max and I have been stretched in ways we never knew were possible. We have learned about our weaknesses and our strengths. We have broken down and put ourselves back together to become stronger than ever. I can’t say either of us would have chosen this route, but I can say we have both grown and become more loving and conscious people because of it.