I feel good, I’ve been feeling better and better. My hair has come back, my energy and appetite are up and I’ve even spent a little more time exercising each week. I’ve continued to do the things I love to do and spend my time with the people I love most. I get a lot of comments about the way I look and act, seeming perfectly normal and healthy and I find myself asking, “is this really happening?” I feel so “normal” and look so “normal” that it’s hard for me to believe that I have this terminal diagnosis. The other day rach said to me “you make dying look good” and it sounds morbid but I look almost exactly how I did before my diagnosis. I wake up every day and assess my body, I see how I’m feeling and then I get up and go about my day playing with Sadie and Riley and doing whatever little chores there are for me around the house. Occasionally I’ll take a mid day nap but It’s hard to know if that’s me being tired from cancer or tired from just doing a lot. My brother had asked me about what’s gonna happen as things progress and I really didn’t have an answer, I had told him, I imagine I’ll just slowly get weaker and more tired but I honestly don’t know. All I know is that right now, I feel good and I’m grateful for that.
I feel anxious. There are definitely times where I worry about something changing quickly and I sometimes spend too long thinking about my cancer metastasizing to somewhere new and giving me days to live but I try to move past those thoughts quickly, not wanting to give them the opportunity to take root in my mind. But no matter how quickly I move past those dark thoughts, they’re always in the back of my mind creating anxiety and making my heart race. Sometimes it’s too overwhelming and I feel like I have panic attacks that spawn from those thoughts. For example I felt something off in my throat the other day and before I could even assess what it was, my mind raced to the worst and I was imagining that it was a tumour and it had to be removed and then I was in the hospital post surgery and I couldn’t talk to tell my daughters or Rachel that I love them. Those images and those thoughts are very hard to move past and sometimes I can’t move past them for a long time so all I can do is try to distract myself. Because of thoughts like that, I try to do everything like it’s the last time I’ll ever do it. Whether it’s saying goodnight to Riley or making a cup of tea before bed. At the root of it I’m still worrying about my disease but I feel like framing it this way lets me appreciate every little thing that much more. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
I feel overwhelmed. I’m trying to live my life as fast as I can because I don’t know when it will end and its taking a toll on me. I’m trying to do everything all at once, be the father the husband, the brother and the friend to everyone who needs it. I’m trying to give attention to everything all at the same time, make time for everyone and myself and I feel like I get carried away sometimes because as good as it makes me feel to be all those things to all those people, it drains me, mentally and physically. Some days I feel like I get so overwhelmed by trying to be everything to everyone that I can’t take a deep enough breath to fill my lungs with oxygen and all I can do is lay down and rest. I get overwhelmed thinking about how quickly things can change for me and I get overwhelmed thinking about how good I feel, there no escaping the feeling, my only option is to learn to balance, which is hard because the second I feel like I’m slowing down too much I get overwhelmed thinking about everything I should be doing, everything I have to do. I need to organize, I need to write, I need to finish my photo albums and videos. I need to do a million things and I don’t know if I have time to do them. Even now as I sit here writing I feel like I need to be downstairs with Riley, I can hear little voice through the walls and her little feet running up and down the hallway and all I want to do is be with her but I need to finish this. Theres no easy answer, I’ll suffer from this plague for the rest of my life as we all do given our wildly short and unpredictable lives. I just need to take a breath.
I feel sad, theres so much to look forward to and I get sad that I may not be here to experience it, I was writing letters to Riley and Sadie the other day and it was the first time that I really wrote from the perspective of me not being here for them and in the letter I say I’m sorry and tell them that I’m always with them in their hearts. I’ve spent entire mornings in bed crying at the unfairness of it all, hugging rach and telling her I’m sorry over and over as I sob into her shoulder. Sometimes I feel like all I can do is cry, so I do. I look at the pictures on my mantle and they’re some of the happiest moments of my life but they’re the hardest for me to look at. it’s awful to admit but I feel the same way just looking at Riley or Sadie, they make me happier than anything in this world but sometimes its so hard to look even look at them and I feel awful for that. I cry because as sad as I am now, it will end for me but rach will carry this sadness with her for the rest of her life and I won’t be able to comfort her. I wonder if she’ll turn the pictures around because it will be too hard to look at them. There aren’t many days where I feel consumed by sadness but they do happen and when they do I just try to feel it all as much as I can because its beautiful to be able to feel all the good and bad alike. I think its easy to want to never feel the bad parts but without them we couldn’t appreciate the good ones as much. So as I sit here staring at these pictures, I’m crying but I’m also smiling and I know rach will do the same when I’m gone. Our wall of Polaroids will be a roadmap of our journey, all the love and beautiful memories we’ve made stuck there for the girls to see as they grow.
I feel helpless, helpless to fight this disease, all I have is optimism and will power but those alone wont see me through this, they’ll help me through this the same way Rileys laugh and Sadies smile and Rachels hug help me through this but those aren’t the things that will win this battle for me. I feel helpless like someone who brought a spoon to a gun fight or more accurately, like someone who didn’t know there was going to be a fight in the first place. Now I’m being beaten senseless and my only defence can just as easily make things worse with all its unpredictable side effects. We try these drugs that are supposed to help but in reality my oncologist has no idea what will or won’t work, he’s throwing things against the wall and hoping something sticks. I feel helpless because there is literally nothing I can do to combat this foe, my enemy doesn’t eat or sleep, it cares nothing for the pain its’ causing or the family it’s tearing apart. The tears we cry are like falling rain, for all the hurt and all the pain. I feel helpless.
I feel scared. I’m scared for myself, scared that I won’t make it, scared that I’ll be seen as someone who lost a battle when the reality is, its not a battle, it’s a one sided attack against someone with no defense, I’m scared I can’t win because I don’t know how to, there is no ammunition that can beat this disease, only delay it. I’m most scared of what I know is true and that is that people don’t just bounce back from stage IV cancer.Every little ache and pain in my body sends an alarm to my brain and it scares me because anything could be the start of the end for me. I don’t like living in fear but this is my life now and fear is a very real part of every day for me and I have to learn to live with it or be swallowed by it. The time between scans is like the rise and fall of the tide, my fear grows and grows and then I get the scan results and they are what they are and the tide subsides for a moment only to immediately start rising again as the countdown to the next scan begins again. I get scared for rach and how she will be as I near my end and inevitably get taken from her. She has so much life still to live. I get scared for my daughters that will only know me through pictures, videos and vague memories from their earliest years of life. How will my passing affect them? Will it make them advocates for health or will they be wrought with sadness and depression at the loss of their father? I don’t know the answer to any of these questions and I won’t be around to find out and it scares me that the only way I can influence the outcome is by writing these letters and taking more pictures and trying to convey to them that no matter what happens to me, they should still live full, adventurous lives. Explore and take advantage of every opportunity. Be happy and kind.
I feel hopeful. I feel hopeful for the future, as long or short as mine is, I still feel hopeful that it will be good for me, my daughters and Rachel. Wether I’m in it or not, I feel hopeful that they will find courage and strength from my experience. Hopeful that there will be a silver lining in all of this. My hope is that one day my girls will be old enough to understand everything I’ve written and it will make them feel closer to me, it will help them understand what I went through. If these letters are nothing else, they are love letters to my daughters.