I have been asking myself this question a lot during the past weeks. It was this time last year, March to be exact that Steve’s GBM returned. I suppose this is why this questioning of mine began brewing.
I find myself continually going back to this time last year. Every week that passes my mind is more preoccupied on reliving those days, weeks, months, why? Is this a part of this grieving process that everyone goes through? Is this strange that I am wanting, needing, driven to recall and look in hindsight at all that we went through?
What am I hoping to discover? What need could possibly be filled by me rehashing that emotional, draining, nightmare? But here I am searching and questioning how I got through this time and trying to look back and get a feel for what Steve must have been going through. Self destructive? Maybe, but this longing seems to be driving me, so I’m putting it down in words, maybe this too is part of my process.
Most of you who know me well know that I start my days with a quiet time. This began in October 2008, a month before Steve’s diagnosis...but that’s a whole other amazing story.
My quiet time begins with my favorite devotional book (I’ve tried many, but keep going back to this one), “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young. It daily seems to speak to my heart. She includes scripture readings after each entry. I find the verse that is most meaningful to me at that time and then I journal about it, and anything that seems to be on my mind. After all this time, I believe I have completed about 20 journals, which has filled some hunger within me. I think this was the first step that caused me to write the Caring Bridge entries, and now this blog.
My daily journaling is very different from what I write here. I journal about my concerns for the day, what I need to do to keep myself focused, prayer request for others and simply whatever comes to mind.
I tell you all of this because this is where I seem to be drawn now. Going back to the journal that I wrote a year ago to understand where I was then and where I am now and I suppose I hope to find where I might be headed in the future.
I remember that I was writing in a red journal when Steve died. I began my search there. Opening the journal the beginning date was April 14th. As I read through the days, I was taken back to that time a year ago. Reading my words, the fear we were going through had grown dimmer in my memory. It was just this time a year ago when I noticed that Steve was sliding downhill quickly and fear overwhelmed me. I journaled of his trouble with word finding, unable to keep a constant thought, more and more confusion, balance problems.
I wrote that I was worried about bringing up my observations to Dr. Fichtel in front of Steve because I didn’t want him to realize how much he had declined. I did talk to Dr. Fichtel about it on that April visit, but it was only after she had told him to keep taking the Temador and come back in another month for a CT. I remember, after reading that entry, that it was my words of concern about Steve that caused her to order another CT for the next day. That was the CT that showed the tumor had doubled in less than a month. Steve went on Avastin that day.
I write this not to sound heroic, but to give advice to those of you who might have a loved one you are concerned about. I knew Steve better than any one, and though difficult, I knew I had to be his biggest advocate. I had to override Steve’s medical knowledge and go with my gut and step up and voice my greatest fears, had I not, that CT, nor the CT he had five years prior would have ever taken place. BE AN ADVOCATE.
I wrote of my fears, fear that Steve would be bedridden...something he spoke often of never wanting to happen. I wrote of my fear of how could and would I handle Steve’s health issues, knowing now that everything we were going through in April would surely magnify.
I wrote of Steve’s words. He would tell me he knew he only had a little time left. He would give me instructions for the future and what I didn’t know is even in those days, Steve was continuing to take actions that would make life easier for all of us once he was gone. Steve spoke of his increasing weakness, fatigue, his abilities dwindling, but he would say these things to me in a matter-of-fact way, preparing me for what he knew was near. I wrote of Steve withdrawing, talking less and sleeping or simply just silently sitting more and more.
I wrote repeatedly, day after day, begging God to be merciful to Steve and take him quickly once he got to the point his life was not worth living. Those words were desperate, pleadings as I was shaken to the core at Steve’s continued daily decline.
I questioned all of those comments from the medical staff as I would watch Steve have bad days, but then would see him rally a bit and think the Avastin was working, the tumor was shrinking. I then wrote of my fear, what if the tumor was shrinking? Dr. Fichtel had said the damage to his brain was irreparable. How long could we live like this?
This is Cancer. It is ugly and evil. It wreaks havoc not only on its victim, but on all those who dearly love that person. Cancer, it allows all to witness it’s work, carving away at someone once so capable, so full of life, so giving, gifted. I wrote of my hate of Cancer.
Strangely, around mid May my journaling took on a different feel. One entry I wrote, “I’m in a daze now, sick to my stomach but though I’m sad—I feel an odd peace that I know is from God. It’s a feeling of strength, knowing this is going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but feeling I can do it because you are with me Lord--the feeling is strong and I am thankful for your presence.”
After that most of my entries spoke of, while continued sadness prevailed, I also felt an underlying presence of God, who was guarding and guiding me through each day. I wrote of tears that flowed too freely, and my deep restlessness concerning the unknown, yet underneath all of that emotion I spoke of a peace and comfort that I knew were God given.
There it is! This is what I must have been searching for, trying to understand how on earth I got through that dark valley of death. I have always known my faith brought me through those days and is bringing me through these days, but I think I needed to reread how I processed it all. I think I needed to have a hindsight view to see how God answered my prayers, how he held my hand through the scary darkness and how he is bringing me now back into the light of life.
I know these next few months of thinking what life was like for us this time last year, won’t magically go away. There will be tears with remembering those long, hard days, but now I can also go back to those journal entries and read of my thankfulness for a merciful and loving God who cares and is always here. What a gift!
Isaiah 26:3 “He will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in Him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord.”