• Karen

Two paths

Two of the trails at Picacho Peak State Park

Unlike the past, when David’s and my experiences and challenges were often so in sync, in many ways now, he and I are living mostly different realities…

He confronts the daily assault on his body and his mind from the cancer and the cancer drugs. He confronts the knowledge of his mortality and the likelihood of his sooner-than-expected demise. He contemplates impending pain, the process of dying, the possibility of permanent side effects, and the specter of recurrence if he is lucky enough to go into remission. He worries how I will fare after he is gone. He contemplates the things he can no longer do physically; the things he misses, such as riding his mountain bike; the things he will most likely never have a chance to do; and the cruel irony of finally being retired and “having time” after a long and often grueling career only to face this pleasure-robbing barrage of side effects and limitations. He thinks about what he should make sure he does and experiences in whatever time he has left versus how to distract himself from current pain and discomfort. His journey is, by necessity and proximity, mostly present-focused. He has always been more present- than future-focused, but now that the present is so unpleasant and the future looks so limited, his challenge is to ensure this disease and its treatment rob him of as little as possible.

My journey, on the other hand, lurches back and forth between a focus on the future and a focus on now. How will I live and be happy without him? How will I traverse the overwhelming wave of grief that will engulf me when he is gone? How will I not miss him—his humor, his sweetness, his unmatched creativity—every minute of every day? What will the financial impact of all this be, and will I be able to continue to work as he gets worse and after he is gone? How will I, in spite of being an introvert who relishes and is energized by time alone, not be consumed by loneliness? How will I even operate our complicated entertainment system and keep all my Apple devices up and running?! I know I am strong and resourceful, and I will find a way. I know external circumstances are not all that control my happiness. But the journey from here to peace and beyond will be arduous and long, I am sure.

For now, I try to do everything I can to ensure the present is as good as it can be for him. And for myself, I vacillate between cherishing the time I have with him today and tending to the seemingly endless practical tasks of the present and future. I have always been more future- than present-focused, so my challenge is to not neglect the one for the other.

P.S. I apologize that this post is such a “downer” compared to the last post, but this is the reality of the ups and downs of this journey, and it is therapeutic for me to contemplate and express it. Because all of you care about David and me, I trust you understand that the goal of this blog is to honestly reflect not only how he is doing day to day but also the nature of this journey.