August 22, 2013

The Meaning of Life

M turned 31 three days ago. Happy Birthday, my love.
What do you do when your doctor tells you you're going to die? I asked my husband this question, once.

"Well, I don't really know. He never told me."

And that's true, because my husband made it very clear he didn't want to hear those words. He was twenty four, we'd been engaged for six days, and he had just started coming out of the sedated haze of his brain surgery.

I knew, of course. While M lay in recovery, slowly regaining consciousness under the close supervision of a team of nurses and anesthesiologists, I was sitting with his surgeon in a tiny consultation room, listening to phrases like, "stage four multiform glioma," "eighteen months," and, "You don't often see people five or ten years out."

But M didn't want to know, so I didn't tell him. Instead, I planned our wedding.

Because what would you do if you knew you were supposed to die, and soon? You would do whatever you had wanted to do, but might have been too frightened to. You would live life as though whatever was most important to you was your top priority. And marrying me, well, that was his top priority.

Besides, we were in love with each other. Getting married is what you do when you're in love.

The happiest day of our lives.
And something miraculous happened. He didn't die. Instead, the experimental trial his doctor has put him in worked. He didn't get better at first, exactly, but he didn't get worse. And nobody knew what that meant.

So eighteen months became a giant question mark, and we were married, and we did what married people do. We talked about whether or not we wanted to have kids.

I had always known I'd wanted to be a mom. There was never any doubt in my mind. M had always known he wanted to be a dad, it was a sure thing. But... should we?

Every young person with cancer has been through this. Recovery isn't black and white. Recovery is forever. Every year that you live, the likelihood that the cancer is coming back is diminished, but not gone. Never gone. It's something that you'll have on your radar for the rest of your life, and it never ends.

Remission feels inevitable. You don't let it run your life, but every time something feels even the slightest bit off, you wonder... is this it?

So when you're twenty five and in love, newly married, should you have kids?

M and I decided to. We decided that if you don't know how long you have, why waste time not doing the things that you know will give you the most joy? We decided to get pregnant immediately, because not knowing how long he had didn't mean he had no time at all. If he had ten years, he would have ten years with children who could grow up knowing him, loving him, and understanding him. If he died in twenty years, he would get to coach softball and chaperone middle school dances and go on college visits. If he died in five years, at least he would have experienced the happiness of holding his children in his arms while they slept.

During M's last round of chemotherapy, I got pregnant.

And here we are, four and a half years later, three children on and he's still with us.

Three spectacular children.
We're not alone in our choice. We have known many young people to fight cancer, and beat it. And we have also known those who lost.

I've watched my friend holding his infant daughter after his wife succumbed to the cancer that infiltrated her bones during her pregnancy. It rocked my soul, left me shattered and weeping, imagining what was and what could be. I stared at her photograph, with her husband and daughter by her bedside, her eyes filled with longing and love as she gazed at the child who would never know her.

There is no right answer. There is no wrong answer. There is only knowing what will make you happy. What will give your life meaning.

For us, it was parenthood. It isn't for everyone.

And every year that passes is another gift, another promise. We try never to take them for granted.

We would all do well to remember that.

15 comments:

  1. What a... I can't find the word I'm looking for... but what a BEAUTIFUL post. So true that even a small amount of time is better than none! Thanks a zillion for sharing!

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    1. Thank you so much. If you find the word, I would LOVE to hear it! I imagine it's one I could use. :)

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  2. Holy sh*t, lady. That was heavy, beautiful, thought-provoking. I usually shun hops, but I linked up with nannypology at Jen Kehl's urging, and I'm SO GLAD I did. Wow, just wow. Kudos to you too for taking life by the horns. Glad I met you briefly at BH. (Deb @ Urban Moo Cow)

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    1. It was great meeting you too! I've been reading your blog for a while, and I wish I'd gotten the chance to tell you in person how much I appreciate it!

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    2. I love utterly unpretentious you are. So, so refreshing. Flattered you like my slice of the webz, too.

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  3. I'm not sure how I feel about this but that's not because of you and your story which is amazing and wonderful...but that my husband and I found out that he had cancer when my son was 2 weeks old. I was 40. And I'm still not ready for him to go, or for me to. And I thank you for your perspective and your voice.

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  4. You never know what is going to happen. Someone's spouse could be hit by a bus for all we know. We should all live for what gives us the most joy, while we can, and it sounds like that's exactly what you are doing. I am so sorry you all have had to go through this, though. You have such a beautiful family, and I can tell that there's so much love! :)

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  5. This is so good...and quite a tear-jerker. This is love. All of it. True love.

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  6. I'm so glad you chose happiness!

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  7. Your love story makes me feel all warm and happy. :)

    -Shell

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  8. Beautiful story. You made the right choice.

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  9. your post is beautiful and inspiring and I'm so happy for you all that your husband is such a survivor!

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  10. www.cancertutor.com is a must-see website for effective affordable alternate cancer treatments.

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