Aloha – Paul here…like all of you, I’ve been following Andrea’s blog very closely..and am continually amazed (but not at all surprised) by her great writing. I’ve heard a lot of you say that when you read her writing, you can hear her reading the post in her own voice…totally true. Among her many charms, she’s an awesome writer – and think she should totally keep this blogging thing going long after this cancer thing is defeated!
In any case, a lot of you have been nice enough to ask about me and how I am doing through all of this…which is really nice, but not at all necessary! I’m doing fine – but do want to chime in with a quick guest post to talk a little about my experience by Andrea’s side over the past few weeks. So bear with me – my writing may not be up to the high literary standards established by this blog. In some ways making this post feels like hitting a few balls at the range…in a stall next to Phil Mickelson.
So where to start..I guess at the beginning: October 11, the day we learned the news. I was working from home, as usual, and in a good, productive zone. I knew about her mammogram, biopsy, etc…which had taken place the previous day, but was honestly not terribly worried about it. She told me that she had a very similar, but benign, lump a while back and we were just getting it checked out of an abundance of caution. After all, what are the odds that someone our age, in great health, would have cancer?? Zero. Or so I thought, until the call came. When I picked up the phone, I immediately knew something was wrong and she almost didn’t even need to say the words to tell me what it was. I wish I could paint the picture of those moments in detail, or recount the exact emotions or thoughts I was feeling or thinking at that time. But I really can’t – they’re just blank now and think it was the same, as it was happening. I guess you would call this being “stunned” – which sounds just about right. Think of a time when something you’ve seen or heard made you think “this can’t possibly be happening” – that’s what I felt. Andrea posted about a few of the things we talked about during this conversation – but I honestly don’t remember any of it. I do remember hanging up on her pretty quickly and then, just trying to remain upright. My legs felt unstable, like someone had just hit me across the back of my knees with a golf club (or other stick like implement…what can I say, when I need imagery or an analogy, I usually will revert to golf..).
I next remember grabbing on to the side of my desk, closing my eyes, taking a couple of deep breaths and then, before I knew it, my brain churned back to life, like a light flickering back after a power outage…and the thoughts just started coming. Mostly in the form questions…what is the diagnosis? are we sure? what is the treatment? is it covered by insurance? questions, checklists, action items, plans, timelines, probabilities, angles – that’s where I’m most comfortable, so that’s where my mind went. First order of business was to clear the calendar for the afternoon so we could go to the doctor’s appointments, to learn some more facts. Soon enough, Andrea got home and I gave her a big, giant hug. I didn’t yet know the details of how we would get through this, but I was 1000% sure that we would, somehow. We just needed to figure it out. Piece by piece. Calmly, rationally, without getting overwhelmed. And if we got overwhelmed, we’d manage that too! Calmly, rationally…
Over the next week or so, I learned more about cancer than I could ever have imagined. We went to a lot of doctors appointments, I took a lot of notes and stayed up late reading the books that they gave us. I secretly LOVE to learn, and in a way, it was oddly satisfying to cram so much new knowledge into my head. It felt like I was studying for the bar exam again! We both had a lot of feelings of fear and helplessness and I thought the best (and probably only) way to combat them was to learn what we were up against and attack it step by step. The more I learned, the stronger I felt. This was not a death sentence, not by a long shot. But it was most certainly a long, painful road…understanding all of this, in detail, was the best thing I could do for Andrea at that time.
As all of this was going on, the rest of life continued to move forward, as “normal”. Which was totally and completely weird. We would get out of a doctor appointment and I would check and respond to emails about various work things, lawsuits mostly…which now seemed so banal and trivial. It became increasingly difficult to concentrate on things – not because I was a distracted, basket case…but because it all seemed so irrelevant. Like obsessing about my fantasy football team in the middle of a busy, M&A deal, or something (maybe not a great example – my fantasy team is just as important as any M&A deal..). Anyway, I took that first weekend away from work as much as possible – and then went back in on Monday to try to resume a semblance of normalcy. This was really hard – because of the aforementioned distraction, but also because it was the first time since the call came that I was away from Andrea. I didn’t expect this at all – but I was at the office, in a meeting and needed to step out to take a quick lap around our balcony. I had a sudden and overwhelming feeling of saddness – for her – like I just needed to be back at home to try to help her. It made no sense, but I definitely felt better whenever I was with her rather than apart. I think being around Andrea, with the attitude and spirit you see on display on this blog, actually gives ME strength…not the other way around.
And so it has gone. I’ve been doing what I can to keep things on an even keel, to help us make good decisions and stay in a positive frame of mind. Only one thought that keeps nagging at me, one that I can’t get rid of, despite all of my efforts at rationalization: I really, really wish that I could just do all of this in place of Andrea – the surgery, the chemo, the sickness, the recovery, the hair loss (because let’s face it, I look a heck of a lot better than she does with a buzz cut..), the discomfort, all of it. I want more than anything to take this bullet for her, to spare her from it. And it kills me that I can’t do that.
OK – that’s all for now. I’ll probably be posting more over the next few weeks to keep you up to date on Andrea and her progress. In the meantime, thanks again to everyone for all of your great support, friendship and uplifting messages. They really do help us keep going and stay strong. Thank you all again…you’ll be hearing from me soon!