I am writing this letter for you to read the night after Mike’s surgery and diagnosis, once you’re sure all your houseguests are asleep. You won’t be sleeping anyway.
Five days ago, on the happiest day of your life, Mike asked you to marry him. Four days ago he had a seizure and at the hospital, they found masses in his brain. You were so brave, Lea. You were there for him in every conceivable way when he needed you the most, and I am so proud of you. Your composure these last few days still amazes me, eleven years on.
Happiness like you felt on Thursday, it’s not fair. It exists in a world untouched by terror and grief, and you are incredibly lucky to have lived even one minute with that feeling, let alone a whole day. When people ask you about what happened this week, you will talk about being lucky. For the rest of your life, you will use that word.
Tomorrow’s going to suck. You’ll go to the hospital to be with Mike, but brace yourself because he looks terrible. When the doctor tells him he has grade four astrocytoma he won’t flinch, he’ll say he doesn’t want to know how long he has, just what he has to do to fight. He keeps doing that, doesn’t he? Making you love him even more? I know that’s why it hurts so much right now.
Right now all you can imagine is what will happen now that the doctor says he’ll be dead in eighteen months, but here’s what’s going to happen: In the morning you’re going to wake up and decide the doctor is wrong, and that Mike is alive.
That is the most important thing you will ever do, Lea. Wake up tomorrow. Go to the hospital. Be with him, and don’t for a minute doubt. Don’t ruin the time you have with him, with anyone in your life, by worrying about when it’s going to end.
You’ve been imagining the future the two of you planned; finishing your degree and going into non-profit work, your kids—his kids—playing in the yard, Mike teaching them to build legos or robots or something. You imagined he’d be the disciplinarian and you’d be easygoing, right? Don’t you know you’ve never been easygoing? You are organized, and meticulous, and that is what will help you survive the weeks, and months, and years ahead.
But now that’s not in your head. Now you’re imagining the future that’s been thrust on you instead. Chemo, radiation, seizures and memory loss and god-knows-what-else. You’re imagining Mike dead, over and over, shattering your brand new family a million different times, in a million different ways. You’re imagining those children, his children, growing up without a father; and you’re imagining a future where you and Mike never get to have kids. You’re erasing children from your dreams as though even though they don’t exist they are also dying, and you are powerless to stop it.
What I want to tell you, right now, when you are at your most alone, when your heart is broken and only a few days ago you were so happy, is this:
Happiness, however deep and rich, will never be as pure as it was five days ago; because now you know what’s on the other side of the mountain. But you are going to be happy again. Some days will be hard, some months will be hard, that’s because all the things you want—beautiful family, loving home, fulfilling job, perfect marriage—all of it is possible if you put in the work. I know you hate hard work. You’ve coasted on being innately good at things or learning quickly since you were a kid, but life isn’t something you’re inherently good at or bad at. The only thing you can do is put in the work.
You that you are about to be braver than you ever knew you could be, stronger than you knew you could be. You’re going to hold your head high with grace and compassion and unwavering determination and be exactly what Mike needs, and more than that, you are going to be exactly what you need.
That future you always dreamed of? I live here. All of it is waiting for you. And Mike is in it.
Read more about the beginning of our glioblastoma treatment here: To The Doctor I Hated For Saving Me, Thank You
Read my most recent post here: Happily Ever After
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