A decade ago today, my late husband would have been sitting at a morning doctor’s appointment, one I did not know about. It was at this appointment he would have been handed the test results to support what his doctor was about to tell him. His cancer was spreading aggressively and nothing more could be done.
It was not his oncologist who delivered the news. Gary had chosen to walk away from traditional approaches a year prior when all they could offer was the option of a bone marrow transplant…which he refused. Instead, he chose to go on living his life, seeking out alternative options. He delegated his overall care to a homeopathic doctor who, on February 14th, 2001 would have had the terrible job of telling a 37 year old man that his life was coming to an end.
Gary was determined to live so there is no question in my mind that as he filed those test results into an inside pocket of his computer bag his response would have been “thanks for telling me, doc but I don’t believe it.” That was just the way he was…no one was going to tell him how his life was going to go.
He then left his appointment and proceeded to one of my favorite stores, Arthur’s Jewelry, that sold gemstone jewelry. Even in the moment he was facing a terminal diagnosis, he was thinking of me. When he came home that night, he presented me with a beautiful multi-colored bracelet I cherish to this day. He shared his heart with me that night, but not the terrible news. Instead he chose to keep it a secret and just go on living.
It wasn’t until I went through his things after he passed four months later that I found the test results and the receipt for the bracelet both dated February 14th. I handed the pages over to a friend who was a doctor. I had to know what the slur of medical language meant. A few days later, he gently informed me if a patient of his been handed these results, he would have advised them that it was time to put things in order…that nothing more could be done. This was how I learned of my husband’s terminal diagnosis.
When I told friends the story later after piecing together the events of that day, many asked if I was angry that he withheld this from me. Perhaps it could have given us the opportunity to do something very special together. Maybe there were conversations we could have had or goodbyes we could have said. But I was never angry for the choice he made…it was quintessential Gary…doing whatever he could to protect me. He had done what he thought was best for both of us. He had done what he had to do to keep hope alive.
In the end, how each of us deals with the challenges in our lives and how we choose to cope becomes a very personal decision. Instead of being angry with him, I chose to be grateful that he loved me so much that even in the moment where he must have been facing incredible fear, loss and sadness he decided loving me meant sparing me for as long as possible…in hope of a Hollywood fairytale ending perhaps…which, in the end is fitting since ours was that kind of a love story.