Sunday, September 29, 2013

Beginning at the Middle

At the end of June, 2012, I was exhausted.  The prior month had been a roller-coaster-hell.  Working long hours at my new job, packing for a cross-country move.  Fighting with bad decisions about that move. 

(Tip, never rely on one of those PODS to move a household with five adults in it.  It won't end well, I promise you.)

The sale of the house in Pennsylvania, the logistics of buying the house in California, the long trip in front of us...

Well, you get the point.

It took us a month to get into our house in California, and there are lots of stories in between, but suffice it to say we were ready for a break in our new home when we took possession at the end of July.

And we tried to relax and stabilize, but the downward spiral of my wife's already fragile health seemed to color every moment.  We had known that it was almost miraculous that she made the one-month cross-country trip, with its many events, in such good shape (good being a relative term,) but that only seemed to be a stopgap in the reality of her uncertain condition.

So, what was to be a time for settling into our new lives in July 2012, descended into a trip to the emergency room in April of 2013.  The numerous things that they had attempted to attribute to her health over the years came down to a single diagnosis that we still marvel was not found before, despite all of the tests, all of the assumptions of what it might be by doctors along the way.

A CT scan showed she had an enormous mass in her abdomen.  "So that's pretty big news,"said the ER doctor.

Ahem.  True, that.

Less than a week from the trip to the emergency room, I held her hand in the operating room prep area, and waited anxiously for approval from our insurance for her surgery.  That is yet another a story unto itself, but the bottom line is that the approval came not long before they rolled her away.

If, upon the first time, watching a loved one get wheeled off, aware of the very real possibility that you might not see the light of life in those amazing eyes on the other side, does not change how you see things, I suggest you check your own pulse.

Despite what some people claim, life doesn't start at 50.  It doesn't start at 40, or 30.  No, it starts at 0, the day we squeeze out of the womb.  There are no expiration dates, and no assurances.  There are only days in front of us, and there will be as many as there will be.

When the Doctor came out and said that my wife had pulled through, after having six units of blood, I was full of relief, but within moments, I looked toward the future.

"Okay, what is the next step?" I said.

He shook his head.  "You have one job.  Get her healed from this surgery.  Nothing else matters to you."

"One day at a time?"

He nodded.  "Exactly."

If you've watched AMC's Breaking Bad, you've watched an extreme example of how a person can project their worry of their ever-shortening lives.  You've seen how they can find themselves in the wrong place when that mortality approaches like a freight train at full tilt, blazing onto the intersection the car stalled on.  Some pursue money, some pursue the approval of strangers, hell, there are a thousand places we can go when the sound of the ticking clock seems to go ever-faster, and ever-louder.

We believe we are indestructible when we are young, and that is probably a necessary perspective, but the longer measure of life brings mortality into focus.  I am probably well beyond the middle point of my life, but over the last fifteen months, I have experienced more changes than any other time.

It's an ages old cliche, take life one day at a time.  This is far from a new concept for me, but that phrase can have so many meanings, and our perspective on it, if we embrace it, can change and deepen. 

Every day with my wife, since that surgery, has been a gift that I awaken, and fall asleep, fully aware of.  My already swelling admiration for her has somehow found room to grow, as I hold her hand and walk with her in the evenings.  As we share our shopping chores.  As I take her to the inevitable treatments and doctors' appointments and learn more than any lay-person should know about the unusual cancer called soft tissue sarcoma.

Every step reinforces the notion that there is only one true way to live life:

One Day at a Time.

And we do.


  1. Thank you for sharing all this, Craig. I'm thinking of you both and hoping the times that lie ahead for you will bring more and more healing, health, and stability.

  2. So glad to hear DeDe is doing well after the surgery. It sounds like you've had more of an adventure than even a New York editor would wish on a family, but I add my best wishes for a healing and much more relaxing year to come.

  3. Thank you for this update, Craig. All my best to you and DeDe. I look forward to reading more. And hearing how the two of you conquer all. XO

  4. Craig, thank you for blogging this. It's good to hear your voice again, even in such circumstances. You and DeDe have all my best wishes