Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The Road Not Traveled

This story is making the rounds on Facebook this week:

Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman battling stage 4 brain cancer from San Francisco, plans to die two days after her husband’s birthday on Nov. 1 by assisted suicide. As part of her legacy, she’s launched a nationwide campaign she’s launched calling for death with dignity laws.

I understand where she's coming from. Chris's brother Rob made the decision not to treat his cancer. Chris made the decision to beat the hell out of his cancer.

Two different decisions, two different roads.

I won't debate Brittany's decision, I'm not in a position to pass judgement either way. She sees her options before her, the roads she could take, and she's choosing the road she thinks is best. She's dealing with the difference between a few months and six months.

We're familiar with that timetable; when the histologist's report came back on Chris's cancer the surgeon told us if he hadn't removed the main tumor Chris would have been dead in two months.

Geeks (and sci-fi geeks in particular) talk about alternate universes. Rarely are the alternative universes involved so easily defined. On one road Chris's cancer is removed just in time. On the other road, two more months are what kills him.

I don't often think about the universe that we don't live in. I try to actively avoid doing so actually. In that universe I'm widowed at 32, pregnant, and grieving my husband alone. I would have been in deep grief when Christopher was born. I'd most likely be living with relatives and raising a son without his father now.

In the universe we DO live in Chris is here for his son. In this universe Chris was there for his son's birth, his first words, his first everything. In this universe we're barely scraping by but Chris is alive and here with us. That's the road he's traveling, and therefore the road we're traveling with him.

Every now and then people who don't know any better do something to piss me off. They tell me how they couldn't do what I do, how they wouldn't be able to handle it, how it's amazing that I do what I do in the circumstances I'm in.

It pisses me off because it's a mix of pity and disbelief, and honestly I don't need to think about other peoples' lives or how much better things could be. When I dare to look at how much easier it is for other people, or how much better life could be, the self-pity monster comes out and messes me up. Just going into that headspace can screw me up for days.

Because yes while my life is "so much harder" than the lives around me (or what the lives around me look like superficially), I don't draw strength and resilience from that comparison. I don't strive to have their supposedly easier lives.

I draw strength and resilience from the knowledge the surgeon gave me that day. Out of the two roads before us, Chris and I are traveling the road that leads to the better future.

The other road didn't have Chris. This road does. This is my best possible future, hardship and all, because this future includes Chris.

That's why I get up every morning and why I keep trying to improve our lives, because I know what the other road looks like. I'm much happier to be in this life.