From the husband's perspective by Mike Bingham
I’ve been pretty quiet on the blog lately, mostly because I wasn’t sure how to sort out my thoughts, feelings and emotions. It has been unbelievably crazy in our lives during the last 12 months that most days I am convinced that none of this is real –or at least I hope that it is not. Its changed my perspective on pretty much everything. How I see my kids, my job/career, my friends, my time and my relationship with Melissa. Everything is different. Many things have actually changed for the better. It provides perspective, and allows you to focus on what you truly care about each day without regret.
Sitting in the doctor’s office after her latest scan, I think we both knew something not so pleasant was coming. Progression. Melissa’s title for the last post is aptly named. It is an unsettling, anxiety provoking word that instantly increased the urgency of our meetings with her doctor this past couple of weeks. You can feel the swirl of uncertainty and concern in those meetings has increased since we received the results. Her doctor used the phrase “critical real estate” to describe the liver, and rightfully so. She needs her liver healthy to process the drugs she takes to protect the rest of her body. If the liver does not function, the options become limited and her disease becomes much more dangerous.
The stress of everything that has taken place over the last year has taken a toll of me physically. I have anxiety and waves of panic. I don’t sleep particularly well most nights, and the tension in my head neck and back feels almost unbearable at times. Most days you pray for the world to pause long enough to get some air, as normal responsibility is always there waiting for us after we deal with our “other life.” Melissa and I have talked about how it feels like we are balancing two universes, trying to keep the kid’s lives as normal as possible. We try to have normal days and to appreciate the small things that we may have taken for granted prior. But this is difficult. Every morning I wake up and start my day with the sinking feeling that my wife’s life is threatened and that death may truly do us part way before I ever thought possible. I have nightmares about speaking at Melissa’s funeral, with her family in tears and my young kids staring at me looking for answers. I have anxiety about trying to raise two kids on my own, knowing that I am completely inadequate compared to their mom, and that their life will never be the same. None of it makes sense, but unfortunately, so many people are faced with this challenge. So many families are impacted by this disease, too many fathers, mothers, sons and daughters are lost to this illness every day. I try to appreciate what I have right now, today, in the moment, and not spend all of my time thinking about the worst case scenario. I know that I will regret wasting away this time agonizing over something I cannot control.
A few weeks ago Melissa and I were able to go to the Super Bowl. I am a life-long Patriots fan (you hate them too? Sucks to be you) and with the game being two hours away in Houston, we couldn’t resist. Our mentality and approach to life has been influenced by this overwhelming uncertainty. We want to live for the moment, because we don’t know how many we will get together. The game was of course amazing, with a 25 point second half comeback and an atmosphere that was surreal. It was an unforgettable night, but the best part, was that for a few minutes we were completely distracted by something that wasn’t cancer. We got to jump up and down and scream and yell for the right reasons. We got to have fun without the feeling of associated sadness that has accompanied many our special moments because of the unspeakable implications. It made me appreciate how supportive she has been of me, taking on my rooting interest in sports because she cares about me, and she cares about what I care about so much that I am not sure who was more excited when they won the game in overtime. Her expression of equal parts disbelief and joy is something I will never forget, and I will be forever grateful that I got to share that moment with her. For all of the heart-wrenching moments in the past year, this was one of my most cherished.
Allow me to get on my soap box for a moment. I want everyone who cares about her to approach this that same way. She has always been someone who shows up for her friends and family. When people need her, she is always there, usually at the expense of her own personal benefit. Because of everything that has happened, I want people to do the same for her, even if she would never expect that of you on her own. I want people to make the effort that she deserves and show her how much you care about her and that you are pulling for her to make it through. She will never ask, but she shouldn’t have to. Treat her like she has always treated you, I promise, you will never regret this decision. So many of you have done this, many of you so unexpectedly. People you would never expect show such incredible support that it is truly humbling.
Thank you to her cousin’s DJ and Tracy for coming to LA to meet us and take her to Universal Studios. Thank you to her cousin Alex for flying down from New York and spending time with her during Thanksgiving. Thank you to the Jurgens clan for flying out during Christmas and allowing her to see everyone and create memories in home she has created for our family. Thank you to her mom for dropping her life to come help us during scan week, Cam’s birthday and to attend the Super Bowl. Thank you to Mike and Melissa Santarcangelo for picking the boys up from school while we are in Houston visiting MDA to get second opinions on her treatment.
Thank you to everyone who has taken a moment in the last year to put her first. I know how much she loves you and appreciates you for this.