I don’t know when it sunk in or if it ever really did as it often felt like I was living in this alternate universe. Never in a million years would I have thought that two months after Christmas Matt would have been starting treatment for brain cancer!
About a week or so after receiving confirmation that the mass was indeed cancer we met with the Oncologist at the Ottawa Regional Cancer Center. We were both very nervous, not knowing what to expect….the butterflies in my stomach were at a constant flutter the whole time. We were told that for the first six weeks Matt would be undergoing a treatment regimen of both chemotherapy and radiation. He would have to go into the hospital for radiation but for his chemo he’d be able to stay home as it would be in pill form. The six weeks took their toll on Matt….he constantly felt nauseated, started losing his hair, had very little energy and slept a lot! He wasn’t able to work which absolutely killed him; he loved his job as a Child & Youth Counselor at the Ottawa Children’s Aid Society and felt so bad that he left the kids he worked closely with ‘high and dry’….one day he was there, the next he wasn’t. Matt was one of the few constants in their life and he knew they wouldn’t fully understand what was going on. However he knew that focusing on his treatment was what had to be done at the time.
After his six weeks of treatment he was given a break so we wanted to do something special, just to get away and try and spend some ‘normal’ time together. When we got married we took a short honeymoon to Niagara Falls as we had just purchased our house and our finances were a little tight, so we decided to take a second honeymoon and spent a week at an all-inclusive resort in the Mayan Riviera in Mexico. We had a fantastic time and it will be a trip I will never forget, it was just what the doctor ordered! I will always be so glad we were able to go! I did end up spending a bit of time on my own as he’d have to rest everyday for a couple of hours. I admit, sitting on the beach looking out onto the ocean got me thinking….how and why did this happen? Throughout the years I had these thoughts often, but I didn’t dwell on it and let those feelings take over – yes it was unfair, yes we were young, good people who didn’t deserve this, we had just started living our lives and hadn’t started the family we always wanted, but I had a choice…I could either let Cancer dictate how we lived or dicate how we lived with Cancer. I decided to take the latter!
After we got home from Mexico, Matt started with chemo again. I, throughout this time continued to go to work everyday (I had an office, 8-4 job), leaving him alone. I felt horrible leaving every morning, but I had to go to work; we had 2 cats at home to keep him company but for those of you that have cats know that they are pretty independent so a lot of the time they would spend some time with him and then disappear for the rest of the day. We decided to get a dog, that way he would have company during the day and have something to be responsible for, something to make him want to get out of bed and get some fresh air but also be company for me in the evenings when Matt was gone to bed. He, a yellow lab joined our family the May long weekend of 2004. As I mentioned in my previous post, Matt was an avid fisherman (and really, avid isn’t the right word…..he was obsessed with it!) so when it came time to naming our newest addition, he had the perfect name….Quinty (after the Bay of Quinte in the Belleville Trenton area, one of his favourite spots to fish). Quinty proved to be the perfect companion for each of us!
Over the next year Matt continued with treatment, getting positive results each month. We met with his Oncologist and were told that the tumour was shrinking. Unfortunately surgery was never an option due to the type of tumour he had, so all they could do was work on shrinking it. Matt got to know the receptionist at his Doctor’s Module at the Cancer Center very well and they made each patient feel welcome – as hard as it was to be there, they truly made each visit a pleasant one….they were amazing! We were both extremely fortunate to have both of our parents, siblings and family close by and they were here for us whenever we needed them! Our life became normal, well a new kind of normal! There were good days and there were bad days, days when he couldn’t get out of bed (which was usually a few days after chemo treatment had started), and days where he felt good. He was hospitalized shortly after we brought Quinty home, but it was for 2 weeks and that was it.
Every summer since I had known him, he bought a ticket for the Great Ontario Salmon Derby put on by the Toronto Sun, and he was determined more than ever to catch the heaviest Chinook Salmon of the week during the 2004 contest, and wouldn’t you know it, at the end of Week 5 he did it!!! He was fishing with his Dad out of Port Hope when he hooked the winner! He was over the moon, ecstatic that he won…..this was definitely the high he needed and so deserved after everything! To see the joy and pride in his face and when he talked about it, truly filled my heart! Parts of his old life, that passion and drive he had was back. That September he and his Dad went to claim their prize with the other winners; it was a prize package valued at $40,000.00 that included a brand new boat, motor & trailer. Despite everything that was going on, this time was one of the happiest moments that I will always remember, that huge grin on his face is just something you can’t wipe from your memory, no matter how much time has passed. It was these memories that we would never forget; it is these happy times that I look back on and am so grateful for!