In addition to being the day of my 1st "mini surgery" today, November 9th, is also Madés birthday (and incidentally, November 8th was Dad's 70th). I've been wanting to put "pen to paper" about my wife for a while and her birthday seems like a great occasion.
Getting Cancer, especially a nasty "you may well die from this" case thereof, has been eye opening in many respects. One of the things you quickly realize is the very real importance of friends and family. I'm only midway through this shitty journey and already I have so many people to thank - and to appreciate in a whole new way. From the friends who simply drop me the occasional "thinking of you" note, cook us a meal, drop by for a visit, my colleagues & MBA community who so kindly donated (I'm still embarrassed) to our cancer fighting fund, to my parents and Pippa (my mother-in-law) who provide vital "bridging" childcare for us on a daily basis (and so, so, so much more).
But one person stands out among all others. My amazing wife. You might call her Madé or Amelia (I still wish she'd pick one name to make my life easier). I have to say, Madé has really embraced the whole "in sickness and in health" vow thing.
Madé has been with me at every doctor consult, including the forever etched in memory "you're actually stage 4 and have at best a 50/50 chance" session. She's been at every chemo infusion, including the embarrassing one where I passed out (the reason the Oncology ward now calls me "the fainter"). She was at the hospital at least once every day when I had my little pulmonary embolism episode recently. She was at the radiology planning session when they tattooed me for laser alignment purposes. She was there when the nurse politely shaved my groin so they could shove a clot filter up there. Perhaps most significantly, it's always just Madé there when I have my "Holy shit, I might really die" moments - those occasional otherwise solitary (but I confess not infrequent) moments when hope and optimism fade momentarily and raw fear washes over me.
You get the picture. She's just been there in the most real way.
I have to remind you that in addition to our, ummm, "high energy, high volume" 5 and 3 year old daughters, we also have a 10 month old son whom Madé is still breastfeeding (and who still doesn't sleep well, at all !!!). Oh, and Madé has been trying to hold down a demanding, near full-time job, because she loves it. Yeah, she's pretty amazing. Though again I stress that much of this balancing act is made possible by equally amazing grandparents who live close.
I think it was Winston Churchill who said, "My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me". Ok I lie, Google obviously confirmed Churchill as the source for me, but the quote itself stuck in my mind whenever I first heart it because I feel like it applies so aptly to me. Madé is a better person than me in so many ways. She's far more compassionate - really, she's irritatingly kind. Her style is to just smirk (or maybe it's a grimace) when I swear blindly at an idiot driver in front of us. She's the family extrovert while I'd gladly be a hermit. She's an amazing mother - the kind who is constantly finding games, crafts and other things for our kids to explore and learn, stuff I confess I don't always have the patience for. Oh, and she's gifted my kids with genes that grant them a 50% chance of being tall and beautiful people, while from me they get good odds of early onset baldness and colon cancer.
One of my greatest fears is that things go badly and I leave Madé to do so much alone. It makes me super sad to think the odds of us being a doddery old couple are really quite slim as a stage 4'er, even if I make through this 1st round battle. Ok, I'll be even more honest and confess that an even bigger fear is that she quickly remarries some kind of male model renaissance man who is sickly 'good', amplifying all my own shortcomings. Either way, these are scary thoughts.
Now reader, in case I've mislead you, Madé isn't perfect. But who's perfect and who needs perfect? I used to dwell on some of those tiny imperfections occasionally. Doesn't every spouse? However that now seems painfully stupid. When the shit really hits the fan, these things quickly fade to black. What I've been lucky enough to find is far better than "perfect". I've found a beautiful soul who I know (because it's being regularly tested now) will be there for me even in the really, really, really shitty times.
What I wish for anyone I love is that they find the same, because frankly, sooner or later, the shit will really hit the fan for you too - trust me, I spend a lot of time eavesdropping on conversations in hospitals these days. It needn't be a spouse. It could be a great friend, a child, a sibling but I'd encourage you now to ask yourself who your chief 'hand holder' would be, and if you struggle with the question, you have some of your most important life work still to do.
When all is said and done I know, as well as Winston, that marrying Madé will definitely, without a doubt, be my biggest achievement.
Happy Birthday Madé.