The brightest light in my universe went out on June 24, 2016 after a 1127 day fight against glioblastoma multiforme.
My wife, Diane, defied expectations by lasting a little over three years with her GBM. While none of our doctors would ever say anything like, “You have this many months to live,” they did quote the statistics regarding median survival times of 11 to 14 months. Diane was past two years when the recurrence of her GBM reared its ugly head. And she was beyond three years when she finally let go. Take whatever lesson you can from that.
What Diane is, is the right combination of everything. She is one of the smartest people I know (graduating from law school before she was old enough to enjoy a celebratory drink!) but is, at the same time, one of the goofiest. She's not exactly graceful or particularly athletic but she runs obstacle course races with me. She carries a deep passion for people she cares about and is fiercely loyal and protective but, at the same time, she can curse out SoCal traffic like a drunken sailor. And she was the bravest, strongest person I ever met. Even after being diagnosed with a terminal illness, she wouldn't stop being an advocate — continuing to work on behalf of her clients. In fact, she was at court just a few days before we learned of the recurrence of her GBM.
For over two years after her diagnosis, we lived our lives. We did some exciting things — traveling to the Grand Canyon, driving down the Coast Highway, cruising the Caribbean, even watching me rappel down the side of a building for ABC2! We enjoyed our families — terrorizing a grandniece on the log ride at Knott’s Berry Farm, going roller skating with them, being dazzled by our niece's dance recital. And other times, we just sat together at home. Holding hands. Talking about nothing. And everything.
All of this is why I gave her her nickname. She's not too hard. She's not too soft. She's not too hot, she's not too cold. She's just right. That's why she'll forever be my, "Baby Bear."
I don't know anybody who's met her who hasn't opened up a spot in their heart for her. As an attorney, she works in an inherently adversarial system but she still manages to be friends with the people against whom she'd argue cases. And I'm reasonably sure that my friends and family prefer her to me on the whole. Once when I went to visit my parents while Diane was attending a meeting near their new apartment, as soon as I walked in, I could see the disappointment in their faces as MY OWN PARENTS asked, "No Diane?"
She has lived her whole life being there for other people. I’ve never met anybody so giving of themselves. She knows how to give you what you just what you need to make yourself better. She always encourages me and pushes me to do and be better but always has a safe place for me to land.
Even after she got sicker, she tried to give me that safe place: At about 26 months post-diagnosis, she collapsed at home — which earned us another trip to the hospital. I broke a promise I’d made to myself that I wouldn't cry in front of her. She looked up at me from her hospital bed, gently touched my face, and whispered, "Don't be sad. It's going to be all right." Then the waterworks really started. Even being as sick as she was, she still managed to care about other people — about me. Even when, in frustration over the situation, I'd get angry, she manages to calm me down and refocus me.
I just realized that I’ve been slipping into writing about her in the present tense here and there. I should go back and edit it but I probably won’t. Sorry if that makes it confusing to read. I’ll try to do better from here onward.
The disease was now really taking its toll. She became increasingly altered and physically weaker. After a brief stay at the hospital and then a skilled nursing facility, Diane was released home. We tried treating the recurrence for a time but it was back with a vengeance. So within a short time, we decided to let nature take its course and Diane entered into hospice.
Although the prospect terrified me and seemed initially to scare her as well, she was, at least, in the comfort of our own home. The doctors, nurses, and aides who came by regularly to take care of her were amazing. And I stayed by her side throughout this time. We still managed to laugh together. We still enjoyed the company of family and friends. And although she was altered and weakened, she was still, at her core, Diane.
We made it almost six more months on hospice; she went through several cycles of getting weaker and then rebounding. But her last decline felt different. At 3AM, her nurse woke me up and said it was probably time. So I sat by Diane's side and held her hand. I told her that I loved her. I told her that even though I wanted her stay with me, she should do what’s best for her right now and not to worry about what I wanted. That if she needed to go, I would understand. No matter what, I would still love her forever. Always. And that soon, there’d be no more pain, no more struggle, no more tears. Just peace & joy in His forever love. And one last kiss, one last, “I love you,” and she peacefully drifted away.
I don't know what the world or my little piece of is going to be like without her. I don't like it.
It hits me at the oddest times. Pulling into a particular fast food joint that she took me to for the first time. Driving a particular shortcut she proudly showed me. Watching a certain TV show that we used to watch together. Finding some clothes in the back of the closet that she had bought for me. Whenever something happens – good or bad – my first thought is always, "I can't wait to talk with Diane about it." That really got taken away from me. Still, I find myself talking to myself as though she were right there with me.
I miss calling her in the middle of the day for absolutely no reason. To talk about absolutely nothing. And absolutely everything. I miss the special ring tone that I assigned to her, that I haven't heard for months. I miss our road trips to everywhere. And to nowhere. I miss her shortcuts. I miss glancing over at the passenger seat and seeing her. I miss coaching her through her exercise walks. And I miss having her drop me off miles from the house to run back to her. I miss sitting next to her watching television. I miss getting pissed off together at cliffhanger endings. I miss hearing her complain about insurance adjusters against whom she's fighting cases. I miss her smile — the smile that everyone talked about. I miss her laugh. I miss her.
I made a promise to love and to cherish until death us do part. That’s not quite right. Or at least not quite complete. Death doesn’t end it; I will love and cherish Diane, always.
I love you, Baby Bear.