I am always intimidated by having to express into written word how I feel. I often feel that my words are inadequate; however, I was deeply honored when asked to share David’s and my story and to contribute to the poignant, powerful and touching blog “52 People You Should Meet”. The question posed to us was,” What I wish I had known?” This is obviously a very thought provoking question and not easy to answer.
David and I were married at the age of 21. I can honestly say that we did not know much at that time in our lives; however, being young, dumb and in love, we were sure that we could conquer the world. We did not exactly conquer the world, but we did build a good life. Over our 27 year marriage, we raised three children, adopted a few pets, learned many lessons (sometimes the hard way), made multiple moves, made many friends, shed a few tears and had many, many good laughs. Although, our life was not perfect, it was more than good, and we were most definitely happy. I knew that we were blessed. In the spring of 2007, our world literally crumbled around us. I do not think that anything could have prepared our family for the road that lay ahead of us.
In early April of 2007, David started to experience an odd warming or tingling sensation in the right corner of his mouth and the pads of his thumb and forefinger of his right hand. They were infrequent in the beginning but over time increased. The first time he told me about it, I actually laughed at him. I wish I had known that something so innocuous and seemingly benign were actually focal seizures. Those sensations were the first known signs of David’s brain tumor. It took until June before we knew what we were dealing with. I can say with confidence that knowing about the brain tumor earlier would not have changed David’s outcome; however, the complications from surgery may have been less had the tumor been smaller when it was removed.
When David was first diagnosed with the brain tumor, I thought the worst of the worst had happened. I was wrong. In November of 2007, a virus settled in David’s spine and left him paralyzed. Although unusual, this was probably caused by his cancer treatment. He spent the next three months in three different hospitals. I watched horrified as my husband’s dignity was stripped from him. I spent countless nights sleeping in hospital chairs and learning how to care for a paralyzed patient. I was able to bring David home in February of 2008 and did my best to care for him. It was a privilege and honor to be David’s caregiver, but it was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I watched helplessly as he lost hope and became weaker each and every day until he died on July 19, 2008. It was gut-wrenching. I have said multiple times that had I known that he was going to spend his last days and months paralyzed and miserable, we would not have done treatment after his surgery. Instead, we would have just enjoyed what little time we had left together. With that said, I am not sure that it is possible to enjoy time with a loved one while waiting for them to die.
So many times, I have asked why? Why did a good man have to get sick and die? The answer has to be, why not? I drove myself crazy trying to understand how a young, vibrant, active and healthy man, could get so sick with brain cancer. Did he eat something? Was he exposed to something? The truth is we will probably never know those answers. Life is not always fair, and really bad things do happen to really good people. I have also asked more times than I can count, did we do everything we could to save him? And yes, we did. We sought the best treatment from one of the best brain cancer centers in the country. David had Glioblastoma Multiforme which is the deadliest form of brain cancer there is. There was no cure for it then, and sadly, there is still no cure for it.
“What I wish I had known?” After thinking long and hard on that question, the answer is nothing. Life is not meant to have a crystal ball. I personally think that knowing ahead of time about the wonderful surprises we will experience during our lives, will only dim their joy. And I think knowing ahead of time about the horrible things life will hold for us, will only paralyze us and prevent us from living fully and experiencing all the joy we can. As cheesy as it sounds, life is meant to be lived wholly and completely, and that cannot happen if we know what life will hold for us.
After David had died, it was almost impossible for me to wrap my head around the fact that the world kept going virtually unaltered, and my life was in pieces around me. The pain was so intense that it literally took my breath away. The visions of that thirteen-month nightmare lived with the kids and I for months and even years. In fact, for a time, I was afraid that I had lost the previous 26 years because all I could see was the nightmare of the last 13 months of David’s life. Thankfully, over time, the good memories did return. I can say that, for the most part (we still have some bad days), the kids and I are doing well now. It has not been an easy road, but we have learned to experience and treasure life’s joys again. We have also learned not to feel guilty about it.
I always knew that David and I were blessed (and I still am) with an amazing family and wonderful friends. I will never be able to pay forward all of the love and kindness that was shown to us during David’s illness and the years following his death. My kids and I were shattered and shut out much of the world around us. Fortunately for us, our family and friends showed a lot of patience and did not give up on us. They were waiting when we were ready to join the world again.
We miss David each and every day, and it is not necessarily worse during holidays or special occasions. Although days like today, Father’s Day, still sting a lot. David was an amazing dad and loved his children tremendously. I have no doubt that David looks down on his adult children with nothing but pride. I see a piece of their wonderful dad in each of them and that brings me tremendous comfort. This is the sixth Father’s Day our children have had to whisper “Happy Father’s Day” to their dad and hope he hears. I know he hears…
With David Always in my Heart,
Editor’s Note: This post is about David Fries, Beni’s husband. It is not the same David that is mentioned in normal blog posts. David Pearson is my son’s name. Sorry for any confusion. – Amanda