Not too long ago, Kate and I were talking about cancer. She wanted to know why some people get better and some don’t. Why some medicines work and others fail. I told her that I didn’t know. I said that we had hoped and prayed that each treatment would work, but that I didn’t know why God couldn’t heal her dad. She quickly and simply said, “He did heal him.”
Sometimes I wonder what the world would look like if we could channel the simple brilliance and faith of my nine year old.
Looking at her face that day though, I saw the anguish of the last five years pass before me through her eyes. How much fear and anxiety she endured during Chris’s long illness. Each hospitalization, every surgery, watching Chris fight. It was terrifying for me – how hard it must have been for her.
I’ve been reluctant to write about grief. Many folks have asked for blog updates. I keep meaning to write, but then stop for some reason. Another caregiver who recently lost his wife wrote to me. He said that he’d felt so uplifted during her funeral, but a few days after, he was overcome with grief. Would it always feel this way?
The answer is that I don’t know. I too was overwhelmed by the beauty and celebration of Chris’s life. But, the days following the service were consumed by sadness, wondering if I would ever get out of bed. In the beginning, I would go for long runs. I went to church often. I went against standard grief advice and embarked on a bathroom renovation (which I don’t regret at all).
School started, work resumed. Life and the necessities of it propelled me forward, like the current in a river.
It has been over seven months since Chris died. My days are no longer enveloped in loss, but there are moments of “breakthrough” grief. Sitting in a meeting with people I didn’t know, a flashback caused me to tear up a bit. I faked choking on sip of water and we moved on.
There is relief. It’s hard to write about it. Relief from losing Chris? Of course not. But, relief from the end of cancer. Kate’s teacher from last year stopped me on the playground this week. “When I see Kate in the hallway, she looks wonderful – happy and carefree.” It’s true.
When we were in the thick of the cancer battle, I remember thinking often, “there is only forward” – on to the next treatment or trial. It’s also true now. There is only forward. My girls and me and whatever greatness and joy lies ahead for us. And I do have hope for those things.
As many of you may recall, last year around this time, I reached out and asked you to support the research efforts of Dr. Hans Hammers, the kidney cancer specialist at Johns Hopkins who treated Chris and continues to treat so many dear friends of ours. This year, I’m asking again, but through a new venue. Because of all of you and your generous donations, an endowed fund has been established called the Chris Battle Fund for Kidney Cancer Research at Johns Hopkins.
To say that I’m grateful wouldn’t even do justice. The magnitude of being able to memorialize Chris in such a way is remarkable. The knowledge that this research might some day be needed for my girls makes the need all the more urgent.
Like life, in the battle against cancer, there is only forward. Here is a link where you can make a tax-free donation to our efforts. Just like last year, if you decide to make an online donation, please be sure to specify that the money should be earmarked for kidney cancer research in memory of Chris Battle.
Thank you in advance for your continued support.