When I looked up the prognosis for anaplastic astrocytoma the word “poor” comes up a lot. This is because these tumors arise from brain cells and therefore can never be truly eradicated. Even if you have a benign grade 1 astrocytoma, chances are that eventually you will have a higher grade at some later point. These things seem to be indestructible. But people who have had the lower grades tend to do well for many years and if they are operable and responsive to treatment, it can be a long time until they come back.

But that’s not what I was looking at.


When I first started reading the survival rates for grade 3 astrocytomas, 1-2 years comes up a lot. And usually that is when they are operable, which Michael’s is not. Plus he has 3 and not just one.

And while the one on the left side is small and could be graded between a 2 and 3, the two on the right side are large and diffused (no clear boundaries) and at least one of the oncologists thinks there are “portions” of grade 4 in there. Because there is so much cancerous mass and they cannot give him the highest level of radiation because he’s getting whole brain radiation, the estimated survival rate is measured in months instead of years.

The first time I heard the diagnosis of anaplastic astrocytoma, I knew that things were serious. I had cried the night we brought him in and the first week he was intubated and unconscious. But I wasn’t sure what I was crying for…there was a good chance he had a virus and that it was treatable and he would be 100 percent cured in a few weeks. That is what I hoped for.

Now I was faced with the truth that there would be no cure. There is no cure. There can only be dormancy and with the size of the tumors, there is not a lot of hope for that.

I’ve been a grief counselor since 1994 and I have gone through my fair share of grief and loss but I have never had anyone like Michael in my life, therefore I had no clue what the thought of losing him would be like.

I’m an independent person and we have lived apart due to moving to different parts of the country…so I thought that no matter what I would be okay…but that isn’t so.

The first time I heard the words “terminal” I felt as if a freight train had run me over. The only way I could describe it is that I heard my soul scream. While I was looking at the doctor, the “me” in my mind’s eye was standing on a precipice screaming and screaming and screaming. The thought of losing Michael, the only person in my entire life who has loved me unconditionally and been there for me in absolutely every way was so incomprehensible that I felt as if my brain was going to split in two from trying to understand it.

So many wonderful memories immediately sprung to mind. There were so many in the 12 years we’ve been together. We are two compatible peas in a pod and he is the first person I speak to each day and the last person I speak to each night. We are both interested in vastly different things, we both have incredible independence and a need to spend some time alone each day. But at the same time we depend on each other to be the one voice of reason, the person you listen to and share with. We also have a great time together and have had the most fabulous vacations I’ve ever known.

There is a comfort and an easiness that I have never known with another human being. And I know he loves me unconditionally, adores me actually, and I can count on him day in and day out.

So the thought of him not being there anymore felt like a large ripping sound going through my head.

And I wanted

to scream
and scream
and scream

and never stop screaming.

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