As we drove home around the mountains today we have been noticing these hawks flying over the Hudson…they are magnificent and in a couple of months there will be golden eagles and bald eagles joining them. The leaves are rich with autumn colors and the river is sparkling.

Although this is a longer way to go, we enjoy driving above the river and watching the birds and going over the Bear Mountain Bridge and up through the winding mountain roads. It’s very peaceful.

Today as we watched the hawks, they came down so close to the car. Michael likes stopping and looking at them, and if we are still going for radiation when the bald eagles start nesting, we’ll stop and take some pictures.

Michael seemed peaceful as we stopped and watched the birds swoop down. With the river as the background, they glide through the air, close to the cliffs, and sometimes look as if they are going to pluck someone right off the mountain.

There is something about revolving your life around someone with a terminal illness that makes you appreciate the beauty of life. I’m a city person and don’t care much for this sort of thing but these days it makes me feel alive and appreciative of life. I like to take Michael to see the things he enjoys, which is the river and the mountains and the wildlife. I want him to have everything he wants and everything he needs.

As we watched the birds it occurred to me that most people would be having seizures or symptoms with one brain tumor, malignant or benign. And there was Michael, living and breathing for months, maybe years, with three malignant tumors. And except for some irritation and confusion in the two months prior to his seizure, he was living a normal life with THREE, (YES, THREE!!!!) malignant brain tumors.

I don’t know what it was about watching the birds soar, but I started to think that if someone can live with three malignant brain tumors, without symptoms, for as long as he did, maybe he has a shot of beating it…of defying all the odds…not just getting the tumors to slow down…but to eradicate them altogether.

I know it’s magical thinking on my part but more and more I think about the fact that he has so far beaten every time table we’ve been given (to survive in the first place, to wake up after a medically induced coma, to be eating on his own, to go to rehab, to go home).

Yes I know the doctors said that there is less than a one percent chance that he will survive beyond six months, but doctors have been wrong. They have been wrong in many cases.

So I drive myself crazy and then make matters worse by popping onto the internet. I pull up every single thing I can read on anaplastic astrocytomas and know that Grade 3 and 4 survival rates are usually less than a year although many are up to 2 years. Yes, I know that usually people with long survival rates have different tumors–THOSE are operable and there is only one and Michael’s are inoperable and has 3. So I go up and down as I read these dry predictions of survival rates for anaplastic astrocytomas. When I put in our variables, it seems grim.

Then I read survivor websites where they say “Five years ago the doctor gave me six months to live.” and I think that one day Michael will write that sentence. But many of these people seek out alternatives and for brain tumors, there are none. There is not a lot going on outside the treatment Michael is already receiving.

Up.

Down.

I remember Bobby Murcer, one of my all-time favorite Yankees, he looked like he was beating brain cancer…then he was gone. I try not to think about how healthy Bobby looked before he went down for the last time. I think about other famous people who died of brain tumors and were gone in a short period of time. A malignant brain tumor, especially an inoperable one, is usually a death sentence.

Yet I can’t go there. I talk to Michael about the days ahead and how he is going to buy me popsicles every single day once he’s better. I talk about going to Italy. I talk about buying another house. I talk about him fishing with the boys in the spring. Lots of time I just talk.

Today he was confused again…he had bathroom issues and felt nauseous for the first time. His hair is falling out in clumps now. On the way home he closed his eyes for a time in the car and held tight to the seatbelt strap to steady himself even when we were driving straight and slow. He said he felt like we were moving side to side even when we were not. We’ve had a good week but I sense some deterioration again today. Today he is not doing well.

So when I stop the car on the mountain he seems grateful. We watch the birds for a few minutes and he seems peaceful.

Up.

I ask him if he wants a hot dog and he does not. That is unusual for him. He hangs his head.

Down.

He then looks up at the birds and smiles as they come close.

Up.

We sit for a few minutes and then he says wearily, “I’ll be better once I get home and can lay down…”

I pat his arm, put the car in Drive, and pull up toward the road. The birds are so close, so very close…they hover for a minute near the edge of the cliff. I point them out, again, to Michael who has somehow drifted off in the last minute.

I look at the birds as they soar above

and then gently glide away….

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