Every family will at some point come into crisis. Statistically speaking, with 25 members of Catherine's side of the family, the odds have always been that something will happen. Well it has. And no matter how prepared the statistics make you, they can't help you. For the first time ever, the rational, Aspie side of my brain has had to take a back seat and learn a skill I never knew I'd have to.
My brother in law Matt has recently been diagnosed with Oesophageal cancer. It has spread to the lymph nodes and the liver. Without going into too much medical detail, it's bad. It seems awful to make this about me in any way as I'm not the person suffering, but as this blog is supposed to deal with my perception of things that happen in my life, it seems necessary to talk about my take on this event.
I've always struggled with major news like this. Wherever it's come from. It's entirely because it's a rare occurrence. I have never been able to create coping strategies for the worst news. I've not had to fortunately.
A touch more background. Matt is Catherine's second eldest brother (she has four). He's 42, is married to the wonderful Jo (for 12 years) and has the most lovely son Sebastian aged 10. I was 'the hired help' at Matt and Jo's wedding back in 2005 prior to my relationship with Catherine. I played a spot of Piano for them whilst they all ate a gorgeous dinner. Background music only. It was because of kind words and encouragement from Matt and Jo that Catherine considered going on a date with me BEFORE she became my girlfriend. They believed in me before my wife did. They are both clearly excellent judges of character. In all seriousness though, Matt and Jo welcomed me into the Henderson (Cath's maiden name) family with open arms. I was one of them from the start. Even when I was just Cath's complete geek of a boyfriend who could've easily been dumped with a week of dating Cath, Matt and Jo always told Cath that I was worth it. I think Cath still believes that. Even now. They are godparents to Benjamin and much loved people. Suffice to say, my love and trust for them is deep.
Battles like this happen for many people worldwide every day. It is a constant struggle for many as they come to terms with what is happening. Matt is luckier than many with his support network. He's also fit, active, healthy and eats well. Most importantly in my mind is his own personal attitude. His drive and focus on winning this fight is inspiring. Truly. I've never known anything like it before. A determination and utter faith in himself and those around him. It's simply amazing.
So what has my Aspie brain done with all of this stuff. This rubbish situation that pervades my family life. Well, for once, I'm glad that I've got this Aspie brain. I've completely compartmentalised the situation into two manageable halves. Stage one, I tried to explore how I feel about what's happening to Matt. I've cried. I let the panic of not knowing what to do wash over me. I've mentally thought about all outcomes of this awful situation. Then I moved to stage two. I don't want to think about the bad stuff. I know many people regard this as avoidance or denial, but I've considered those negatives and I reject them. I don't feel this is naive or silly, I believe (and I know belief can be all encompassing and unforgiving for an Aspie), but I believe in Matt. I understand the situation he is in. I understand the mountain he is facing. I can intellectualise the facts of the situation, but that doesn't HELP anyone. Not even me. It doesn't help me at all to understand the full rainbow of outcomes. So I've buried them. My Aspie brain has pulled a rabbit out of a hat for me. It has allowed me to throw away those terrible thoughts and focus upon the only thoughts that are truly needed for this moment in time. My positivity, my belief in Matt, Jo, Seb and all my family and a positive focus on what can be achieved by Matt on this journey. I will not be philosophical, I will not be pragmatic, I will not allow myself to consider the worst anymore. It is not necessary for me or my family.
People often think that Asperger's syndrome means you don't have emotions. This is completely untrue. For me, it is the inability to manage my own emotions and inability to predict others without analysis. This situation has created some of the most upsetting and deep analysis I've ever done. It has forced me to consider things I felt guilty thinking about. Although I'm happy to have reported that my mind has made peace with itself, it is not without that looming shadow of fear and worry behind it. Fortunately, despite feeling like a robot sometimes, I'm not actually one. I do indeed have emotions and I know what they are. Matt truly is the hero of his own story. His strength and awesome example are the most inspirational thing ever.
A crowd funding page has been started by one of Matt's myriad of friends. It asks for whatever people can spare to help fund further treatment for Matt abroad as his particular development of cancer is considered incurable in the UK at this time.
Please follow the link below, read, share and please donate what you can.