what a wonder you are
believing in me
I tremble at the steps I must take
knowing I must go on
but knowing I'm loved
a fire in my heart
to warm me in this cold season
new buds will form
telling of spring
— Matthew Sugarman
From 1994 to 1999,Matthew Sugarman was a cancer survivor.His PSA had been checked regularly but never registered high. It was still normal on the day he was diagnosed
with metastasized prostate cancer.
In April 1998, increasing tiredness and a broken rib prompted sharp questioning of his doctor, who reluctantly admitted that healing was not an option. There were no tools or knowledge left with which to save Matt's life; we would have to figure out how to die. Matt's days were numbered in months - three to six - time that
could almost be counted on one hand.
Matt outlived all predictions. He simply did not want to leave. During this time,we learned many things about cancer and many things about choices. Most of this knowledge was acquired through questioning and our own experience, as we couldn't find any literature that discussed this twilight zone between ending treatment and entering the final stages of death. For thirteen months, we filled Matt's dying with more life than anyone imagined possible. Then one afternoon in May, everything stopped. The destruction of his body ceased, and with it, his life.
The knowledge we acquired is not new. Dying, after all, is as old as the earth. Perhaps this compilation of what we found will make the process a little less conf using and frustrating to others. We want to leave something behind: a note or a map, to give some relief to others on this journey.
In 1996,Matt wrote Seasons,a poem about love, but now it seems equally about death. A man, a wife, a patient, a caregiver. And an irrevocable change in circumstance.