Tyler was my age. Ten years ago, he was diagnosed with a rare form of throat cancer with a high mortality rate. (He never smoked.) Tyler went to my friends at M.D. Anderson, where he received radiation treatment, followed by surgery to remove the tumor. He went about the business of surviving.
Three years ago, after an argument, his wife killed herself. He had spent the night at a hotel and came home the next morning to find her sleeping. He noticed that her head was lying at an odd angle on the pillow, but thought nothing of it. Tyler went out to run some errands and came back to find his wife had shot herself. When the autopsy was completed, he was told that she apparently took an overdose of medication and, waking to find that her suicide attempt was unsuccessful, she pulled a gun out of the bedside table and shot herself.
Tyler struggled to regain his equilibrium the past three years. I'm not sure that he ever really did, though. As a suicide survivor, I know that road is long and treacherous. I can't imagine how it's possible to recover when your wife shoots herself, in your bed, after an argument. He went on and tried to find a new life.
Every year since his surgery, Tyler had to go back to M.D. Anderson to have scar tissue from the surgery removed from his throat. He had his last surgery about three months ago. He left a message on our machine a couple of weeks ago, wanting to hear how I've been doing. It was something Tyler did regularly.
His message sounded almost like he was on a respirator. I could hear his labored breathing in between phrases. There's only so much you can do with scars. Ultimately, removal of scar tissue only creates more scar tissue. For Tyler, the scars finally made it impossible for him to breathe and he died in his sleep.
Here's to you, Tyler, to your long struggle to survive. Here's to your will to endure your wife's death. We walked the same paths, but now you've left me far behind. Would you have guessed that I'd be crying for you? I am, just as I'm celebrating your courage and tenacity.
So long, Tyler. We'll all see each other soon.