On a scale of 1 to 10, our life is somewhere around an 8. It would be a 10, truly, if it weren’t for his cancer battle. Life together has always been fun: he completes me and I complete him. We find the joy in every day and find happiness in a simple existence.
People used to comment that we seemed to always be going and doing…. We went to the mountains frequently, since they are almost literally in our backyard. Picnics, hikes, photos, and a view that visitors come from all over the world to see…. Couldn’t ask for much more.
We went out to eat several times a month. One of our favorite trips is to Fresno, an hour away. We have a couple of favorite restaurants up there and shops we like to visit. Podunk no longer has a bookstore, so Barnes&Noble in Fresno is always a fun destination.
We have travelled, too: Yosemite, Yellowstone, Chicago, Milwaukee, Disneyland, Las Vegas, LA, Monterey, and my favorite: Morro Bay. Yet we don’t have to leave town to have an adventure. Even going to the grocery store (Tuesday mornings, mostly) is fun just because we are together.
All that changed on January 4, 2014, at ten-thirty at night: the surgeon walked into the ER exam room and told us: he has colon cancer. We spent the next two hours, alone together, in that darkened room, thinking. And praying. Each time I started to cry softly, he would squeeze my hand and say “I love you.”
It has now been almost five months since that fateful day. To us, it seems like a lifetime. In the beginning, there was numbness, with resolution. “We will fight this” we would say. He said he would do whatever was necessary to help himself get well. I said that, if love could cure his cancer, he would be cured.
The early months were a maze of doctor visits, tests, labs, and trips to the pharmacy. I started a binder to keep all of the pertinent information together and to record his journey. At nearly five months, the binder is two inches thick…
As he began chemotherapy, we were hopeful: he had chemo for three days every two weeks. By the end of chemo week, he was beginning to bounce back. By the beginning of the week off from chemo, he was nearly himself again…
But chemo is cumulative: each time he has chemo, he bounces back a little less. Each time he has chemo, his chances of having all the nasty side effects increase. Now that he has completed nine chemo sessions, bouncing back is minimal…
Now we plan our outings more carefully. We have to optimize his chances of enjoying what we are planning to do. And now, we mostly just go to the grocery store on Tuesdays…
It’s all doable, we both agree. I tell him that we will look back on this time and realize how hard it was, and rejoice that we made it through and he is getting better and stronger. His lab numbers seem to verify that he IS doing better, so maybe all the suffering now will have a big payoff later. I hope so.
It doesn’t bother me that his hair is falling out. Or that he tires easily and has to nap frequently. I look at him, nearly forty pounds lighter than a year ago, and I have grown used to it… His gaunt face is a reminder, to me, of the battle he is waging.
But sometimes I hate what has happened to him. Sure, the massive chemo drugs he is being given have improved “his numbers” but they have taken such a toll on him physically. And when I see that, it is like a fist to my gut….
Last night, as I walked into the kitchen, he was getting some plastic wrap out of the drawer. My “what are you doing” was met with his explanation: “I fixed myself something to eat but I can’t eat it…..” Sitting there on the kitchen counter was a lovely salad: lettuce, tomatoes, and sliced chicken, untouched.
I was so angry! The irony of it all: here is a man who, more than ever, needs nutrition to help his body fight the cancer AND the chemo and he can’t even eat. Why? Mouth sores. Mouth sores that are unabated by “magic mouthwash” and Orajel. “What can I do to help him?” I asked myself…
The truth is, there is nothing I can do except support him, love him, find some more liquid nutrition for him…..and pray.
And I pray mightily. Day and night….