Five years ago, after a six week, long distant relationship, Joe and I spent our first Valentine’s Day together; three years ago I was released from the hospital; needless to say, Valentine’s Day is a pretty special day. For us it does not mean roses, chocolates and hearts, yet it is a reminder of our committed love and devotion to each other.
Five years ago we would never have dreamed that our love story would include a cancer diagnosis, early on in our relationship. I remember picking up the phone to call him, to tell him the news. I remember thinking that I was making a “make-it” or “break-it” phone call. I wondered how he would take the news and what he would do.
For me, I had no choice; I HAD Leukemia, I had to stay and fight the battle; he did not. He could simply choose to walk away; to begin a new search, for a healthy partner. One that did not have cancer, medical bills and treatments that would likely change the woman that he had fell in love with, in ways that neither one of us could anticipate. He could start over fresh; without the burden and heartache that comes along with watching your significant other, suffer. He could walk away from the possibility that I might die.
Fear of the unknown is a scary thing, and yes, anytime you begin a new relationship, have a child, get a new job, buy a house, etc., there is an element of fear and the unknown, but when you hear the words that your once healthy body now has cancer, that fear is elevated to a higher level. It is a fear which involves life and death; and it is scary.
Since I was diagnosed two hours from home, and went straight to the emergency room to be hospitalized and treated, it took Joe several hours before he reached my side. I remember hearing the curtain in the ER cubicle move yet again; I looked up and saw his face; it was a bittersweet moment for me and I began to cry. He was there, he was staying and he was going to love and support me to the best of his ability, forever.
I remember him telling me, that while he was driving to the hospital that he did not know how long I was going to live, but that he was going to figure out how to help me complete my “Bucket List”, and while that may sounds like the sweetest thing in the world, and it is, the fact of the matter is; HE IS, “My Bucket List!” He was, and still is what I want most in this world; a kind, loving man, one that I can share my hopes, my dreams and yes, even my fears with. One that I hope to spend all of the rest of my living days with, one that I can have by my side to share whatever time we both have left.
He is one of the “good guys”, the ones that put others needs in front of their own; one that does not run from complications and unforeseen events. He is one that has stuck by my side despite my constant whining about this or that hurting, about being tired or nauseous, cold or hot or even just plain emotional, and stupid.
He has put up with hours of my speculations and rants about medications and medical errors. He listens to my indecisiveness and my fears, my frustrations and my confusion; he has even begun to pick up my new, chemo brain lingo!
He deals with my hair falling out all over the house, even though it often ends up in his dinner; my bumpy skin, my aching bones, muscles and nerves and even my total lack of focus. He understands that I am not the carefree, independent, self-sufficient woman that he fell in love with, and loves me anyway.
I admire the fact that he takes all of this in stride, even though I know that my illness is taking a toll on him, too. So often people ask me how I am doing, and of course they ask him how I am doing; it is always all about me. If I were him, I would be pretty sick and tired of ME!
I must remember that having cancer affects both of us; it stops us from going on a walk around the neighborhood because I have pleural effusion and do not have the energy. It often prevents us from dancing, due to pain: it affects my overall energy level so laundry, cooking and cleaning often take a back seat, and falls in his lap. Last week we missed a movie date because I did not feel well. It creeps in and affects practically everything that we do; and it doesn't just affect me, it affects us both. I must remember this and be more sensitive to his needs.
I must remember that cancer does not only scare and frustrate me; it scares and frustrates him, too. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be him; if the tables were turned, I would be a wreck. Sometimes I think that having cancer is easier than being the caretaker, the one that has to deal with it all, and yet remains so strong.
I applaud, admire and appreciate my husband more than I can say, and love him more with every passing day. He is my rock, he is my everything, and I am going to try and make this year less about me, and more about him!
Let us all give our caretakers a Big Hand and Thank You!
Happy Valentine’s Day, Honey!
I Love You!