Monday, June 18, 2012

What I want to say to my husband the night before he starts chemo

I've been "really brave" and "handing this with such grace." At least people've been telling me so.

My overly analytical brain's been processing this, well, analytically, absorbing medical journals and clinical trial results. Because knowledge is power. Right?

Testicular cancer.

Stage 2c to 3a extragonadal germ cell tumor. Seminoma (better than its evil twin, the aggressive, drug-resistant nonseminoma).

No one prepares you for this diagnosis, especially to receive it within days of your first wedding anniversary.

For about two days, I shuddered - literally - with morbid fears. Then I started reading. Statistics made me feel better, more in control. An "Oh, that's the best sorta cancer he can have!" from my internist during a checkup was assuaging.

Then today, I filled two prescriptions I'd shoved to the bottom of my purse two weeks ago when the oncologist handed them to me. "Fill these and keep them handy. We have great pills these days to help with the nausea and vomiting."

I should have known when the pharmacist handed them over, soft-spokenly answered my questions, and looked at me with a sideways sympathy as if to say "But she's so young..."

I should have known then that one ought really never read the "Contraindications and Side Effects" fact sheet provided with prescriptions. They'll just scare the ever-living shit out of you. Instead, ask your good doctor good questions and move on.

"THIS DRUG IS AN ANTI-PSYCHOTIC," the first fact sheet began. Fuck.

"This drug may cause seizures." And so it went.

And right on cue, my palpitations began.

So, I've been handling this like a champ, right? I've been really brave, right?

But tonight, when my husband finally forced himself to try to sleep, I didn't join him. I couldn't lay next to him like this. A sense of dread - panic? - has suddenly gripped me like a Charlie horse and brought me to my knees.

Instead, I picked myself up and got in the shower. The feeling followed me into the steam. It's like a freight train bearing down on us at full speed, and I must, I MUST, jump in front of it to protect him.

Thing is, we stand so near one another, as lovers are wont to do, that my taking the hit will only delay his own, not prevent it. And what good am I to him then?

But what good am I to him at all, I ask myself.

I press my forehead against the tile and cry out to God, begging for forgiveness for my sins, for my daily lousiness at being the wife I wish to be. I pray that God protects my husband from sickness, that he doesn't suffer, that the medicine does what it should, that he is rid of this silent, sneaky bastard.

(He's had cancer for possibly five years, the urologist estimates, and yet it will ultimately be the treatment that causes his first feelings of illness. Oh, the irony.)

I pray, too, that the rushing water and thin walls of this house mask my sobbing and gurgling. I can't bear for him to hear me. He mustn't know my weakness. Afterall, HE is the one with a fucking grapefruit growing next to his spine. Who the hell am I to be scared?

I don't know what scared is.

So, tonight, what I want to say to my husband, just seven hours before he starts 12 weeks of poisonous cure (God willing), is this:

I can't jump in front of this train for you. There is nothing I can do to derail it. But I will stand right here next to you. We will dig our heels in and brace our arms and muster all our strength. And we will hold off this fucking train together. It will know the power that is us. And you will not fight on this track alone.

No comments: