Contradictions

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times. It seems rare to have such an awareness of my current circumstances while I’m in the midst of them, rather than only understanding them retrospectively later.

For so many years, we were beyond broke. I carefully budgeted our groceries to stay below a certain amount. We rarely got new stuff. Back-to-school was a nightmare as recently as last year, with all the class fees due right after shelling out money for new school clothes and supplies.

Of course, it’s easier now that we only have one in school, but it still would have been easy this year. Between my husband’s better job, my disability payments, and my freelance work, I haven’t been the least bit concerned about money in months. We even have savings again. My only fleeting worries about money are what-ifs regarding my husband’s possible premature death and if I’ll be okay. But as I said, those are fleeting.

I literally got the notice of approval for disability the day after my husband got home from the hospital. Our financial situation instantly improved in that moment. It’s those kinds of coincidences that sometimes make me think there must be some kind of God.

Yet at the same time, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about cancer anymore. New symptoms make me wonder if they’re signs of metastasis, whereas before I probably wouldn’t have thought much of them.

It’s almost like I traded money worries for cancer worries, but I know life doesn’t work that way. Cancer is random and it’s unfair. It makes me feel especially helpless because I’m not the one with the cancer, I’m just the observer. I am completely powerless to take it away.

I will also say that cancer puts multiple sclerosis into perspective. My husband always says that they can’t be compared because he’s shooting for a cure, whereas there is no cure for MS. But cancer feels more immediate, scarier, more acute. MS is more of a constant low-level background noise. It never goes away but it rarely feels like an emergency.

If I can be grateful about anything in the midst of cancer, it’s that we are doing so well otherwise. At this time last year, my husband had taken a low-paying retail job in addition to his full-time job because I was too sick to work and we weren’t getting by otherwise. His car was falling apart and wasn’t safe to drive, but he had to drive it anyway. He often tried to fix it himself, despite not having a background in doing so.

Now he has a safer car and is able to get by on only one job. On the one hand, he wouldn’t be physically capable of working a second job or trying to fix his car himself anymore. On the other hand, it’s strange to finally feel financially stable while his health is suffering so much.

It seems like he shouldn’t have to suffer at all given how hard he’s worked to support us. But that’s my own guilt to work through. Again, cancer is random. I just wish we could enjoy the financial stability without the suffering at the same time. Hopefully, we’ll reach such a day when he finishes chemo. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in all of this, it’s that life offers no guarantees.

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