Sometimes, my heart grows heavy when I am forced to stop and acknowledge what I’m really up against. It should be noted that I try my damnedest not to think about these things. Out of sight, out of mind works quite well as a coping strategy for me, thank you very much. (Don’t try to tell me that denial isn’t really a coping strategy.)
I spent some time looking through GoFundMe for people to help. But then something prompted me to use “colon cancer” as a search term there and my mental state was all downhill from that point. I couldn’t help noticing how many of the fundraising efforts began while the person was still battling cancer and how many of those had updates within two years that the person had died.
I haven’t started a GoFundMe fundraiser for my husband since we’re still able to hold on to a decent standard of living at the moment. I really really really don’t like asking for help and I prefer to do so only in times when I’m truly in desperate need. I try to be honest with myself about when things are really that desperate. I figure that day is much more likely to come for me in the future after I lose my husband rather than while he’s still alive.
But that thought about the odds he faces got under my skin, like a splinter you can’t quite get out and only end up driving it in deeper with every effort.
Yes, he’s beaten the odds and is cancer-free. But for how long? Once you’ve had cancer, it’s never really gone forever, which is by far the most insidious thing about it.
There’s also the Covid factor to consider. I read a Dallas Morning News article about Covid comorbidities just before embarking on my browsing of GoFundMe campaigns. In fact, the DMN article was what led me to look at campaigns this time (though I semi-regularly do so anyway just to look for people to help.) What struck me about the DMN article was that cancer was the co-morbidity factor they listed first in terms of Covid hospitalizations.
Everything feels so fragile. The fact that he’s still here, most of all. Knowing how quickly that could change. And knowing that with that one change, I would likely go from being able to help others to being dependent on that help myself.
From there, I don’t know if I was just on a morbid streak or what, but I decided to look up my grandfather’s obituary online. In it, it said that one of his life’s biggest activities was being a devoted husband to my grandmother.
I remember when my mom called to tell me that he had passed, she referenced his devotion to my grandmother as though it was something she didn’t deserve, a fact that made my mom shake her head. I could hear it in her voice, the implication that his devotion wasn’t worth it.
Yes, unquestionably, my grandmother could be a difficult woman. She wasn’t afraid to speak up about things that displeased her, even very small things. She didn’t try to consider the wants of others or apologize for wanting things her way. She got more needy and demanding as she grew older. Like most women in my family, she wore the pants in her marriage. Her devoted husband worked hard to keep her happy and it made him happy when he succeeded.
My mom is the same way, though apparently she doesn’t see it. My dad is every bit as devoted to her as my grandfather was to my grandmother and often it seems like she doesn’t recognize the unreasonable nature of many of her demands or how far my dad goes to try to keep her happy. And yes, I believe the same is true with my husband being devoted to me as well.
Maybe the great difference is that I’ve begun to recognize over the years that I’m expecting to have things my way and to know that it shouldn’t always be the case. I think I’ve become less needy and demanding as I’ve grown older and I think my husband would agree. Just because I have a husband who works hard to keep me happy doesn’t mean that it’s something to which I’m entitled.
But in a sad sort of way, I also recognize that I can’t take it for granted that my life will always have this unconscious benefit. Unlike my grandmother and my mother, I’m not likely to get to stay in that default mode for my whole life of spending it with someone who’s devoted to keeping me happy.
The common saying goes that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. I do know what I’ve got and the past few years, even before the cancer diagnosis, were awakening to that fact. It’s been really lovely to see how much better things have been since we both started really appreciating each other.
But that still doesn’t change the fact that I’m going to know what it’s like to live through the “when it’s gone” part of that saying. And sometimes that reality breaks through the thick bubble of my denial and the heaviness of everything I’ve been trying to avoid thinking about comes crashing down on me.