By Belle Piazza
Over the years on The Colon Club, I have read about knights in shining armor. Husbands whose wives they could not do without. Husbands who meet their every need, every moment of every day. And it angers me because I wasn’t lucky enough to have landed such perfection, but this isn’t a vent blog. One of my rules has always been a blog cannot be just a vent, it has to have a purpose, and I will do my best to illustrate my purpose to you now.
He leaves his dirty laundry pretty much wherever he pleases. He leaves razor shavings in the sink. And he pets the cat when he gets home before he ever acknowledges me. Sound like someone you may know? So why, on my last blog I will potentially ever write, would I make “him” – my husband the subject of it? Let me tell you why.
I rarely talk about my husband because it’s just too personal, too painful, too private. My husband will tell you I don’t talk enough about my disease and underestimate my pain or nausea levels. He’s probably right. I don’t like to bother anyone. Truth be told, there’s plenty he has to complain about me.
My husband is far from perfect. And neither am I. For 7 ½ years, together, we have lived with cancer. Cancer is not lived alone, it affects the entire family. For 7 ½ years he worried about keeping a job, so we can have health insurance and still have enough money left over to live a reasonable lifestyle. He comes home every night wondering what he’ll walk into – a sobbing puddle of tears or a raging beast. Usually, something somewhere in between. What will be the problem of the day? An EOB, a bad scan, a good scan, a bad reaction to chemo that will leave me sick as a dog for the next week?
When he comes home from work, all he wants to do is sit down and relax for a moment…or two. And, although debate-able between the two of us, in his mind the minute he sits down, I have a laundry list of “honey do’s” that need to be done that very moment. I tell him they don’t need to be done right away, but in his mind, nothing could be more important.
So, how does a person separate the disease from the patient? In many ways, we become inseparable. The disease changes how you feel, what you do, who you spend time with, it basically affects everything in your life. That’s not to imply that the changes made by cancer are all negative. It does mean that you have to make changes in your life, because of the cancer whether or not you like it.
There are ways in which cancer may have affected Stephen’s career. We talk about this from time to time. Despite several job changes that have based Stephen’s primary work place all across the country, he has refused to move and frequently works from home. He has avoided jobs that require excessive travel, although some travel can’t be avoided completely. Currently, he is happy and I hope he stays that way.
Sometimes I ask him “why do you stay? Why don’t you just leave me? This isn’t what you signed up for?” With a solemn look on his face, Stephen replies, “Honor, duty, I took some vows and it meant something to me. That’s why you get married. It’s that person that acts on impulse that walks out the door. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not duty that keeps me with you – it’s the vow that stops me from acting on impulse.”
Over the years, I’ve met countless friends from all across the country. Inevitably, these friends come to visit. Stephen is a social creature up to a point. As much as he enjoys socializing with my friends, it’s still his space. The disease brings even more people into his space and it can sometimes overwhelm him. While I’ve relaxed my expectations on how much entertaining is required, Stephen still feels it falls on him.
The biggest question looming in my mind is how he will handle being a single dad. We’ve talked about it to the extent that I know he will manage, although I’m not quite sure how, I have faith and trust him.
Planning is not Stephen’s style. In Stephen’s mind, it’s not that he doesn’t care about the future. He just doesn’t plan for the future, until it arrives. If I push him on it, he asks me, “What do you want me to do? Make out a checklist, a yearly schedule? There is nothing I can do about it, until it happens.” I don’t like the answers, but there is simply nothing more I can do.
I have my hopes for Stephen when I pass away. I want him to remarry. I don’t want him to be alone. That is as far as I want to talk about it. I can’t be the person to build up his confidence or sign him up for eHarmony. I do know I want him to enjoy companionship. I know from my personal experience, I don’t want Stephen to die alone. I want for Stephen what he did for me. He has taken care of me and never let me suffer alone.
I know one thing for sure, Stephen has spent the last seven and a half years doing what I want to do, so I get everything in. That’s not to say he put his life on-hold, but our lives have revolved around this “fricking” disease since it started. It’s true, it takes everything from you, from our kids, our spouses, our interests, our sex life and our time. As Steven says it, “I don’t have insight of what a father does, when his wife gets cancer and is dying. You don’t run away. You don’t hide. You don’t get a divorce. You just deal with it. It’s pretty damn simple. “
Stephen, I never write about you in my blogs. You are far too personal to me. I am writing this last blog to you, in honor of you, and all the big things you did for me.