“Do you think I’m going to die?” Joe asked.
“No, why in the world would you say that?”
“I don’t know,” he shrugged.
“It’s just that,” he continued on looking down. “That cancer newsletter I got, well, it said colon cancer is terminal.”
“Who cares? ” I answered (though deep down, of course I cared.)
“The way I see it,” I said, “life is terminal. I mean it ends doesn’t it?”
Joe just looked at me, ” It does, but I mean do you think I’ll make it to 40? Can you imagine that day? That day when we find out the cancer is back? Honestly, I don’t think I can take that day. The fear of that day is painful enough. I mean do you think I’ll make it to 50? Do you see me making it another 22 years?”
These are the conversations you have when you have cancer. Your best day holds fear of when the worst day will hit again.
Joe’s cancer is genetic, or so the doctors tell us. They say that means it’s more aggressive and like any kind of cancer once you get the bug it’s easier for it to come back.
Joe never harps on this but in rare moments you’ll see a wave of pure worry on his face. It was one of the first things he thought of when he was first diagnosed. He said to me, “You can leave, you never signed up for this.”
He’s always worried about me and though I act unphased I’d be lying if I haven’t thought of it myself. I’ll have dreams of myself dressed in all black wearing one of those giant black hats with black lace over my face. I have no idea why all of a sudden I’d be blasted into another decade and lose all sense of fashion. But that must be years of movie wathing that has told me what a mourning wife must wear.
“Will I be a widow?”
It was a question I asked my mom and grandma in the hospital with tears running down my face. Why had God played this trick on me? Why had I finally met the perfect person then he’d take him away from me? I worry about what my life would be like. Who would want a widow? I’d probably be fat by then and lost all my charm. Would I lead a lonely life?
These aren’t topics you’re suppose to talk about or think about, but they are real. They are life. They are the thoughts cancer implants in your head whether you want them or not.
Joe tells me I’ll be a really rich widow and he tells me who I can date and who I can’t. He basically has narrowed the list of people down to Derrick Rose, Michael Jordan and Brian Urlacher. So it’s looking pretty good for me.
There’s only been a handful of times I’ve seen Joe cry and it’s always for me and for his mom. He cries because he doesn’t want to ruin my life he says. He cries because he cannot handle causing his mom one more moment of pain or worry. He cries for our unborn children wondering what their life will be like and if it’s fair to bring them in the world if he can’t guarantee he’ll be there.
Yet, I feel lucky. I feel lucky it isn’t a car accident. It isn’t a sudden heart attack. It isn’t a bloody crime scene. There are a lot of ways that life can be taken from you and you’ll never get the chance to be real, be honest and be love. Cancer lets you do all of that. You hold on tighter, love longer and say everything that enters your mind. It’s nice. It makes life look you right in the face.
Through most of this I’ve been strong, but I do have my moments of feeling sorry for myself. I cried to my mom once and questioned if this was worth it, what was my life going to look like.
She told me I can do whatever I want and I can run if I want. She told me I had to ask myself if spending one year, 12 years, 50 years with Joe was better than spending no time with him at all?
She told me I had to ask MYSELF these questions and no one could answer for me.
I paused, thought and knew the answer, it was easy.
The thought of losing the love I had versus never knowing this love was right in front of my face.
Most people spend their whole lives looking for this kind of closeness, a best friend who happens to be incredibly good looking. I was lucky enough to have found it and I’ll cherish every happy, sad and crazy moment we have—- forever and ever and ever.