Husband got cancer over twenty years ago, when my first two children were fifteen months and three weeks old. He underwent extensive radiation and chemotherapy followed by a bone-marrow transplant. Twenty years ago, the bone marrow procedure had an even greater mortality rate than it does today, never mind the stats he was facing from the cancer itself. It was intensely scary, although, I realize now how little I was afraid at the time. I never worried about how I would support my children if Husband died. I never thought about what it would be like to raise my kids without their father. Instead, I was subsumed by care for babies, visiting doctors and hospitals, waiting for results, getting yet more tests. All the while Husband was feeling so poorly. Still, he was determinedly, uncomplainingly, single-mindedly powering through. His positivity was a force that carried us all along.
Years later, only disparate details from that time remain sharp – the squelch of sweet smelling sanitizer, my hot breath through the face mask, the cracks and discoloration of the gray-white hospital ceiling, the ache of my lower back as I rose from hours sitting in the brown vinyl hospital chair, the vomiting, the screech of metal as I scraped the entire side of the car against the hospital carpark post. I remember finally flooding tears when Husband was released from the hospital, and I realized that even though he was now home, there was still no end in sight to his illness. It would take a long while for his decimated immune system to repair itself. I remember during bleak moments writing Husband’s funeral eulogy in my head as I walked.