Yellow and orange autumn leaves litter the streets. A cold snap sings a lullaby to flora and foliage. This season reminds me of the Greek myth of Persephone. She eats the pomegranate seeds that doom her to life underground for several months a year. Her mother Demeter, goddess of agriculture, mourns her daughter’s loss to Hades for that time. Thus, during winter no plants can thrive or grow.
Fall brings death; the earth rests in her life’s cycle. The beginning of November is Día de los Muertos, the Mexican tradition of Day of the Dead. We celebrate memories of ancestors; our loved ones who’ve passed on. The timing feels appropriate.
Six years ago, October, I lost to cancer a dear friend who was like a sister to me. That same month and year, only days later, my husband Evan was diagnosed with non-Hodkins lymphoma. He’d asked a cosmetic surgeon to remove a protrusion on his neck which two previous doctors had dismissed as unremarkable. The biopsy of the tissue revealed cancer on his anterior cervical (mid-neck) lymph node. That was utterly shocking; no other symptoms. Further tests showed cancer in his abdominal lymph nodes as well.
All that winter I felt as if I were not breathing. It was not the air temperature, I was accustomed to that, but the loss of two central pillars of my world. How could I live without them? In a flash Evan’s health could fail, leaving behind a fatherless toddler and me, his wife. The timer could give us seconds, or years. Please let it be decades.
A wider perspective allowed me to see that any loved one, or I, could pass away in an instant. I simply was more conscious of Evan’s mortality because of his illness. Somehow that diminished my pain and panic. All will cease to be, and who knows when.
We have been fortunate beyond imagining and Evan’s condition has been stable since rounds of a medication targeting his B-Cells five years ago. The doctor recommended we go from yearly CAT scans to every other year, because the tumors are not growing larger right now.
To me, the primary lesson of standing beside a spouse with cancer is to occupy and breathe in the full span of every human interaction. When I hold our child’s hand, I feel wonder and gratitude as their mother. When I hug Evan goodbye and hello I savor our embrace. Such focus defines and outlines the moments in a new way that is more intense, more appreciative, more present.
My family is here right now, and I am alive. For that I am thankful.
Evan’s next cancer scan is Wednesday, results on Thursday morning. So, those days may bring good, bad or so-so results. I’m extremely conscious that I have no control over the outcome. Ironically, my relief at happy news may leave me exhausted, while sad news may steel me to soldier on. Writing this post was like a meditation. Next, I’ll inhabit each instant from now until Thursday at 10:05 am to hold worry at bay. Whichever outcome arrives, I’d appreciate very much your virtual hugs and support.
Gracias for reading Fake Flamenco. ¡Olé! –Rebecca