A Valentine’s tribute

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A medical crisis is not without its benefits, not least of which is its highlighting the supports we have around us. When leukemia first landed me in hospital a few years ago, friends cut a trip short to assume care of our two dogs, others offered food, medical consultations, crappy magazines (my favourite kind), words of encouragement, or whatever else they could. And an incredible medical team kept me alive. All this good fortune was noted and appreciated, and J. and I realized how truly blessed we are.

In addition to all these external supports, I had J. I always knew I was blessed with a brilliant, funny, competent, and otherwise incredible spouse. But my leukemia diagnosis brought this truth home. I’ve never known anyone who handles crises as effectively as J. We met 14 years ago, around the time I first got sick, and by the time I was diagnosed with leukemia, J. had long proven herself to be a loyal, caring, and devoted companion. Many times I have encouraged her to trade me in for a younger, healthier model, but she has refused. And trust me, medical issues aside, I am not easy.

J. really outdid herself when I was admitted to hospital with leukemia. She visited me for hours daily, kept abreast of and involved in medical decisions, and advocated for me as necessary. She e-mailed our social network with medical updates and read me their encouraging responses. Once I was discharged from hospital, J. stayed home with me while I recuperated. Initially I did really need her there: my balance and coordination were off, I could not drive, and, because I was so tired and weak, I could barely contribute to the running of the household. Over time, J. felt safe leaving me home on my own, and eventually she returned my car keys. I trusted her judgement because I was not so sure of my own. Most recently, she has willingly assumed the role of primary breadwinner while I remain unable to work full time.

Since I gained my unwanted entry into the Cancer Club, I have met many people who have been in much more challenging situations than me. Some are undergoing more debilitating chemotherapy or radiation, some are divorced or in strained relationships, some are working through treatments to keep food on the table, some have young children who need care and attention. I marvel at these people’s capacity to cope. I’m not sure I could manage their stresses, to be honest, and I realize I am lucky that I don’t have to.

Earlier this year, J. underwent surgery and needed to spend a few days in hospital herself. She was hesitant to do so because she was worried about how I would manage at home on my own. To be honest, I was an absolute mess, which I hid very poorly. (Crying at her hospital bedside is the most blatant example of my failure.) My inability to cope made me marvel all the more at J.’s strength and support through our many years together.

If she hasn’t traded me in yet, I’m probably safe by now, don’t you think?

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