If you’re itchy, are you scratchy?

The beauty of an intimate relationship is that couples can be honest with one another. I probably wouldn’t tell an acquaintance or friend if I didn’t like her outfit (although you never know with disinhibited me), but I’d be sure to tell J. And I trust the same of J.: I can count on her to tell me what she’s really thinking.

You won’t be surprised, then, to learn, that on Saturday morning, J. said: “You look like you have cancer.” She had never said this to me before, even though I’m sure there were many times she’d thought it. I wasn’t looking my best around the time I was diagnosed with leukemia and for the following two or three months. Anyone would have known I had cancer back then.

When we go to the Cancer Centre, many of the people who are there for treatment don’t necessarily look cancerous. J. can easily tell who has cancer, whereas I’m not always so sure. Maybe there’s a cancer equivalent to gaydar, and J. was born with more of it than I was. Or maybe she’s just more astute. Yes, that’s probably it.

J.’s comment on Saturday wasn’t hurtful since I do have cancer. If she’d told me I was fat or unsightly–she never would, mind you–I might have been upset but she just told me something I already knew. When I asked her what she meant, she noted that I was especially pale, had black circles under my eyes, and looked unwell. I glanced in the mirror and agreed wholeheartedly.

On Saturday, I obviously looked like I had leukemia, but I actually wasn’t feeling half bad. I managed a fairly full morning and early afternoon, and I didn’t even slow J. down all that much when we went out to run a few errands. But I had certainly lost steam by mid afternoon, and my nap didn’t revive me as it often does. Maybe J. could anticipate something I couldn’t based on how I looked. She is quite remarkable that way.

It was dark when J. left this morning–she starts work at dawn–so she made no mention of my cancerous visage. Had she turned on the light, she might have said, in her honest way: “What the hell happened to your face?” That’s because today I look like someone who got punched in the eye. I had an irritated eye over the weekend, you see, and I was a bit too vigourous in my rubbing. My platelets are very low right now, so I had no difficulty giving myself a nice bruise. Really, it was a selfless act: I was just trying to give J. something other than my cancer to focus on.

How could I injure myself this way? Well, if I have an itch, I scratch, just like a five-year-old child with chickenpox. And just like that five year old, telling me not to scratch doesn’t stop me. In fact, J. has compared me to our itchiest and scratchiest canine, Grover. Now, that hurts.

Labrador retriever scratching himself, back foot on face

Just a little bit to the left.



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