You might think that there's absolutely nothing romantic about cancer, but you would be wrong. Though both Andrew and I would certainly take a pass on this whole experience in general, we have been able to find many positive moments . No, really. For example, we've gotten to spend a lot of uninterrupted time together during these long weeks at the hospital. During the first nine years of our marriage, we were together constantly -- we worked together all day, into the evening at the theatre, and then we would go home together to our tiny 3rd Avenue walkup. After having our children we shifted into a more traditional, busy existence. We were recently spending an afternoon in his hospital room, reading the papers, watching TV, and I thought -- this feels like 3rd Avenue! Cramped room, both of us sitting on the bed (because there's nowhere else to sit), just spending a quiet day together. It was so great, and I realized how much I've missed that time with him, without even being aware of it.
People have reminded me to take care of myself and not get too over-burdened, but rather than feeling burdened, I feel very grateful to be able to help him through this. I see many people on that oncology floor who have no one with them -- they are all alone, and it breaks my heart. I wonder, "how do they manage? how are they getting through this dreadful thing without someone?" Andrew and I have been married for 14 years, and though this is an unwanted experience, it also feels somehow like an important, natural part of a marriage -- helping your spouse through a terrible illness. There is another couple in the room next door, about our age. The wife is sick, and the husband is constantly at her bedside. I know he's there a lot, because I'm there a lot, and I always see him. We're always passing each other in the halls as we go to fill ice buckets or flag nurses, or make trips downstairs to the cafe. He doesn't seem to speak much English, but we always exchange a smile or nod in solidarity. We both understand the bewilderment of being here at this point in our lives.
So tonight I got to shave Andrew's head -- and it was one of the most romantic things I've ever done. I know that sounds strange, but I was really glad to be able to do that for him. The whole hair thing is a huge part of this experience, because it's such a visual signifier of the disease. We've made a lot of jokes about it in anticipation, but the truth is, whether you're a man or a woman it's a tough moment. It's like Samson becoming completely vulnerable -- you really are a cancer patient now, and it's there for everyone to see. Being able to help him through that was really great. We decided it seemed sort of pointless to wait for clumps to start coming out, so I brought the clippers with me tonight and we went to town. Phase 1, and Phase 2 :