My husband had surgery to remove his cancer last week. Science is amazing. Somehow, the physician was able to freeze away the tumor on my husband’s kidney through two tiny puncture wounds on his back while my husband was in a cat scan machine. Every day, I’ve been checking his bite mark as I like to call it, cleaning it, dabbing ointment on it, and marveling at how something that looks like a vampire bat got cranky and nipped my spouse might have saved his life. He is tired, and I am too. The doctor believes he burned away all the cancerous cells, but we won’t really know if all the bad stuff is out until his next scan a couple of months away. I think we’ll stay tired, because it’s exhausting to wait. Even then, no matter what that scan shows, it will drain me. Cancer is a ghost, always haunting.
As I look back over the previous days, I realize I should have taken more of the help that was offered. I kept comparing our situation to other more dire situations, or I perceived them as such, and felt it wasn’t appropriate for me to actually say yes. I allowed one friend to cook us dinner and I was ok with that because we haven’t seen each other in several years. I should have been ok with it because my husband had surgery and I was terrified. No matter how minor his procedure might have been, I cried the entire way home from the hospital, petrified that he wouldn’t wake up. I wiped tears away as I emailed teachers about unusual behaviors in our kids. I forgot to eat and lost track of time, sitting in my chair.
The cancer he did have just a few days ago may still be there later and this might happen all over again. Next time something this frightening comes along, I’m going to try and remember that just because I’m capable of cooking for us, doing our laundry and dishes, etc. doesn’t mean I have to do all those things. Accepting help when it’s offered provides time to grieve, to process, to re-watch superhero movies because you desperately need the good guy to win. If I need to take 4 showers a day because no amount of soap can wash away the anxiety and make me feel ready for anything in my life, a good casserole might at least lessen some of the guilt I feel about the time I spent trying to pretend I’m ok when I’m not. Maybe saying yes, not just saying that I’ll say yes, but actually saying yes will help me stop pretending, because I’m ok, but I’m not really ok. I’m in the place where everything is in between and nothing feels like I know it well enough to name it.