For the past week and a half, since my husband Jonathan had eye surgery to correct strabismus, I’ve been applying a thin line of ointment to his inner eyelids each night. It’s been something of a slapdash operation–the ointment sometimes sticks to his eyelashes, sometimes runs down his cheeks. It makes me wonder how on earth I ever got drops into our daughters for pink eye when they were little—Jonathan, unlike them, has not even screamed or squirmed. Eventually we figured out that if he rolled his eyeballs back into his head, the ointment got within spitting distance of the target area. Still, it’s a lucky thing I never aspired to become a brain surgeon.
All of which sparked my memories of a year ago, in the days following my last chemotherapy infusion, when Jonathan gave me my final Neupogen shot. (Neupogen stimulates white blood cell production.) For five nights of each chemo cycle, I’d lain on the couch while Jonathan swabbed my exposed belly with alcohol before carefully plunging a syringe into the fatty tissue. The first cycle we’d nervously joked about the movie Memento, in which an injection gone awry leads to amnesia and an excellent film. But nary a drop of blood did he draw the whole time. I can’t imagine entrusting myself to anyone else.
There were many steady hands holding me throughout six months of treatment–my doctors and the always cheerful Kaiser staff, my therapist, my yoga class, Michael at Pine Street Clinic, my daughters (who in honor of my remaining wisps of hair dubbed me Gollem), and, of course my many wonderful friends and family members who cheered me with delicious food, walks, emails, flowers, CDs, presents, visits, and funny YouTube links. I wouldn’t have made it through without everyone.
Yet the steadiest was Jonathan, who was there from the first terrifying news of diagnosis through it all: hours of surgery not knowing how far the cancer had spread; uncooperative catheters; private sadnesses and fears; doctors’ visits; a wife with no appetite who didn’t put dinner on the table but who still obsessed about her weight; hair loss; and all the usual demands like taxes and college tuition. On top of it all Jonathan worked 10-hour days to keep the paychecks and medical insurance in place, and he did it all without complaint. He even endured my most incessant question: “How do you really feel?”
I’m not sure how he really felt. But I feel incredibly lucky to have him: steady hands, steady heart, mind, and soul.
Who’s your steady?