As I sat by the phone awaiting scan results, my sister Jaime — who had come by the apartment for moral support — was generally freaked out at the sight of her big brother shaking compulsively. She pleaded that I grab a blanket or throw on a sweater, anything that might calm the nerves. But it was an involuntary response. Multiple recurrences have cursed my body with a lifetime supply of PTSD, and during each scan experience, the anticipation feels completely traumatizing all over again. There are no greater stakes than when your livelihood is endangered.
About 20 painfully agonizing minutes later, I received the call along with a tremendous sense of relief — "Great news, all clear!" — and immediately reached out to let my wife Kori know. Could she please come home? We had to celebrate! (This had marked over a year of clear scans since I was given less than a 10% to live with metastatic bone cancer.)
Earlier that morning, I had asked her to go to work. We knew my sister would be around if needed, and weren't expecting to hear from the hospital until the following day. In the meantime, it was better for us to keep busy. (For the record: I don't envy the lives of caretakers like my wife. She takes on just as much worry and stress as I do and also manages an extremely demanding career. I have no idea how she does it all.)
When Kori arrived home, our celebration kicked off with the best of intentions. Penny Lane, our fearless, cheerleading poodle, barked with delight to see her mom. We threw on the party jams, loud and emphatically. And broke out our finest bubbly — all, while seemingly forgetting that every time we'd received results in the past (even good news) the whole process was so draining that we were left broken and depleted. Often for several days later.
Then, midway through our first glass, the momentum faded and before we knew it, Kori and I found ourselves bickering.
It was a bicker stemming out of frustration from the constant pounding of questions like how come we have to go through this crap all the time? And why is everything so hard? My wife, who's now spent almost 5 years taking care of me individually, as well as providing for us as a couple, constantly sacrificing her own needs along the way, needed her rock. She reached out next to her for a husband who was more alert, who would comfort her so that she could finally just let down for a second…
I wanted to be better. I really did. But instead, I just sat there, helpless and exhausted. We both did. A few minutes later, we collapsed together on the couch, feeling unsatisfied for not making the most of a rare, celebratory moment. We unquestionably appreciated the greater significance of the day's events and the comfort of knowing we had each other. We just couldn't be perfect that night. Sometimes, that's just the way it goes.