Couples will say, “We’re pregnant”, but they don’t say “We have cancer.” For the record, I hated the phrase, “We’re pregnant.” “We’re expecting a baby.” That’s fine. There’s only one person who is pregnant. I would never want to have missed out on the experience of pregnancy, but I’ve got to say that most of it from a physical standpoint was terrible. This was not due to a bad attitude on my part. I believe this blog attests to my positivity in the face of adversity. I very much wanted to get pregnant, especially since the first almost year long period that we tried to conceive a few years before, was unsuccessful. Every pregnancy is different but I was beyond fatigued, nauseous, and throwing up until I was 5 months pregnant. I remember taking a short walk across the Indiana University campus and having to sit on a bench for a couple of minutes because I’d gotten motion sickness from walking.  After I hit the 5 month mark, I was fatigued, my brain was foggy, my legs ached if I stood still for more than a minute, and I had acid reflux unless I slept upright in a reclining chair. John was ecstatic to be a dad and was wonderful most of the time. It was a stressful time for both of us, though. We hadn’t settled down to a geographic area and John was really sick of moving around the country after different academic positions. He really wanted to go back to Seattle. There was also anxiety about the health of the baby and becoming parents. There were times, when John’s anxiety and stress got the better of him. He once complained that I was walking too slowly (at 8 months pregnant), twisted my arm into going hiking with his parents (I was 8 months pregnant. I slept in the car, in the 90 degree heat, with the windows and doors open), and he once asked me when I was going to start making money. Yes, I am making him look like an a-hole. I also acted like an a-hole from time to time maybe even more frequently than he did. But I did feel, whether fairly or not, that it was his job to “be the better person” because I was bearing the load of, well the child-bearing.

So I have cancer. It impacts the family. My husband has a lot of care-giving responsibilities that he hasn’t had before. He’s got to deal with his own fears about my health as well as his fears that he does not take care of me well enough. (He did have the courtesy this time to get sick before my surgery instead of afterwards.) Our friend, Michelle, who is a psychologist who specializes in treating cancer patients and their spouses, told me that cancer is as hard or harder on the spouse. In many ways I can see how my disease has infiltrated my family and larger social network. So one could say, “We have cancer.” After five surgeries, countless blood draws, meds, radioactive substances, shots in the butt to “shut down my ovaries”, “We have cancer” sounds a lot like “We’re pregnant.” I have cancer. It’s me.

This reminds me of the show, Thirty-Something when the character, Nancy had ovarian cancer. She got involved in a support group and got kind of carried away with a friend she made in the group. The friend was saying things to the effect that having cancer was cool. Nancy was spending a lot of time away from her husband and kids. When her husband, Elliot, complained that their son, Ethan missed their mom, she said something to the effect, “You don’t know what it’s like to have cancer.” Elliot’s response was something like, “No, but Ethan knows a lot about what it’s like to have a mom with cancer.” He actually made a nice little heart felt speech and woke Nancy out of what was depicted as a somewhat self-absorbed reverie. I remember agreeing with his point when I watched the show and empathizing with her.

It is times like these when I am not feeling well but still don’t look or act “sick enough” that I feel this pull the most. I’d like to say, “My eyes are down here” and be defined by the cancer because I feel a little overwhelmed by the expectations of my family and of my job. With my husband, there’s only so many times I can say, “Cut me some slack, I’m being treated for cancer.” It’s true that it’s harder for me to keep an even keel, bite my tongue, and otherwise behave like a mature person. But I still have the responsibility to try my hardest to do so, just as I expect from him.

It’s a tightrope walk and we’ve mostly done a really good job. But I worry some. The next surgery is going to be a lot harder. I’m going to need help getting up and down from bed and the couch, I’m guessing for several days. I know that we’ll get through it but I still feel anxiety about the whole thing.

Oh and did I tell you that increased anxiety has been a side effect of taking Percocet for pain? I’m hoping today is the last day I need to take it.