I resent everyone’s health. How dare people be healthy when my husband has cancer. How dare they walk around without thinking about cancer. How dare it not be in the back of their minds, buried under every other thought. How dare they.
We’re all the center of our own universe. You want a baby, and suddenly babies are everywhere. You hate large dogs, and now you can’t leave the house without one slobbering all over you. You have cancer, and now it’s all that’s in the news.
The radiation is just as terrible as everyone told me it would be. And it could have been worse. You guys are lucky, I hear. Mmhm, I mumble, changing the subject. Fucking shut up, is what I want to say. He’s so tired. He gets the chills. Everything aches. Food tastes terrible, but he has no appetite anyway. His hair grows back in a different color. His feet swell, his mouth hurts, and I wake up frequently because I’m convinced he will stop breathing if I don’t check on him. I don’t resent taking care of him. I resent that I can’t take enough care; that all of my efforts don’t fix anything. All this tea should make something better, shouldn’t it? That’s why the universe gave us tea.
It’s not my health. It’s not about me. It’s not my cancer. I refuse to repurpose it for my own. But (and here’s where I repurpose it for my own), I haven’t slept more than four hours at a time for six months. I eat mostly noodles because stress makes me feel nauseated. I eat too many noodles because sadness makes me hungry. I feel nauseated because I’ve had too many noodles. I sleep for an hour, get up, eat noodles and sleep for another hour.
This is not about me. This is my mantra as I shuffle from room to room, from washing our separate laundry (they have to be separated because he is full of cancer drugs that will give me chemo cooties) to finding ways to jazz up mashed potatoes (his appetite is almost nil) and make sure all his drinks are room temperature (his mouth is sore). It’s not these details that bother me. It’s that it’s not enough. I could make a million pots of mashed potatoes, and it won’t make him feel better. Clean clothes and warm blankets aren’t fixing a damn thing, and I want to fix this, I want to somehow cure cancer with a thousand cups of tea and picking feel-good shows on Netflix and a nice warm blanket.
But that’s not going to happen. I am not a replacement for radiation. I’m just some asshole who can’t sleep, who keeps finding grey hairs where there were no grey hairs before (in my eyebrow! Why there? Of all places, why?) and who does not have cancer. I’m cancer-adjacent; a Cancer Spouse. This is not about me. This is entirely about me. About frustration with bullshit and lacking the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and the wisdom to know that serenity disappeared with my sleep-filled nights and I will not be seeing it until the radiation starts to leave his body and our lives.
Do other Cancer Spouses feel this way? The answer to “does anyone else do this” is always yes, I know that. But I can’t quite feel it. I feel selfish compared to their selflessness; stubborn in the face of their generosity. And I resent them, these people that don’t exist and do exist, for being better than me. I resent everyone outside of this house these days. I resent everyone who gets a good night’s sleep. I resent myself for my resentment.
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