As I enjoy a restful and celebratory day after 33 days of radiation spread across seven weeks, I think about how incredibly blessed I am. When I walked out of the Cancer Center this morning, a group of my close friends and co-workers were waiting outside. They surprised me and blew me away with their love and support.
I’ve been blessed with an incredible support system throughout my life. Cancer just made me more aware of it. I have amazing friends, sisters who have been by my side since the beginning, supportive parents, co-workers who genuinely care, supervisors who’ve cheered me on each step, an Air Force squadron that is second-to-none, amazing in-laws, and, recently, talented medical professionals who treat me like a person, not a patient.
Today, though, I honor my wife.
I’ve already shared this with her, but if given the choice to be the cancer patient or the spouse of the cancer patient, I’ll take my chances with cancer.
Sarah has endured all the things with me, but with even less control over the outcomes. She’s waited outside the hospital when I’ve had treatments and appointments that she could not attend because of COVID. She’s watched my face as the doctors talk about the side effects of radiation and Tamoxifen and the long term outcomes for women with breast cancer. She’s listened to me rant about the “injustice of cancer.” She’s been there as I’ve decided between a lumpectomy and radiation or a mastectomy and possible radiation. She’s talked through the benefits and side effects of each treatment option. She’s stayed silent as I’ve debated about whether or not to have that s’more by the campfire, knowing that either way, the choice is mine to own.
She’s quietly researched nutrition options and made some subtle and some not-so-subtle adjustments to our daily food routines. She’s encouraged me to listen to my body on days when I’ve felt tired. She’s worked her healing magic on the radiation site at the end of each day (using a combination of honey and a silver-based cream). She’s made me a special anti-cancer tea blend to enjoy each day and a cancer-fighting super smoothie to enjoy each afternoon.
She’s been my co-pilot as I’ve moved between anger and shock, sadness and hope, fear and faith. Mostly, I’m an upbeat person. That’s who I strive to be to the world. But, some days are hard. Over the last seven weeks, there were days I fought back tears as I laid on the radiation table or thought about my kids or imagined the emotional rollercoaster to come in a decade-long follow up to watch for a recurrence. On those days, Sarah lived through the grief with me.
Today, I honor my spouse, my Sar-bear, my willing caregiver, my (lesbian) life partner, and my secret weapon.