Daze of My Life: Of Primary Concern
Daze of My Life
Of Primary Concern
By Kenneth B. Lourie
Not that I'm cared for, primarily (or otherwise), but my wife, Dina, has (and will have) the role of my "primary caregiver" when push comes to shove; and pull, hold, lift, etc. Not that such care is required at present (thank God!) but, there is an ongoing and likely scenario where such hands-on (literally) care will be needed. In the interim though, Dina has some additional responsibilities to be sure, and definitely has her own emotions/fears/anxieties concerning my unexpected diagnosis/demise to somehow manage and assimilate into her life and her own life's expectancies. It hasn't been - and it won't be - easy.
One day, your present/future is as you anticipated/expected, meaning you're semi normal; free of disease, disability, death, devastation. The next day, the calendar turns and your present/future is in fact disease, disability, death, devastation. One hundred and eighty degrees in 24 hours, and 13 months to two years instead of the rest of your life (30 years, give or take) is a bit more than the average bear, or spouse in this case, can bare, really.
And bare it lays your emotions. There's no real preparation or training for such circumstances. Although my diagnosis wasn't confirmed over night, it took almost two months of testing and scanning, the fortunate fact that I was basically asymptomatic (and basically still am, save for a few minor inconveniences) likely created a convincing yet false sense of security. Until the biopsy confirmed the cancer, each doctor/each subsequent scan never offered any real confirmation (at least so far as was shared with us at the time) of the seriousness of the working diagnosis. My normal appearance and all my "No" answers to their probing lifestyle/symptom questions (some of which presumably should have elicited a "Yes" answer to indicate something was rotten in my Denmark, didn't: Are you coughing? Are you short of breath? Do you smoke? Have you smoked? Are you experiencing any pain or discomfort? Any cancer in your immediate family; mother, father, siblings?) was somewhat perplexing. Apparently, my negative answers didn't confirm their positive findings. All of which contributed to the Lourie version of shock and awe; when my biopsy ultimately confirmed the malignancy and it was determined that my body/our way of life was definitely being attacked.
Of course, I was/am the target, as it were. But Dina is certainly collateral damage, at a minimum. She wasn't attacked per se, but her way of life certainly was (and has been). In some respects, it's almost been easier being the patient. It's my body, my life, my routine. I know the drill. For the significant other/primary caregiver however, they're sort of on the outside looking in, while being inside unable to look out, if that makes any sense. She knows a lot, but is still dependent, to some degree, on what I tell her (and what the doctor says, what it all means, etc.). And getting a clear and predictable picture of a cancer patient's future, given the nature of the cancer business is almost impossible, yet equally impossible for the patients not to want it/almost demand it.
Unfortunately, I sort of know what's going to happen to me. Dina, on the other hand, doesn't really know what's going to happen to her. It's (she's) dependent on me and my health. It's totally out of her control. All she can do now is wait for the other shoe to drop, so to speak (remember, I'm a salesman by day); and for a woman who loves her husband and her shoes, it's an extremely difficult way to live.
Kenneth B. Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.