Of course he has cancer. I mean what healthy, rock of the family, baby-whisperer perfect man wouldn’t get it? Especially after looking after the Multiple Sclerosis-ridden wife who loses control of her legs and sometimes, right before her infusions, can’t lift her head up off the ground.
I just kind of crawl around town with my head dragging beside me, trying to take care of my family. Of course the healthy and strong of the two would get it because life is all about irony, no?
I say all this sarcastically to a God I defend fiercely. I'm walking around muttering this to whoever is up there listening. Jesus? Grandpa? Vince? Anyone?
Since my diagnosis I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop. I've been looking for the abyss. I know how life works.
It's funny because people used to try console me about my MS. They'd shower me with all kinds of lovely words to try to comfort me, to keep me going. They'd say things like, "You don't deserve this, but we know if anyone can handle this it is you." Despite the loving intention behind these words, I always knew not to buy into them because bigger things happen to better people all the time. I always felt like ‘the bigger’ was coming. Many thought I was optimistic, inspirational even, when really I was just paranoid. “Watch,” I thought. “He will be the first to fall. They will be stuck with me, alone.”
He’s been out in San Fran for a month working at the U.S. Open. He was tired. He wanted to come home. I was tired and counting down the days; two kids, different freelancing projects. Multiple Sclerosis. Picking him up was like Christmas. It was marked on the calendar and yet we were trying to ignore it. Occasions like this you must ignore or the wait is torturous.
I was trying not to hear the bells until the very last minute and then I hopped in the car and drove to Newark International. On occasions like this, even the Turnpike looks beautiful and snowy on a stifling summer day. You can smell cinnamon and apple pies over the sewage. The drive feels cozy. Daddy is coming home. And he did. He landed. We did a big family smoosh-hug thing. We were happy and everyone was where they should be.
And then a few hours later he was standing over me. “Mama, I can’t breathe, call 911.” He collapsed after the last audible ‘one’. I’ve used my iPhone a kabillion times; funny how I couldn’t manage to change screens and dial three little numbers when my husband needed me, for once. The one time he needed me I couldn’t operate a fucking phone. I couldn’t move my fingers.
I finally got it right. I was trying not to yell. I wanted to soothe him, and the babies. They were sleeping in the back room. Was the door shut? They can’t see him like this. Is the door shut? My thoughts were more like flashes. The way you see memories from when you were 4 years-old. Flashes of thoughts, subliminally connected. Not necessarily connected, but kind of.
At some point he got up and I tried to guide him to the couch, but he collapsed again in the kitchen. 911 walked me through it. I got a pillow and put it under his head. “You’re gonna be ok baby. They are coming. You’re gonna be ok.”
His eyes were open. The dispatcher said this was a good sign. I could see a huge light outside the living room window. Right when I realized that I had to open the doors to let them in, he said he had to go to the bathroom.
“Don’t let him go alone,” the dispatcher said.
“Baby, I am just gonna open the door for the cops. Just let me unlock the doors and I will take you.”
I went to unlock the doors and it was one lone cop. I left him there and bolted for the kitchen, but he was gone. He had gone to bathroom, alone. I found him slumped over the tub; the shower curtain wrapped around his head. He back side in the air. He was thrashing violently. He didn’t make it to the toilet.
I remember trying to get the curtain away from his face so he could breathe. I kept telling him I loved him. And then the paramedics came. Thank God for the paramedics. Thank God for 911.
They let me take him home last night. His last test was at 5:30 and then I took him. He has to see an oncologist next week. They think it’s Carcinoid Syndrome.
I keep thinking of him, and my sickness. I keep comparing the two. I keep seeing him slumped over the bathtub with his face wrapped up in the curtain. Seizing. I keep feeling total shame at the moments I ever felt pity for myself and my MS.
The beauty of me being sick is that it wasn’t him. And it wasn’t them.