A few weeks ago, I sat with my husband on the patio. He seemed extremely bummed and it was clearly visible on his face. I sat there, looking all frumpy – no makeup, hair tied up in a bun, yoga pants, an old t-shirt, and my bedroom slippers – when I finally asked, “What’s going on, hon?”. He turned to me and said, “Oh, I don’t know…it is just whatever today” and went back to looking through his phone. Obviously, I didn’t like the answer I heard so I started stewing on it…
Even as I laid in bed that evening, I was still bothered by it. He was lying next to me, quietly snoring, so I decided to start going through pictures in my phone. That’s when I recognized a pattern emerging: when I was all dolled up with a huge smile on my face – he too, had a huge smile. The fine lines in the corner of his eyes became more pronounced from his grin, and he looked genuinely happy. Then I found pictures where I wasn’t smiling so much – looking a lot like I did when I asked him what was wrong – and I realized it’s me, I’m the whatever.
Gary has been extremely supportive since the time I got diagnosed with breast cancer. If I was up in the middle of the night, sobbing from the bone aches and nausea, he was right there to carry me to a hot bath and fetch me some mashed potatoes. He made sure I got out of the house for fresh air over several months, as I struggled to not fall into a deep depression. When I lost my breasts, lymph nodes, hair, eyelashes, ovaries, and my mind, Gary was right there to tell me how beautiful and intelligent I was. Gary was my rock; however, now my rock was ready to get back to us and living our life.
Admittedly, I have often felt like a burden to Gary, family, friends, and even co-workers. It is hard to be the patient; however, I really think it is extremely difficult to be a caregiver. Gary’s sense of helplessness – that he couldn’t fix me, or take all the pain away – resonated very deeply with me. I had seen the same look on his face before on others: on my mother, father, sister, family, and close friends…all of those who came to sit with me/visit after chemo/radiation treatments…all of those that watched me go from being a vibrant, strong woman to somewhat of just an empty shell of what I use to be. I don’t have children, but if I did, I’m sure I would see it on their faces, too.
Throughout my chemo/radiation/surgeries, and even today, I try my hardest to look as pretty and put together as possible. It is not about vanity; it is about trying to not look like total shit on the outside when that’s what you feel like on the inside. And to be perfectly honest, it sort of worked for me in changing my perceptions about myself and what I was going through. No one knows how you feel – physically and mentally – but your caregivers are always going to strive to be empathetic. If you look happy and well, those surrounding you will reciprocate, and look happy and well.
[This post is dedicated to Gary – my “bug”, my rock – I am truly blessed to have you in my life.]