Sometimes I awaken with an image or a clearly crafted sentence in my head. Recently, it was the tattoo I would get around my left wrist if I were to get one, that is. But this post is not about the tattoo. Today the message was a four-word phrase: "Water under the bridge."
I met a couple yesterday, one of whom is a breast cancer survivor; the other, newly diagnosed with testicular cancer. It was she, not he, who, in casual conversation mentioned his diagnosis. My ears perked. A backstory was shared with both contributing, and part of what I heard was this: "I know the chemo room and the chemo chair and the whole routine 'cause I went through it with her. Now it's my turn. I wish I didn't know all that, but I do. And I always thought if one of us has to go through cancer treatment, it's better that it be C, because she's the strong one." Plenty to bear witness to, and frankly, it got me wondering about a plethora of things.
I had not previously considered how one person's experience with cancer might impact, for better or worse, the cancer experience of their partner when they too received that diagnosis. I certainly have considered some of the ways our own experiences impact those around us, but I had not put much thought into how a couple, both with a cancer diagnosis (either concurrently or at different times), might help or hinder their respective journeys.
Addressing their different coping styles, R elaborated: "She's strong, stoic. I'm known for my deadpan humor. It drove her nuts when I'd say dumb stuff during her treatment and reconstruction phase, but it helped me cope. It's how I am. But the thing is, now she's the one resorting to sick jokes and poking fun. She knows it's gonna help me."
There you have it: for better or worse, in sickness and in health; the willingness to enter into the moving water under the bridge, to splash around with our loved one in a common pool, and make our way downstream.