It’s hard to write anything when the one you love is suffering a potentially terminal disease, where every day sees a deterioration from the hearty, vigorous, person you’d anticipated spending the rest of your days with, to someone scared, pain-ridden, sunken-eyed, and with barely sufficient energy to leave their bed in the morning and make it to the armchair in the living room.
I’ve tried to write how I feel, but always it’s ended up in the ‘delete’ folder. Maybe it’s just that I don’t want to depress anyone? No, that’s not it. God knows, any serious perusal of my past posts on the state of the world would rapidly up the call ratings to Suicides Anonymous. I thinks it’s more to do with an innate fear of exposing my inner self to the outside world. Inadequacy, a sense of not being able to cope, of seeming pathetic, that guilty feeling that the old British ‘stiff upper lip’ in the face of adversity is perhaps not up to the job.
Yet I’ve always despised that ‘British Empire’ way of thinking. It is, after all, a load of bollocks. You know the sort of thing: it’s okay for women to blub, but if a man sheds a tear he’s a wimp. Okay, I’ll hold my hand high and admit, if that’s the case, I’ve been the king of wimps of late. I’ve cried until my head hurt. I’ve gone to bed and cried myself to sleep. I’ve woken up crying. I’ve laid awake in the early hours listening to her moving about in her bedroom because the pain and nausea prevents her sleeping, and I’ve cried.
I cry because I see and hear her suffering, and she’s not even begun any chemotherapy. That comes later. She says she doesn’t mind the dying, but she cannot bear the suffering. Sometimes, I find myself wishing she would die, just so her suffering would stop. I find myself asking, “How could I wish that? I love her.” I’m filled with guilt, but really I know I only wish it because I do love her so much.
Sixteen years is not the longest marriage ever, but in all that time we’ve never been apart. We did everything, shared everything, suffered everything, together. And that, perhaps, for me is the hardest part of all. I can’t share her suffering. Sure, I can hold her hand, I can offer words of support, I can hold the bowl when she’s nauseous or cook the meals she’s too sick to eat, but her pain and anguish is hers alone. To that I am no more than a spectator, sidelined, frustrated, unable to do anything to ease her physical suffering.
She goes to bed early now. That’s why I’m writing this. It’s quiet upstairs. I hope the opiates the doctor prescribed have helped her to sleep. So now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll just allow myself the luxury of a few more anguished tears.