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Telling the Children About Cancer

Wanting to run away from Cancer

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Wanting to Run Away From Cancer

November 10, 2006


So very hard. Terror. Wanting to run away—but there’s no “where” to run to.

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Some of the office work must continue. It seems like such an irrelevant thing to do, but there are deadlines our clients have invested in, deadlines that keep revenues coming. If Martha’s cancer crisis lasts for a long time, we will need the income.

I have made a list of a few things that must get done, and in the early morning, I cross the yard to the side building where we have our office. I force myself to do those tasks. Normally, I love being in the office and feel I am very fortunate to have been able to create this business. Today, however, nothing feels good. I am so aware of Martha lying on the couch in the house, of her chair here in the office remaining empty.

Everything’s wrong with this picture!

We just didn’t see this crisis coming.

Since yesterday, sometimes when I look at Martha lying on the couch or sitting in the black living room rocker, an incredible thing happens. It’s as if she is not there. What I see is a black hole. Like in a photo where a person has been cut out and what remains is a blank spot where the person had been. Am I being prescient or paranoid or melodramatic? This frightens me, and I try to bring her back into the picture, to place her clearly in focus.

She comes back into the picture, but she keeps cutting out and I have to keep filling her back in.

When I ask her if she wants me to get on the phone to make medical appointments for her, she says, “No, this is something I need to do myself.” Martha looks up a few numbers and begins calling. She feels she needs a general practitioner. She makes an appointment for Monday with Dr. Peggy Wyman. Dr. Wyman had been her mother’s doctor, and Martha had taken Ladora there many times, had spoken with Dr. Wyman on those many occasions.

“Why didn’t I go to Dr. Wyman earlier?” Martha says in disbelief. “Last year?”

“Because you distrust allopathic doctors to create health. Because you believe that they are a useful tool only for distress.”

“But I was in distress.”

She also calls her counselor Paola for a session. “Will you come?” she asks me. “Sit in with me?”

Martha has also called the office of Dr. Linda Samuels, the oncologist at Central Maine Medical Center. The receptionist who makes appointments tells her that the doctor cannot see her until December 13 as she is leaving on November 28 for ten days.

We are a bit stunned. It is only November 10. The wait is clearly too long, but Martha makes the appointment anyway.


Incredibly, these days are like a honeymoon. They are precious. We are closer than we have ever been. What is odd is that I experience a deep pleasure in our days together, and then I sink into sorrow—sorrow so deep that it impedes my breathing. We speak to each other in a very soothing way, say things that we do not frequently say to one another, say things in quantities certainly that we do not usually speak in.

“I may die,” she says, but I do not want to hear that. I am sure that I can help her through this illness. I am sure because one of us needs to be sure about a positive outcome, but I realize she is practicing what saying “I may die” feel likes.

But, I tell myself, even as she says “I may die,” that Martha will not die. She will pull through!

Even so, I remember David saying the time with Linda before she died was special. Am I living that time with Martha?

These words—”I may die”—sound like words a crazy person would write. Yet, death happens; relationships come to an end. One person survives.

I don’t want to survive Martha. I want to continue to live with Martha.


Denis and I have not shared our news with Zoé and Max. We need this time to ourselves. Just a little more time to be as a couple. Somehow when we tell them, which we will do soon, my cancer will be public.

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