(Jimmy Buffett reference)

(Caregivers – The Deluxe Version)

My wife made steak along with some other stuff the night before I called my doctor to begin the whole sordid affair that became my cancer years. Three of them, so I have no complaints. I have many friends who have lived with it longer and been much braver and more disciplined about the whole thing than I have been. A great many of them are women, which is not surprising, since they seem to carry most of the burden in our society, with less of the credit and cash that they deserve, not to sound political. But enough of them are men too, of course, and I seem to be the only wimp among them :).

My wife is a nurse. She is a wound care nurse. They refer to her in these parts as an ET nurse. If I have said this before, I have forgotten. Skip it if you know it. It means she works on wound care, of course. Sometimes, many times, it is gunshot wounds. That makes for pretty exciting times, what with the policeman standing outside the door of your patient’s room, for instance, or people trying to cop some time with your patient so they can see what a shark bite looks like (that is rare folks, so do not avoid the water just yet).

She also, more importantly, I think, teaches nurses and doctors and patients how to apply appropriate wound care, and even how to care for themselves (hopefully just patients) with their ‘bags’. You know what I mean. Any kind of -oscopy is likely associated with a bag at least for a time. She teaches people how to fend for themselves, how to change them, how to protect the wound area, the whole bit. People come to rely on her greatly for this service. She works at the largest hospital in our area, in fact, a rather large urban/suburban area, and is one of just two in the entire hospital complex who provides this service.

She is simply awesome at her job.

I don’t know if she knew I had cancer the night before I called my doctor. But she made steak. And I couldn’t quite eat it. I have said before, had I known, I would have eaten it, I would have found a way. But my tongue hurt, and I am a grumpy guy when I am in any kind of pain, and I don’t remember eating any of it.

I wish today that I had either eaten it or remembered eating it. Either would be good, right about now. A friend of mine who had his tongue rearranged nine years ago has commented that he may never eat steak again, and I have the same feeling re myself. Thus, the reference to a cheeseburger in paradise. A cheeseburger might BE paradise! I have told many people, and may even be repeating myself here, that restaurant commercials on television are like porno to me now, although I’ve never seen porno, of course, and only use that strange reference because others have told me about it.

To get to the point though, I do not remember a time since then when my wife has not been by my side when I needed her. She was not there for the initial emergency reaction of my personal doctor, who told me to gather clothes and head off to the hospital. (I was not naked in his office. He meant that I should gather MORE clothes from home, preferably clean ones, although I only inferred that, and head for the hospital.) And she was not there when I got to the hospital.

I have hospiphobia. (And by now you may have noticed that I seem to have lots of phobias like that guy Monk on the television show. I don’t, really. Some of them I claim because I think they are funny. But I do have puncturephobia, and I do have cancerphobia, and, um, yeah, hospiphobia. Seems like every time I go into a hospital there is something wrong with me or with someone I know.) I don’t like going into a hospital alone. I get this feeling I will be lost in the system, and by the time my family finds me, they will be looking at a toe tag. I probably watch more television than I think I do. But I digress…

After that, she was there the entire time, my wife, that is, and not some television actress. I do not know how it can get better than that. (Okay, some television actresses might have been better, but probably not in this situation.)

She was there at that particular hospital later in the evening, and when the biopsy came back, and she was there to insist that they haul my butt to her hospital (along with the rest of my body, I should add), where, somehow, she had already lined up the doctors of choice for my care, one of them certifiably one of the best in the country at his job.

I went into the hospital for two weeks before we even thought about surgery, to make sure I could handle it. And she was there, sleeping on the floor on a mat of some kind, the entire time. Male friends, who I never thought would come into a hospital, came to visit. (MY male friends, not hers, you sick people!) I was surprised and happy. I am a man. Hospitals suck. I will see you when you get out, or I will take one of the handles if you do not. I am not going into a hospital to see a male friend. But they did (I think they are my male friends???).

They looked, of course, like kids brought into the principal’s office with no excuse for pulling Peggy’s pigtails. But they were there.

And so was my wife.

I do not remember any of the rest of my family being there for this two weeks. I am probably forgetting because I was on Demerol or some such for at least part of the time, and because it was three years ago and now that I am an ancient man I can’t even remember how I survived the Ice Age without thermal underwear.

I do remember those two guys coming to see me, and I remember a few lady friends coming as well, although if I were to be brutally honest with myself I would admit they were really coming to see my wife, who was trying to work and care for me and sleep on a mat on the floor in my hospital room.

I prefer NOT to be brutally honest with myself, of course, and so I remember them coming into the room bearing palm fronds and grapes, lotions and potions and erotic emotions.

Remember, I was doing the Demerol thing. But the grapes were good!