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They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks, and I'm getting to be a pretty old dog. But life wants me to learn yet another trick, and it remains to be seen just what kind of student I'll turn out to be. It also happens to be one of the hardest tricks I've ever had to learn.

when cancer strikes

My wife of 54 years has been diagnosed with cancer. We don't yet know all we need to know, but when I asked the doctor how much I needed to worry on a scale of one to ten, with one being "not much," and ten being "major freak out," he said "about a six, edging toward seven." That may not yet be major on the freak-out measure, but it's got me pretty freaked out, anyway, though I'm trying not to show it, trying, as they say in that nitwit's cliché to "man up" in ways lots of widows on this ridge have had to do when they went through the fear and dread I'm feeling now.

My wife, the mother of our children, my life's partner and companion is even more precious to me than those people I've already lost. The treatments she faces, even if efficacious, make me feel weak in the arms as I imagine them, and think of her.

The fact that I lost my best friend to cancer seven years ago, and my mother to the same disease at about the same time, didn't prepare me for this trick the fates are insisting I learn now. As much as I loved those two people, and others I've lost along the way, nothing has prepared me for a blow like this one, nothing has taught me how to deal with the daily demands of this dreaded disease.

My mother went through her ordeal back in Illinois, and though I went there to visit her shortly before she was lost, I was not made to witness the worst of what she went through, did not know her moments of terror in the dead of night, or the pain she surely knew, but kept from me. Nor did I know what my best friend endured before he was taken, though I recall a story of how he went around the desk to comfort his doctor when she began to cry as she gave him the worst news most of us ever hear.

But my wife, the mother of our children, my life's partner and companion is even more precious to me than those people I've already lost. The treatments she faces, even if efficacious, make me feel weak in the arms as I imagine them, and think of her.

I know we must accept the things we cannot change. What cannot be changed must be endured, and I've been told that God does not give us more than we can handle. I also know that palliatives and homilies bounce off the moment-to-moment dread that shows up with the diagnosis of a life-threatening disease.

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So, as so many stricken people have done before, my wife and I take things one day at a time, preparing for the worst, hoping for the best.

But what a bad year this has been thus far. Rick Silva, my editor at the Paradise Post, lost his brother to a traffic accident. Mary Tyler Moore, the woman who could light the world up with her smile, will smile no more. And making everything darker, the newly-installed Trump regime seems intent on destabilizing everything. The shadow of Steven Bannon, white nationalist, hangs heavy over this presidency, and the parade of billionaire plutocrats appointed to head up government agencies mostly lack experience in the realms they will oversee.

Thus far, Trump has behaved like a dictator, and the Republicans are behaving like utter hypocrites, demanding hasty confirmation of a Supreme Court justice even after stonewalling consideration for a nominee sent up by Obama nearly a year ago. And meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people who are facing serious medical challenges like those my wife faces are now also dealing with completely artificial uncertainties created by Trump, Pence, and Paul Ryan as they up end the health care system without offering any details about replacement. The last thing people faced with daily uncertainties about their health don't need is further uncertainties about their eligibility for treatment, or the coverage provided by their health insurance.

We are always proceeding with inadequate information, but all of our struggles are worse when politicians charged with providing citizens with some measure of stability seem intent on increasing uncertainty at every level of our lives.

The world is plunging into chaos, with international tensions ginned up unnecessarily, with Medicare threatened, with Social Security put up for privatizing, with public education about to pass into the hands of people like Jerry Falwell's son, with the drums of war growing louder in the near distance.

jaime oneill

And, closer to home, death and disorder can turn up at anyone's door, without warning, on any given day.

Jaime O'Neill