And so a dark cloud had settled over our home. We still laughed. My favorite was the laughter. The delicious sound of my children being chased. Tackled. Wrestled. Tickled. Kissed. And then the raspberries would start. They would laugh until their cheeks glowed and they were breathless with delight. We made happy memories. We captured the the light that was life and relished it.
But in the background, an underbelly of uncertainty brewed as Dean’s pain worsened.
I watched a program on Australian television about country people who get sick and have to move to the city for treatment. I watched as they interviewed families. Husbands who took care of wives who were terminally ill. Wives that took care of husbands. My thoughts swarmed. Having to take care of an invalid spouse. I can think of nothing harder. To be a carer. A giver. In a relationship that is supposed to be give and take. To only give. Not to take. God. How hard that would be.
How could I know. That is precisely what I would be asked to do.
Dean and I sat down one day and made a list. A list of all of his random symptoms. And he went down to the doctor with that.
They ended up having Dean just do a test for a simple blood count. He came home from the appointment and got into bed. As had become his usual. I was at the kitchen sink. The boys played noisily in the living room. The phone rang.
“Dean, it’s Dr. Howarth.” I called.
He came to the phone. Listened for a couple of minutes. Said, “Thank you.” Hung up the phone. And carried himself back to bed.
I was searching Dean’s face for some indication of what the doctor had to say.
“Honey, what did he say?” I asked. I was on edge. We were so keen for answers. Some kind of answer to the mysterious ailments that plagued my husband daily.
“He thinks I have leukemia.” Dean called out from the bedroom in a matter-of-fact tone.
The word rang in my ears. The Earth slowed down. Or maybe it stopped. Leukemia. Leukemia. Every thing I knew about leukemia is that it was, “leukemia. Period.” That’s all. That’s it. End of story.
And so my enemy had a name.
Over the next few hours I read everything I could find on this illness. This disease. This bloody awful hell of a thing. I wanted to know why. How. How often. Where. If knowledge is power then I was going to become very powerful. I read. I searched. I researched. I looked at charts. I studied the statistics. I read until my eyes were burning. My vision was blurred. Exhaustion set it. The tears left me shaky and wilted. I had feasted on knowledge. Gorged myself on it. But the promise of power never came. The name still held the power. That savage demon of a name.
I laid next to Dean that night. Unable to sleep. Unable to close my eyes. My Dean. How could this happen to my Dean. He’s so strong. So young. How? The invisible monster ate away at Dean as I tossed and I turned. I watched him sleep. My boys. Oh, God. They need their daddy. We need him. I need him. God. Not Dean. Please God.