That’s what they ask you to promise, in marriage – to stand by one another, in sickness and in health. I’ve heard those vows over and over again, in movies and TV, and in life, especially now that so many of my friends are starting to say their “I do”s. Even so, I don’t think the enormity of that promise hit me until suddenly, I was in sickness.
I’m not married, but I am happily in love with my boyfriend, Gordie, who gets mentioned on this blog from time to time.
Gordie is a private man, and he’s asked me to largely keep our relationship off this blog. I’ve done my best to abide by his wishes, but on Valentine’s Day, I just can’t help myself. He has been my rock through all of this, never wavering for one second in his desire to stand by my side no matter what. When he came to visit after my surgery, he helped me get in and out of the shower, shampooing my hair with that rough, I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing rhythm that guys sometimes have when they’re trying to be gentle but get the damn job done. He politely avoided remarking that I had more armpit hair than him, and wasn’t even mad when I woke him up at 3am to scratch my back somewhere I couldn’t reach…every single night. He didn’t flinch at the sight of my post-surgery body, and assured me over and over again that while he had found my original configuration beautiful, he was sure the new parts would look just as nice. He let me cry, made me laugh, told me to snap out of it when I started to swirl into The Dark Place and kept me busy enough that I didn’t have time to watch even one episode of Law & Order: SVU.
He didn’t even run straight for the fire escape when I asked him to come with me to the fertility doctor. He sat calmly in the doctor’s office with me and took in a bunch of diagrams of vaginas and sperm like an adult. Which, really, is more than I can say for myself. I still laugh at the absurdity of it every time I pinch up a section of thigh fat and inject it with follicle stimulating hormone purified from human urine. By the way, my ovaries feel like two pineapples that took a wrong turn at the Dole factory and ended up lost in my abdominal cavity, but more on that tomorrow.
Sitting across the table from Gordie the other week at a local restaurant, drinking my first beer since surgery and discussing which oncologist would be least likely to let me die on their watch, I looked into his calm, brown eyes and thought about how lucky I am to have someone I love with me through this ordeal.
I have a lot of people to thank for that, if I’m being honest. Yes, I want to thank myself for spotting him across the office all that time ago and letting him call me Melissa for a while because I just thought he was cute and wanted him to like me. I’d also like to thank Jaeger and Red Bull for coming together and creating the concoction that facilitated our first kiss, standing in the rain outside of McFadden’s at 2 in the morning at the Haymarket T stop after a fantastic first date and drinks. I’d like to thank him for putting up with me every single day, still taking me out on dates and always calling when he says he will. I want to thank American Airlines and JetBlue and US Airways, who have shuttled us to one another’s apartments over and over and over again after I left for graduate school and who now, while I’m stuck 3,000 miles away in treatment, continue to milk us out of every penny we’ve got.
But most of all, I want to thank my parents, who have provided a shining example of love, kindness and devotion for all 25 years of my life.
Was this post totally cheesy? Maybe. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that it’s Valentine’s Day, or that I have 10 times the normal concentration of estrogen floating around in my system so I spent half of my day crying at dog food commercials. Who knows? So happy Valentine’s Day to all of you!
Except for you, cancer. F–k you.