The Longest Goodbye

He called it the longest goodbye. When my husband came to me in the kitchen he looked fore lorn, bright blue eyes spilling clear Caribbean blue waters down the white smooth skin of his cheeks. Waves hitting the sand.  His emotions, usually saved for “some other time,” overwhelmed and weighed heavy on me and pulled me under. A fist started to ball up in the middle of my abdomen, then swung out of my rib cage like a hook to my solar plexus.  The pain akin to what I imagine a boxer’s punch to my stomach might feel like.  The wind came rushing from my lungs leaving a vacuum instead of breath.  With the counter between us, I stood in the kitchen staring at him, grasping for air in outer space rather than earth, with no gravity nor anyone to hear me.

He said, “I feel like this is the longest goodbye.” His long goodbye probably feels something like my unknown immanent dance with death to the song of metastatic breast cancer. But its not his disease.  It’s a disease that his wife and his life’s partner wrestles with and nothing he can do much about except hold my hand and sometimes ignore when it all becomes too much.  He’s never been one to care take, so the nomicker “caretaker” doesn’t fit him very well.  He’s one person in a two person horse costume and there’s not enoug of him to fill it out.

How he feels watching me go through every day with the physical pain and mental pain only comes out as cliche terms and inept acts of nothing he thinks very effective. As he speaks of his lack of efficacy, tears welled up in my eyes – tears were welling up in his eyes, too. That moment touched me so deeply and it was so profound that there was nothing that I could say, nothing at all, that would make him or I feel any better.

The profundity of the longest goodbye in my husband’s sadness began two years ago this week over the news of my cancer at 4:30 am – called back to the hospital.  It couldn’t have been anything more than what he said today, which was the most profound thing I had ever heard another person say about me having this wretched disease. I felt a lot like he does trying to soothe me somehow on a daily basis, and how unfair this all is and how frustrating that I couldn’t do a thing to abate his worries.

Some of us call it striving. Some of us call it fighting. Some of us call it surviving. Some of us call it whatever the fuck we want to call it. But at the end of the day what you call it is what it is – it’s metastatic cancer. You know eventually it’s going to pull the trigger and shoot you in the back like a coward in a western movie, and it’s going to be excessively painful.

And it’s going to suck. It’s going to suck worse than anything that you’ve ever had to deal with in your life and you know it. You know in your heart you know what in your soul and your husband knows it in this long goodbye that’s just an estimate of how much time is left with you. I love that man more than I can express and I love him in a way that before he arrived suddenly 10 years ago, love had no real consequence. I do not remotely regret he will be my last love, either. In fact I’m relieved it’s him.

You say goodbye, but I say hello.

Hello hello, I don’t know why you say goodbye I say hello.

Ilene

Female. East coast transplant living in the Bay Area of California. Living with Stage IV breast cancer. Married to the coolest guy in the universe who occasionally suffers from serious depression. Love my stepsons, although I never thought I'd have that thankless job - ever! And my best friend Simon is also my cat. How I have survived with stage IV: treatments including chemo and surgery; palliative oncology; tenacity; a dark sense of humor; support groups; and my newly reinvented career as a vintage and antiques maven. Some days I miss the old me who led a well respected and well paid life as a business strategist in high tech. So much for that. I blog to simply share my experiences and my poetic approach with others who have cancer of any kind or with their care givers and those who love them. If one person at the very least finds a little commonality or a friend out in the ether tor a smile, a common nod about this experience, or even a link to assistance, then I have accomplished a small but extraordinarily meaningful goal. Go team.

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