About a week after my surgery, I had a follow-up appointment with my neuro-oncologist. We needed to wait a week because that was how long it was going to take the pathologist to prepare and analyze the biopsied tissue from the tumor. That follow-up was when we were told that my tumor is glioblastoma, and we heard our first frightening prognosis statistics. (I have since steadfastly refused to Google or otherwise seek information from any source other than a doctor on my care team.) As we walked down the hall of Yawkey 9E that day, R casually said to me “I’ve been thinking about this, and I don’t think I can wear a ‘Fuck cancer’ t-shirt. I just don’t think that’s me.”
Now, some of you might be thinking, “Wow. C’mon you can make some sacrifices to be a little more supportive.” Well, cool your damned jets! Alright? First off, I laughed out loud and almost did a spit-take (despite the pain it induced thanks to the surgeon having to cut through several jaw muscles during the craniotomy). And now, after some reflection, I’m realizing that this little interaction embodies so much of what I love and appreciate about R.
You see, I know deep in my bones that R is going to be there for the long haul and do anything and everything in her power to make this easier for me. However long that long haul has to be. I also know that I will probably only be able to see and appreciate 10% of that work (I’m slowly learning how much of women’s work is, after all, invisible). And, don’t fool yourself; it is work. I’m sure there are a million other ways she’d rather be spending her time than making medicine schedules, checklists, and treatment appointment calendars or packing scads of pills into tiny (but very cute) colored containers with suns and moons on them for my morning and evening medications.
I also know that she would do that work even if she and I were the only two people in the world who knew about it. Let me be clear; I’m not saying she doesn’t appreciate recognition. (In fact, if you see her, maybe mention what a fucking badass you think she is.) But, the thing about the “Fuck Cancer” t-shirt for R (and for me too, actually) is it just feels a little…performative.
Hey, if you like to rock that t-shirt and it helps you feel good, you do you (as I believe the kids say these days). But, R? Well, she’s gonna keep her head down and kick ass for me in ways (seen and unseen) that no sassy saying screened on a t-shirt could ever capture. And, that – that is why I will love her to the end of time.