Ten Years with Chemo – Five Years Without

Sunset for Joe and Jane

The pandemic was everywhere. Joe, Jane and I had been practicing social distancing but our friendship meant that we would still talk. It would just have to be outside from 20 feet away. This afternoon had Joe sitting in his car with the window down while I lounged on my grass just passing time. I suddenly remembered Jane’s cancer.

“How is Jane doing with chemo?”

Joe paused for a little too long and composed himself.

“Not good.” Was all he could get out as his jaw tightened up and he looked away, hiding his face.

“What do you mean? Is she still getting chemo?”

“She has been but the doctor just had a conversation with me today. Not good.” He repeated.

“They told me that she could have ten years if she does chemo but it would be bad. If she doesn’t do chemo she gets five years.” I could see the strain on his face.

“They want me to decide because she can’t. She still can’t remember what she ate for lunch. I have to tell them what I want to do.”

“I’m glad I’m not you except that Jane is awesome even if she can’t remember things. You were lucky with her. I don’t know what I would do. How bad is it going to get?” Boy did that sound stupid. One side of me was jealous of their 58 year marriage. How amazing would it be to have been that in love and committed to each other?

“Bad either way. The chemo makes her lose her hair and really sick.  Without chemo it will get worse and she will hurt but not be as sick. With her forgetting everything and asking me stuff over and over again what are five extra years?” I think he had decided already.

I watched as a mother bird flew towards the nest she had built under my garage overhang. I knew he had to talk to someone. I also knew that with the Covid-19 stuff we hadn’t spoken much lately. I wish we could, but the reality that I am over 65 and so are they meant it was really important for neither of us to get sick. Getting sick with Covid-19 might be an immediate death sentence. The robin landed and began dropping a worm into one of her newborns. Life goes on one way or another.

“I wish I could help but I’m really being careful with the quarantine.  I hope you two are too.” I saw that he didn’t care about living.  He didn’t see any good future now that Jane’s mind was leaving her body. She looked as good as ever to Joe but slowly her companionship was disappearing. Joe would not last long once she was gone. He would not want to live one day more than she did. I knew his plans and hoped to be able to prevent them.

“Do you want to come for dinner this week?” Joe was really dismissing the reality Covid-19 had brought on us. Or maybe he just didn’t care one way or the other. I did care and wanted every day I could get.

“I’ll see if my daughter will let me but I don’t think she is going to let me out.” My daughter had been staying with me and holding me accountable. She was a good excuse and I was not going to take any chances.

“Alright.” Joe started the car. “Maybe we can do your next door neighbor’s roof. She has a big leak.” Joe wanted everything to go back to yesterday. No one can turn back the clock no matter how much Joe wanted to pretend everything wasn’t happening.

“See you later.” I had to let him go without my help. Covid-19 had messed up a lot of friendships. And changed all of our lives. I could tell that Joe knew he and Jane’s lives were already written and nothing was going to change that. His acceptance was painful to me and left me wondering what I would do when it was my turn.

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