"I love you." Did that get your attention? Those are the first words out of my mouth every morning and the last words every night. I say them to my wife, Pamela, yet I need to hear those words as much as she does. Love is a message to which we should attend. Its strength cannot be ignored. Love, maybe more than anything else, has kept me alive.
I believe life is worth living. There were times when I didn't. My head was full of ideas that got in the way of love. Pamela and I met years ago, fortunately for me after I abandoned a lot of that mental baggage on a bumpy road I'd driven down too many times. She's such a skilled navigator. There were times when I thought I was lost but she pointed me in the right direction and got me where we were going. Lucky me.
This relationship was not our first. We've had others. They taught us the importance of love. I'm glad I learned it before we met, or we might not be together. We weren't looking for relationships. We had raised kids, now grown and on their own. We weren't looking to have more. We washed into each other's lives like driftwood on a beautiful beach after a storm.
Like most folks, we worked. I had a modest business and she worked for a large pharmaceutical company. We gave our best efforts, working standard five-day weeks with weekends to ourselves. We were energetic, health-conscious people. We love the outdoors and lived a healthy lifestyle. I'm not going to say everything was easy. Sometimes it was hard. Worse than hard.
Pamela had no way of knowing I would be diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, a progressively debilitating neurological disorder, or that she would spend three years of our relationship wondering if I was going to survive its grip on my life. It nearly killed me. She was my advocate, 24/7. Apart from work, she hardly left my side as doctors worked to keep me alive. A year ago, a thymectomy and steroid drugs held hands with the disease. They had a strong grip, but so did Pamela. Lucky me.
Pamela had a tough year. Her mother, far away in Toronto, was dying of lung cancer while I lay in a hospital bed in San Diego. Between crises, Pamela flew from bedside to bedside somehow managing to find the strength one needs when faced with those kinds of adversity. Her mother died a year ago in May and we sorely miss her.
Released from the hospital when I could swallow on my own, I gained back some weight and began to look almost human again. Pamela was there for me every minute. Not one word of complaint. Instead, she often whispered, "I love you," in my ear.
But life is full of surprises. Early last September, Pamela had her physical. By coincidence, and only because she hadn't had one for years, the doctor ordered a chest x-ray. Pamela, who never smoked, was diagnosed with incurable stage four, non-small cell lung cancer—the same kind that killed her mother. The doctors told us, "Maybe . . . eight months?"
The cancer metastasized throughout Pamela's body. She underwent radiation to her brain to try to stop the tumors. She had chemotherapy for months, a brew worse than the disease. Now they're using a different treatment, and thankfully, it doesn't make her quite as sick. She is exhausted—tired of being tired. It must be difficult for someone who, a couple years ago ran, ice danced, cycled and taught aerobics.
Now I get to be the 24/7-guy. Taking care of two people really is no harder than taking care of one. We're '"retired" now, not by plan but by life. The other day, she read the doctor's report to someone at the Social Security Administration. "Terminal illness-permanently disabled."
"Not if I can help it," she said, shaking her head. Pamela means what she says.
Eight months have passed. It's spring and the flowering trees are in bloom. We take walks when she's up to it. Everything is so beautiful this time of year. We do a couple of one-week getaways to change our perspective, to see places we've never seen, or to visit others we love. We get by. We are so grateful—so glad to be with each other. She makes me laugh and makes me sigh. She is a constant reminder of the power of love. Because of Pamela, I am the happiest man alive. Lucky me.
© David Coyote
BIO: David Coyote is a writer, photographer, and freelance journalist, whose first novella, A Roomful of Rainbows, debuted in May 2004. You can learn more about it and read some of his other work at www.dcoyote.com. Stop in the den and visit when you have the time. Sign his guest book, and let him know if you'd like to get updates about additions and changes to the collection.
Contact David at: firstname.lastname@example.org.