This I Believe

Claire - Gainesville, Florida
Entered on August 24, 2007
Age Group: 65+

My doctor said “We don’t know why you are alive. You might as well make your peace with the world. You have had everything that kills people: lymphoma twice, a heart attack, a stroke and open heart surgery. I am never coy about my age. I am 67. Every day is icing on the cake though it has been physiologically and emotionally painful. I had been feeling a dreadful tiredness and terrible pain under my breast for about a year prior to being diagnosed with lymphoma in 1975. We were having our first house constructed. I thought when they hang the last light fixture then I will go to the hospital. I knew when I got there they would not let me leave, but when I checked in I said, “We have to work fast, I have to go to San Francisco in a week”. My doctor cried when he told me how sick I was and that I might not make it through another year… I knew I was not going to die. I cannot adequately explain. It was a sure knowledge; a quiet sense of peace. “I can’t die now. I have to take care of my son; maybe when he’s 18”. I told him; got up and walked out. “I can’t talk now.” My life changed in a snap of the fingers. I knew nothing would ever be the same. And, if you don’t say the words, they are not true. I loved my husband and child more than anything and wanted to continue taking care of them in my traditional (Martha Stewart) role. I could not live and have them. I could never separate my husband’s secure financial situation from my love for him. After I left, I realized how much he meant to me. The lymphoma returned 2 weeks after our boy turned 18. When I came home from the hospital the first time my son was beginning first grade. My husband had been unable to shop for a brand of white shirt required for his school uniform. He hated the tie, white shirt and navy trousers. He was tactile oriented and loved soft cloth. I don’t know where the strength came from. I was on the dregs of chemotherapy; weak and nauseated, but I stayed up all night and sewed a shirt out of some white material I had purchased. Later, I made another one. His father washed a shirt every night. I realized in that moment that it was the routine of life that I missed and could not participate in.

It all turned sad. The psychiatrists said my illness triggered an emotional breakdown in him. He developed a phobia about leaving me, afraid if he could not see me, I would die. I thought we were brave; no one cried in front of our son. We are all alive and well, but apart in many ways. The mysteries of life still elude me, though I have been on a quest for truth.