Sunday, January 20, 2008

assumption and omission

They met in the winter of her 28th year. Both were successful, attractive, with enviable positions in their lives. They shared a common background and in all respects were perfect for and passionate about one another.

For some time her father was ill. As the family custom dictated, as the eldest daughter she became his caretaker. Their marriage was postponed and 4 years slipped away. Her father endured many harsh treatments but to the surprise of everyone eventually overcame his disease.

After waiting patiently, they married. All their friends and family rejoiced and in their hearts they felt fulfillment. They carefully nurtured their relationship throughout the next five years until they were finally ready to pursue their next dream: to have a child.

But then he fell ill and unlike most illness, this did not resolve with homemade chicken soup and rest. Their former life was disrupted by a slew of doctor's visits. The product of these visits consisted of dozens of exams and tests with words like "invasive" and "malignant" carefully explained to them in quiet, sympathetic tones.

Perhaps because they were no longer a young couple, (indeed, the gentleman had entered his 50th year) or perhaps it was a morning bereft of the typical double latte, or a night spent soothing an inconsolable infant, it never occurred to the oncologist that they desired children. According to his usual routine he explained the expected major side effects of the man's chemotherapy treatment: nausea, fatigue, low blood counts, and hair loss. The potential amount of extra years that could be gained and the probability of a cure were discussed. The logistics of his treatment schedule were finalized.

Before they left the office, the man's wife squeezed his hand and said, "Don't worry, honey...we're stronger than this. I believe in you."

Later that week on the man's first day of treatment just minutes before the medication oozed into his veins (that would eventually make him infertile) it occurred to his wife to ask their infusion nurse if their dream was still possible. The answer was disappointing, but of greater concern to her was the precious life of her husband. He was too nervous about the plastic iv catheter in his arm to process the negative answer.

When she lay awake that night while her exhausted husband breathed softly beside her in the familiar rhythm of sleep, the creeping tears stole her former composure. As if saying a prayer, into the darkness she repeated, "We're stronger than this... I believe in you."


Jen said...

Oh, I'm crying at have to put disclaimers on these kind of posts. What a touching story.

raecatherine said...

I wasn't trying to make poor pregnant Jen cry! Just to convey that sense of loss.. I am astounded that I am *still* running into patients that have not gotten this information, and wanted to show its potential effects.

Jaime said...

What a powerful entry and so sad at the same time.

therapydoc said...

How could they have overlooked his fertility? I don't get sad when I read something like this, I get mad (for me).

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