Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Inconceivable, Impossible.

Earlier this month, a first-time breast-cancer test for my wife found something abnormal. I've since discovered that this is increasingly common: As doctors screen earlier and the technology gets better, they are finding more and more little white spots on mammograms that lead to more testing.

We waited two very brittle weeks until the results came back: The conditions for cancer are present, but nothing is happening at the moment. She now needs to get tested every six months.

But from what I understand, the most likely outcome is that nothing at all will develop, and, even it something does, chances are high that treatment will be successful. I'm probably more likely to get hit by a car in the foreseeable future than she is to advance to the next stage.

Curiously, the main thing Olli wanted to talk about while we waited for results was whom I could find to serve as a mother to Liko and a companion to me. She paired me off with various single friends; she debated pros and cons of each match; she imagined elaborate scenarios.

This was her way of exerting control over the situation, or one aspect of it; she was creating simulacra to take care of us in her imagined absence. As you might guess, these flights of doom-laden fantasy made me seethingly uncomfortable, and yet I did find myself following her down these hypothetical paths.

For me, however, they didn't go anywhere. It is not hard to imagine Liko and me alone together; that feels as possible to me as moving to another city. But life without Olli seems inconceivable, impossible. I'm sitting in the dark typing this; it's 4:30 in the morning. I can't sleep. I don't want to.


Backpacking Dad said...


I hated that conversation. Although I was more comfortable with the other direction: pairing her off with single friends of mine who would raise my daughter well.

Is it guilt that makes it hard to imagine them gone and us remarried, but not the other way around?

Guilt that it might be possible for us to be with someone else? Of course we can't.

Of course we can't.

Of course.

Unknown said...

This human condition of uncertainty can be a beast to live with. Her desire for control and your discomfort at the various scenarios both make total sense. Fortunately, we usually find a way to learn to live with it. Try to get some rest, man.

Anonymous said...

Scary stuff, and it certainly prompts some pretty serious conversations. Glad to hear it wasn't cancer.

My 37 yr old wife was diagnosed w/ breast cancer last summer. Thankfully, she's doing well and has endured the indignities of surgery, chemo and radiation pretty well.

Interestingly, we never had the "new wife/companion" discussion to the level of specificity you did. We were so focused on finding her the best care, attending to our kid's needs and making sure we took advantage of every minute together. Now that the darkest days are over (we hope) we continue to focus on making the most of every moment together and with the kids. Sure does put one's professional life in perspective.

Thought you might find some posts about my wife's situation interesting. Her friend is at US News.

Anonymous said...

man, sorry to hear this, what a stressful situation. My wife had to stop nursing our daughter early because of some irregular result, fortunately it turned out to be nothing, but I remember the fears before we found that out. Our thoughts are with you guys.

Anonymous said...

what's the update? how are you all doing? i apologize for not posting any words of support, but i was thinking of you.

my wife seems to want to have this discussion with me on a regular basis, and i still haven't figured out how to deal with it or be totally honest and undefended about it. i suppose we should though.

Jeremy Adam Smith said...

We're fine, we're good, thank you for all these caring thoughts, and sorry for being out of touch. I feel overwhelmed these days; many things going on, most good, some bad. Hopefully, I will feel normal again sometime in the next week or two or three.

chicago pop said...

I've had a scare like this myself, rather recently. The first and most harrowing thing that came to mind was what would happen to my child. It's probably both a natural and healthy response to try to make some sort of plans for that eventuality, as your wife did in her own way, whether in the form of a life insurance policy, a god-parenting arrangement, or just talking about it with friends and family.

KC said...

Women have certain priorities, and rather than aggravating about the possible bad news she was aggravating about your happiness. Good for her, very good for you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this post. I could not conceive yet your situation fully but I feel for you and your wife deeply. I just had a young newborn baby daughter and is blogging about it now and being a daddy in Tokyo. But the reality of today's life of high technology, high expectations just puts us through to many inconceivable situations that is hard for us to grasps and only when we have gone through them we can try to understand and love another person more deeply and in a new way. One thing I try to do at all times - at all situations, give thanks. Easier said than done. But, it puts things in the right perspective once we are able to realize that there can be a host of many things to be thankful for.