Man Who Rarely Cries, Cries
Unpicking the mess of emotions that brought me to tears
Today I was overtaken by tears. I was sat in the home office we’ve set up in our garden, playing sad music, absently clicking and searching, until I whipped up a perfect storm of my own emotions and was suddenly crying with a force I couldn’t control. I could only surrender, falling forward with my head on the desk, crying tears that pooled around my nose.
I don’t have any of that “men don’t cry” baggage, and if something sad happens I may well cry. But still, I rarely do cry, and this was different because it felt spontaneous.
So why am I crying like this? First, the big picture. My 39-year-old wife was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in July last year. She had a mastectomy and began hormone-suppressing meds in August. Then in September she started an intensive course of chemotherapy, with eight cycles separated by only two weeks. The last cycle is tomorrow, then she gets a break before this whole nightmare is topped off by radiotherapy. Her hair is important to her appearance, and to how she feels.
Today she’s lost all of her body hair and perhaps half of the hair on her head. She looks like what she is: a chemo patient, and it’s shocking for me to see. Worse, it’s shocking for our two young children to see. Perhaps this is strange, but I feel her beauty is untouched. She’s been under attack, first from cancer and then from the treatment, but she remains my uncommonly gorgeous wife — the woman I somehow managed to win over, 16 years ago.
Now chemo is coming to an end, and at some point soon they’ll send her off into the sunset, technically cured but with a new and existential fear: that the next time cancer comes calling it will be all over her body before we find it.
It’s been 14 weeks or so of chemo so far, and in that time we’ve hugely narrowed our lives — hunkering down, rarely going out, and directing our energies towards supporting each other. Both of our kids play football, for school teams and local clubs, and so we’ve been to endless training sessions and matches, but little else. The kids do seem to be coping OK. Our eldest has her first boyfriend — a 12-year-old boy with a talent for one-word WhatsApp messages — and that takes up most of her…