The day he was diagnosed with cancer

by Lesley on October 26, 2012 · 10 comments

in cancer,marriage

Today marks one year to the day since Jonathan was told he has cancer. The following is just some of my reflection on that day, and it’s taken from a chapter in the book I’m working on. Thank you for letting me express myself in this way today. 

Jenny calls me on Wednesday at 2:00pm. I’m sitting cross legged on the edge of our living room rug when the phone rings, and I lunge for it, hopeful Jonathan has heard something. A picture of Jenny’s baby, Lola, appears on my screen. I hesitate before answering. There have been so many curious phone calls in the last 48 hours and my energy is waning. But the house is too quiet, and the voices in my head are not keeping my company in the way I need. I almost always pick up the phone when Jenny calls, and I find myself instinctually answering.

She tries to be coy at first. She’s just calling to check-in, to see how I’m holding up. She wants to know if the doctors think the lump can be anything besides cancer. But I know the tone of her questions. She’s married to a doctor, after all, and this means that she already has answers. I tell her they’ve only mentioned the C word, but then I list all of the possibilities Google says it could be. A benign cyst, maybe? A bacterial infection? Thyroid disease? I’ll never forget her response, mostly because it was a stark contrast to the chipper pep talks I’d been giving myself since Monday.

“Mayyyybeeeee,” she says, trying to add some softness to the punch she is about to deliver. “But, Les, Chris says all signs are pointing towards lymphoma. I just want you to be prepared for that news.”

She starts to cry even before finishing her sentence, and I start to cry too. My tears are a mixture of fear and anger. I don’t want to cry yet. I’m trying to hold it together, and I can’t hold it together when she’s losing it. It’s the first time I realize that I, the realist, am living in a dream world. Later I will be so thankful she wasn’t afraid to have the hard conversation; the first of several we’d have in the months to come.

Anna is laying on her play mat, feet and hands flailing as she bats at the dangling animals. The mat is a patchwork of boyish blues and oranges because when I registered months before the girl options were too pink for my taste. At this point, I really could care less what her animal playmat looks like. It has kept her entertained long enough for me free fall into the possibilities I wouldn’t consider before. Cancer. Chemo. Radiation. Death.

Jenny asks when the doctor is supposed to call, and when I say I don’t know, she tells me to call Jonathan and make him find out what’s going on. As soon as I put the baby down for a nap, I follow her instructions.


I am standing in that same spot in the living room when I dial; my toes on the edge of the play mat with one arm wrapped around my stomach and the other clutching the iPhone that he picked up for me on his birthday weekend when I should have been the one purchasing gifts. Our big living room window looks out onto the neighbors orange tree which is halfway through dropping it’s leaves. He picks up on the last ring, and I will later conclude that he debated picking up at all.

His voice is heavy. The familiar “Hey” is not so familiar this time. One word, but said with a weight of what’s to come. I give him no time to talk, launching into a flurry of explanation.

“I talked to Jenny and she’s worried and she says that Chris says you need to call your doctor and press him for some answers,” I say.

But he doesn’t need my advice because he’s already made that call. He is alone in his office, and I am alone in our house, and the words he can’t say are about to break me so he tries not to say them at all.

“I’m on my way home,” he says. “I talked to the doctor and I’m on my way home.”

He says everything I need to know. The news is not good.

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