Copyright 2020 by Maureen Moynihan
Photo by Robert Reader
Cancer affects a
family, not just a patient. As treatment progresses, families
must adjust roles and responsibilities while providing a stable
and nurturing environment for children. This is easier said than
It’s easier to get a turtle out of its shell than
a husband out of the bathroom.
I’ve found pounding on the door while
“Isn’t your butt cold?” is not an effective
strategy. Sliding clever notes under the bathroom door also yields
I’m the trash. Please take me
I’m your dog. Please take me
“Hello! I’m your
wife. Please take me
What irked me the most is I knew exactly
was doing in there. He was RELAXING, dammit it. Worse yet, he
was RELAXING between the witching hours of 5:00 P.M.-7:00P.M. I
believe any parent who engages in such self-centered behavior should
lose their phone privileges and be sent to bed without any
Short of striking a match to the door,
dinner was the
only event that inspired Jack to emerge from the bathroom.
loves food. I mean he LOVES food and talks about it like a teenage
girl processing her first breakup: incessantly and lacking any
linguistic structure. The presentation, flavor, texture, aroma,
presentation, and post-coital meal bliss all gets tossed into Jack’s
culinary monologue, which usually falls on unappreciative
did you prepare this?” Jack asked,
chomping into the leg of Rotisserie Chicken fresh from the
Meals-To-Go tanning bed in the deli department.
hit it over the head with my butter churn,”
It’s probably why Jack is a natural in the
kitchen. He opens the refrigerator door and just sees a recipe waving
to him from the confines of the compartmentalized drawers. Measuring
cups and spoons are not required tools for Jack as can intuitively
“see” how much salt to add or “smell” when
the bacon is about to transition from crispy to
Cooking is not intuitive for me. A recipe
include explicit directions; preferably a video. If domain
specific vocabulary terms such as blanch or puree are in the
instructions, I do not make it. I also do not poach things,
albeit an egg or an elephant. How or why I became in charge of our
family dinners is beyond me. But I do enjoy a generous glass of wine
Here’s what I think happened:
One day, in the Garden of Eden, Adam was
Having grown tired of his incessant complaining, Eve plucked an apple
from a branch to shut him up. Hell, I bet she would have preferred to
pick a Bud Light so he’d really be happy, but her resources
were limited. Throw in the fact that women are biologically
engineered to feed humans and SHAZAM!! Women evolved into
walking Wholefoods Markets.
Flash forward a gazillion years later...
I’m submerged in the couch, Day 2 post
My treatment plan is in full swing and I woke up that morning without
eyelashes. Once again, my self-image takes a blow as I mourn the loss
of another alluring feature of my femininity. I doubt if I’ll
ever feel pretty again.
Jack walks into the living room and asks,
is for dinner?” His words trigger a savage instinct in
me; I decide that I must kill him.
I leap from the couch, 122 pounds of flying
Adriamycin, and wrap my hands around his neck. If Paclitaxel and
Docetaxel hadn’t destroyed my fingernails, I probably would’ve
gotten the job done. But fortunately for Jack, they did. He
whisked me off his body like a raindrop, mumbled something about
cancer taking my sanity, and headed straight towards the fridge. I
retreated to the bathroom because the shower is the best place to
Most cancer patients in the throes of
should be advised to avoid mirrors because the body presents as a
battlefield, not a guardian of the soul. I caught a glimpse
myself as I hopped in the shower and I realized that my figure no
longer belonged to me; it belonged to science. On an intellectual
level, I knew my reflection should be one of courage; a testimony to
my decision to choose life over vanity.
Go-ahead cancer...take my breasts but you
Be gone with you, lymph nodes! I never much
of you anyways.
C-ya hairstyle! Time to bury the Aqua Net
and have a
But I didn’t. I saw a female skeleton
with scars and smeared with varying shades of yellow and purple
bruises. It was a tapestry of ugliness. I was a hairless newborn
bunny without the promise of growing more beautiful with age. No
wonder my husband did not want to share a bed with me anymore.
As I let the grief pour out of my body and
down the bathtub drain, I enjoyed the relief of being a sick person
without the pressure of acting strong. It was just me, my
cancer and the nonjudgmental warmth of the water.
A cacophony of screeching sounds
interrupted my pity
party, and grew louder and stronger with each passing pitch. Even
more concerning, the clamoring noise was headed right towards me, the
mutilated and (very) naked creature in the shower.
The door flung open in with a fantastic and
sense of urgency. My children marched into the bathroom to announce:
Damn that Eve.
Years ago, I surrendered the privilege of
privacy for the comfort or remaining on the toilet seat for the
entire duration of my business. I peeked from behind the curtain to
see my 4th grader poking a recorder in the air while my 1st grader’s
entire arm was engulfed in a bag of potato chips.
4th graders got recorders today.”
Julia said. “We’re going to play them at the spring
concert. I have to practice. Every day.” To
emphasize the spirit of repetition, she gave the recorder a little
That sounds exciting.” I said, and
shut off the shower. I knew the conversation would continue
regardless of my ability to hear. And that they had no intention of
leaving the bathroom without me.
Babarosa threw up in gym class,”
said Julia, interrupting her
practice session to contort her face in disgust.
“Sounds like he had
a rough day,” I said.
Behind the curtain, I strategized the best route to the towel rack
and determined puke is perfect topic of distraction for my getaway. I
went for it.
they have to put the sand on the floor?
said Sienna. “His
puke went everywhere and there were chunks of food in it.”
But I was not quick enough. They saw
mother must pack a great sandwich,”
I said. The girls stared at me, their silence saying everything. I
felt shame creep up my legs. Until Julia whisked it off my body and
out of the room.
Mom! That looks like it hurts,” she
looks worse than it feels.” I told
the cancer do that to you?” asked
I nodded my head. “It’s what I
to do to get the cancer out of my body.”
you always going to look that way?”
honey. My body will heal...but it will look
a little different.” Sienna chewed on this idea as she munched
on a chip.
OK.,” said Julia. Recorder
practice commenced again.
a chip, Mom,” said Sienna. “They’re
I squatted down so she could pop a chip in
She wrapped her little arms around me as I showered her with kisses.
They saw ME, their mother, not a cancer patient.
“Can we have
S’ghieti for dinner?”
sounds like a great idea,” I said
gobbling up the strength they gave me like Adam did that apple.
make some dinner.”
We marched out of the bathroom as a
procession of unconditional love. And the band played on.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
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