Last Saturday turned out to be quite an emotional day for us, even though we didn’t plan it that way. We needed to buy a couple of items, and it would be the first time the two of us had been out together for at least 10 days. The whole day, however, unrolled like a three-act play, complete with two intermissions.
In the afternoon, we entered a store to make our first purchase. We were the only two people in the store, but we still couldn’t get waited on. Sheri finally got the attention of one of the retail personnel, who was about eight feet away from us, and told him that we needed some assistance. It seemed like a bother to him, but he came over, bringing his condescending attitude with him. He also brought his phone, which he continued to play with while Sheri talked to him.
He immediately started talking down to us, a style to which I really don’t respond very well. He made a half-hearted attempt to answer Sheri’s questions. When he answered no to the same question he had answered yes to just a couple of moments before, and acted like we had misheard, I put my gloves on and started heading for the door. Using my indoor voice, thank you very much, I said, “I wouldn’t buy free air from this guy,” or something like that, and left.
I shouldn’t have left Sheri in the middle of the store, but my outdoor voice was about to make an appearance and, trust me, no wanted to hear that. Sheri can take care of herself in awkward situations, but she shouldn’t have had to. I felt bad about leaving her and apologized.
As for the condescending, rude and unprofessional “customer service representative?” — I did not apologize to him.
There are two things Sheri and I do very little of when we’re together: cry or talk about what the cancer/damaged chromosome have done to my life expectancy.
We cry plenty on our own, but being together is a time we can really talk and focus on what we’re doing and what’s next for my treatment. There’s no crying in talk and focus!
But soon after we got home from the shopping shenanigans, I looked over and saw that Sheri was crying. “That comment really made me scared,” she said. I didn’t have to ask what comment, I knew.
We had been talking about all the new medicines that will be added to my treatment, and I said something about shortening the time on the back end, shortening my life expectancy, and it frightened Sheri. Hell, I’d never really spoken out loud about it, and it scared me as well.
I think the big thing, though, that had us hugging harder, and crying longer, standing there in the middle of our kitchen, was that, if only for a few moments, the thought came to both of us that we could lose this fight with cancer. We aren’t idiots. We’ve known from the start that we could lose the battle. The difference was, as near as I can figure, the two of us holding each other in the middle of our kitchen made the thought of loss tangible.
Well, we stood there for a few more moments. Then we released each other, and, with no words spoken, we were back in the fight, with beating cancer our only focus.
Sheri then went into the study to check phone messages, emails and Facebook. I … well, I just wandered around the house. Why? No idea.
Anyway, Sheri called out to me. “You have got to listen to this. You’ll love it.”
She hit play. “Hi Mr. Arnold. I’m calling from Waterville, and just wanted you to know I’ve been reading and enjoying your articles. I’m an older person, like yourself, and I think they’re great, and I wish all the best as you take your journey.”
He talked a little bit about Leslie Gore, whose song lyric I had used in a recent column, before wishing me good luck again and hung up.
Sheri and I were extremely touched by the message. He didn’t leave a name; no phone number. He simply wanted to let me know I wasn’t alone. And for us to hear the message after the day’s earlier events …
So there you have one afternoon in the journey Sheri and I are taking through cancer. Typical day? Not exactly, but not quite atypical either. I just have to enter each day with my heart and mind as open as I can manage, then wait to see what happens. Pretty exciting, if you ask me.
Jim Arnold is a copy editor for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel.
Editor’s note: This column is a shorter version of the one Arnold originally wrote about his fight against cancer. To read the entire column, visit his blog, findingthepony.blogspot.com.