Leukemia, My Husband and Me: A Turbulent Triangle
A Memoir by JC Cerrigone
“I’m sorry,” Mike said, reclining back. “I don’t think I can go to Kevin’s party now.”
Kevin’s son Travis was graduating from high school. Kevin and his wife were throwing a party for him on Saturday.
“He’ll understand. We just need to stay home and get you fixed up,” I told him.
“No,” Mike said sharply. “I want you to go. With all that Kevin’s done for us…you need to go, at least for a while.”
“Okay, as long as you’re comfortable with me leaving,” I said.
“I’ll call if I need you. You’ll be close to home.” Mike flinched as I placed bags of frozen vegetables around his body. His skin held the heat of a fiery flame. I stuck a bag of frozen peas between his legs and a bag of lima beans under each arm.
“Jesus,” he hissed. “I’m so damn tired.”
I sat down on the bed, taking Mike's hand. His eyes held mine. Shiny tears pooled in his lower lids.
“I just don’t know, Justine…” His words trailed off. I gripped his hand, needing to hang on.
“Don’t you leave me here,” I whispered. “You gotta fight and stay strong, like you told me.”
“I’m trying, but my body’s had it.” That tormenting silence coated the room, a silence I didn’t want to hear. Mike’s raspy voice came through. “I love you. I know everything’s been so screwed up, but I do love you. You know that, right?”
I nodded. My throat closed off with a tightness I couldn’t swallow away. Mike’s gruff voice pushed through the thick air.
“Don’t you have a hair appointment?”
I nodded again.
“Go…I’ll be fine,” he assured me.
I leaned down and kissed him, his lips dry and cracked. As I left the room my mind spun. The disease had become a raging monster, gnashing at the steel bars of a cage that appeared to be weakening. A white flag of surrender was waving in my peripheral vision. I refused to look at it.
* * *
As I drove to the hair salon, the dark, full-bodied voice of Jim Morrison filled the car. “This is the end, beautiful friend. This is the end, my only friend, the end. The end of our elaborate plans, the end of everything that stands, the end. No safety or surprise, the end. I’ll never look into your eyes again.”
The lyrics absorbed into my body as tears rolled down my face. My husband was going to die, and I knew it.
I surrendered, conceding to the flag’s presence while alone. As stated in one of my favorite films, The Shawshank Redemption, “Hope can be a dangerous thing.” It’s all about taking a chance, a mental game of gambling, that one decides whether or not to believe and take stock in. I had played the hand for almost 16 months, but now it was time to lay my cards on the table, face down. Whatever was meant to happen would happen.