Despite all that, if there is one thing in the world that I believe in, it's love. Love makes the seemingly unbearable bearable. Love is a choice you make, again and again and again. In my experience, it doesn't "just happen." At least not in a longterm sense. And sex, while it can be a part of love, is not love.
Above all, love is in the details.
I read the following NY Times article last night and just nodded in agreement with tears in my eyes. The author wrote with such honesty and dignity. People talk about a notion of TMI. Sometimes anything that refers to the human body in an honest and detailed way is considered TMI. But the body is part of who I am. It's not the sum of who or what I am, but I'm not blind to the miracle that it is. To me, what's real isn't too much information. It just is, regardless of whether others want to turn away from it.
Anyway, if you're wondering what the hell I'm going on about, read the article. If you have a little more time, scroll down to the bottom of the page afterward and read through some of the comments people left.
Also, thanks for all your recent comments; I'll be back with replies a little later today.
Love in the Time of Prostate Cancer
Times editor Dana Jennings writes each week about his experiences coping with an aggressive form of prostate cancer.Dana Jennings. (Lonnie Schlein/The New York Times)
By Dana Jennings
I vividly recall those first few hours in the hospital room after my prostate cancer surgery last July: the plastic thicket of I.V. tubes; the leg cuffs huffing and chuffing to ward off blood clots; my throbbing incision packed with gauze. But, most important, I remember peering through the post-surgical haze to see my wife, Deb, sitting there, smiling at me.
These days, I epitomize the “in sickness” part of the wedding vows that Deb and I took back in 1981. Since we learned last April that I have prostate cancer, I’ve had my prostate removed, found out that the cancer was shockingly aggressive, undergone a 33-session course of radiation and am finishing up hormone therapy.
Right now, I’m not quite what you’d call “a catch.” I wear man-pads for intermittent incontinence, I’m a bazaar of scars, and haven’t had a full erection in seven months. Most nights, I’m in bed by 10. The Lupron hormone shots, which suppress the testosterone that can fuel prostate cancer, have sent my sex drive lower than the stock market, shrunken my testicles, and given me hot flashes so fierce that I sweat outdoors when it’s 20 degrees and snowing.Prostate Cancer Journal One Man’s Story
Dana Jennings blogs about his experience with prostate cancer.
Even so, Deb has taught me that love is in the details. Humid professions of undying love and tear-stained sonnets are all well and good, but they can’t compete with the earthy love of Deb helping me change and drain my catheter pouches each day when I first came home from the hospital.
Yes, in the details. She measured my urine, peered into places I couldn’t (literally and figuratively), and strategically and liberally applied baby powder, ice and Aquaphor to my raw and aching body. She battled our intractable insurer, networked, tracked down the right doctors — and took thorough notes all the while.
I was wounded. She protected me. She chose to do these things.
Deb and I have been married for 27 years, have two sons (22 and 19), and have ridden the usual Ferris wheel that comes with a long marriage. But our love for each other has deepened in this time of prostate cancer.
We talk more often about the life we’ve built together, about sex and money, about the joy we take in our sons, about the uncertain future. When cancer moves in, there’s nothing you and your spouse can’t talk about.
Our love has been seasoned with a bitter pinch of mortality, and the classic quarrels of marriage hold little power over us anymore. When I say to Deb, “I love you,” I mean it. And when she responds, “I love you more,” she means it, too. We understand that time, perhaps, is not on our side.
Time, we are told, will give us our sex life back. As I said, the hormone shots have shut down my sex drive. And my poor penis is still in recovery — from the surgery and the radiation. But as we wait, I’ll tell you this: Love abides.
Yes, yes and yes — lust is essential. But right now, sex seems quaint, old-fashioned. Oddly enough, it can’t compete with the depth and gravity of a light touch, a sly glance. I’m in the mood for the Beatles and “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” not Grace Jones growling, “Pull up to my bumper, baby.”
Don’t get me wrong. I really, really like sex. But given a choice between the mere biology of lust and the deep soul of love, I’ll take love. My body has changed — but my doctors say my libido will be warming up again before I know it. Deb understands, and we’ve adapted.
Deb’s love is one to live up to, one to reciprocate. Who else is going to snuggle up to me on the couch, smile, listen — and nod knowingly — as I complain about my hot flashes?In the long shadow of prostate cancer, I’ve learned that I married the right woman.