[Editor’s Note: Here is part 2 in former ‘Survivor’ winner Jenna Morasca‘s ongoing account of her role as caregiver in the battle her longtime boyfriend, former ‘Survivor’ winner Ethan Zohn, is waging against cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, three out of four families in the U.S. have at least one member who is a cancer survivor, which means others have been involved in their fight and will hopefully identify with Jenna’s insights. Please send in questions or comments.]
After ripping through books, internet, friends advice, and soak in every ounce of information I could about cancer and the kind of cancer we thoughts Ethan had it was finally time to face Ethan himself. After all when he broke the news to me that he has cancer he was away at a speech and turning around to drive home, which was going to take him almost 4 hours.
Imagine having to take the long drive home alone, while faced with this devastating news. I tried every mode of transportation I could to get to him so we could drive back together, so he would have someone there for him but it just was not possible.
Seeing him face to face that night for the first time since the news broke made me realize just how precious life is. Just how easy things can be given to us and taken away in this lifetime.
As much as I wanted to be positive, and we all want and try to be positive as caretakers there is no way to avoid thinking about death and the obvious questions that go through your mind. Am I on borrowed time now? Should I spend every second of my free time with them? Will I have any regrets?
Suddenly your visions of what is good and what is bad are skewed. A good day before cancer (or as I like to call is “BC”) was getting work done, not having it rain while walking home, and managing all the bills. A bad day “BC” was not being able to get a cab, paying a bill late, and forgetting to call back your family.
Now a good day is much more simple, maybe even just spending some time together, and a bad day is everyday cancer is the major topic of conversation, or when the nausuae is bad, or sickness invades.
When Ethan returned from his trip there was plenty of time where we just had nothing to say to each other, just being around each other was the comfort we both needed. Sometimes words can be meaningless, silence can be more calming than talk.
I showed Ethan everything I researched, told him we were going to get him in the best hospital we could and that no matter what I was always going to be by his side.
Some people who do not know me well or do not know me at all reached out to me when the news broke saying things like “are you going to stand by him” or “since your not married are you going to stay by his side”. These comments not only shocked me but also angered me. I wanted to write back and say “you don’t know shit about us so how dare you assume I am going to run”.
The truth is many people see a marriage vow as the only way people are going to stay with someone who is sick. Since when is marriage the only way that people can love and care for each other. I have seen plenty of people who are married walk away from someone in a time of need there are no guarantees or pieces of paper that will make things 100%.
I vowed to Ethan to be with him through sickness AND in health many years ago, so married or not that still holds true. I have never been one to run when tragedy strikes. I would be fooling you though if I told you when I heard his diagnosis that I didn’t have at least one moment where I thought, “I don’t want this”. Who wouldn’t think that? I have already been beaten and scarred from the cancer battle with my mom, and I am still in my twenties.
I honestly thought I would never see cancer’s face again.
So there was a moment when Ethan’s diagnosis came in where I thought, “shit I have to do this again”. Any person who has ever been a caretaker or been sick has had these feelings at least once. Its not being selfish it’s just thinking about you. Many times the caretakers are the last people that have a break or are even able to have a bad day. But we are still human.
So after a long staring match with Ethan when he first returned. I told him we are going to beat this, he is going to beat this and we both vowed to have that positive attitude throughout. Then came the multitude of doctor’s appointments, anxiety, and diagnosis…