My friend Susan suggested that, in her experience, cancer is like a mistress. Her mistress metaphor resonated as a splendid writing prompt. This what I wrote:
We are having dinner tonight at a favorite restaurant, Seasons and Regions. I’m ordering the Willipa Bay Oysters with extra vegetables. I say, “Please no bread and hold the potatoes and rice.”
I’m following a mediterranean diet, attempting to avoid nightshades and refined grains. This because the mediterranean diet is believed by my naturopath to be the best all around cancer-discouraging diet. My oncologist says that diet won’t affect the course of your metastatic melanoma; the main thing is to eat a sufficient amount of food to avoid excessive weight change. I prefer to do everything reasonable to discourage the cancer.
Eddy says, “Are you sure you want the oysters? They are breaded in a flour mixture and fried in a skillet. It would be better to order a grilled seafood like the Alaskan salmon.”
I know my wife is concerned about my health and wants to help me exercise control over food choices as way to help me fight cancer. I’m thinking that the idea that foregoing one of my favorite seafood dishes on this special night out is not working for me. I’ve already let go of my beloved bread and butter.
I say, “Could we just put the fight against cancer on hold for tonight? I would love to just have a special dinner evening with you the way we did before we found out that I have cancer.”
She says, “Yes, I would like that too. It’s OK if you want to have the oysters. We will be skipping dessert because you aren’t eating refined sugar anymore. I want you to have an entree that you will really enjoy.”
I’m thinking that her dessert comment doesn’t quite comply with my foregoing request, but I decide to let that pass.
I’m noticing an urge to cough and I try to stifle it. I think, “Damn this dry cough; I should have remembered to take a swig of codeine before we left home.” I fail to stifle the cough and quietly cough into my cloth napkin. She looks at me with a hint of anxiety, and says, “Take some sips of water, it will help with that cough.”
The presence of cancer in my chest has altered our relationship. It’s an ever-present elephant in the room that alters our interactions and is never far from our thinking. This is a bit like being a couple who both know about his mistress. Even though his mistress is not in the room, she is always in the minds of both.
In my case, the mistress brings an unusual, cruel twist. She plans to murder me.