Over at the New York Times , Dana Jennings offers an extremely candid look at his battle with prostate cancer and the way it has deepened his understanding and appreciation of marriage:
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 . . . 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.
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 doctorsand 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 . . . .
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 changedbut 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, listenand nod knowinglyas I complain about my hot flashes?
In the long shadow of prostate cancer, I’ve learned that I married the right woman.