Most military spouses live in fear of deployments. They live in fear of the knock on the door while their spouse is serving overseas for six, nine, twelve months. One friend has actually lived the nightmarish hell of the phone call and the knock, coming face to face with two soldiers conveying the news that her spouse is never coming home.
But I live with a different fear. My husband, an Air Force pilot for 17 years, is not deployed. He sleeps next to me every night. I wake up to him every morning. And I am not afraid of a knock on the door.
Instead, I’m afraid of the small doctor in a white lab coat dwarfed by the large grey desk sitting between us. I’m afraid of what she has to say about my husband’s test results.
Diagnosed in November 2012 with stage III melanoma, my husband and our family face a new enemy: cancer. While I’d always feared yet braced for an unaccompanied overseas deployment, aware that it came with the territory of military life, I was caught off guard by the intruder in our family. But vowed to fight like hell against it.
My husband underwent an emergency lymph node dissection in his right groin within two weeks and we were moved from our post in Buenos Aires back to Washington, D.C., where he continues to receive treatment.
The cold winter days in the initial phase of this moment in our lives were dark, perhaps the darkest of our lives. Now in the warm light of summer, with long days and warm breezes and clean PET scans, the dark days seem to be over.
And yet, I catch myself. Sometimes at night, lying in bed, I find my mind going to the dark places where I lived for months following his surgery. I think of those days after our international move, after the horrifying news of a loved-one diagnosed with an often-fatal disease.
Will I be a young widow? Will my sons grow up without a father?
We promised each other forever, but how long is forever now?
I find myself unable to sleep thinking about the unseen that lay within him as I wonder whether the enemy has taken up refuge again somewhere within my husband’s young body. As he breathes the deep and peaceful breaths of a sound sleep, I struggle to swallow my tears and push away the fears that clutch my heart. I reach for my sleeping hero and hold him close, knowing that, at the very least, we have now. And now is enough.
His breathing washes over me and I drift away holding on to a today and dreaming of a tomorrow … together.
Kate Reimann is an Air Force spouse and a freelance writer who documents her family’s journey in their battle against cancer at www.effthec.com. She relieves stress by eliciting giggles from her two little boys, teaching intense cycling classes and eating a delicious plant-based diet. Kate and her family are currently stationed in Washington, DC.