Something to keep in mind is that the very idea of Jane getting *sick* was kind of shocking to us. She’d always been the healthy one: aside from a bout of pneumonia many years ago, she’d almost never been ill for our first 10+ years of marriage. Her family was very long-lived, and her constitution was strong; I was the one who tended to come down with miscellaneous minor illnesses. So it weirded us out a fair bit when she stopped being quite so invincible.
We weren't on LJ yet at this point, so this is just a couple of anecdotes from memory.
Dec 31 1999 -- Millennium Eve. Jane and I spent the evening out at First Night in Boston, watching as the Y2K Bug utterly failed to destroy the world.
It was a generally good evening, but quite notable for me as a milestone. I was 35, and that night was struck by the age. I’ve always been a deep fan of Dante, and remembered the commentary in one of the translations that the Divine Comedy takes place “midway through life’s journey” -- which is a shorthand way of saying when he was 35, since the canonical lifespan was considered to be 70.
It didn’t change anything significantly, but I remember it as the first time I remember feeling not entirely young -- reminiscent of Tom Lehrer’s “When
~2000 -- I suspect most people had no idea how far back this went, and I confess I don’t remember exactly when it started. But it was somewhere around 2000 that Jane had her first lumpectomy.
Of course, at the time, we weren’t using the word “cancer”. This was a “cyst”, and we had reasonable hopes that it was a benign one. So she treated it in a very matter-of-fact way: a simple outpatient procedure with little fuss. She and I were always a bit conscious of it, but I don’t believe she told many people about it.
Somewhere in there -- I think a year or two later -- came the fibroids. Again, most people didn’t even know about this, but she went through a while of gradually growing pain. Finally came the day where it became unbearable: I believe she put it as, “Just give me a knife and I’ll cut them out myself”. It was the first time I’d ever seen her cry from pain, and it was scary as hell. Suffice it to say, an emergency hysterectomy followed, the beginning of us getting to know the ER at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.
We never really talked about that much. Neither of us was deeply troubled by it: neither had been desperate to have children, and we’d been tacitly making a decision by not making a decision up until then. Still, there was something just a tad unsettling about having the decision taken away from us like that. I can’t say I regret it: I’ve never been comfortable with children, and I believe Jane’s death would have utterly destroyed me if I’d had to be taking care of kids through it. But it does occasion some wistfulness, thinking about the might-have-beens...