Deadpool. Survivor Spouse.

IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN DEADPOOL OR DON’T KNOW THE STORY LINE, STOP READING NOW.

I made it through Deadpool!

We’re Marvel fans, but I don’t follow like I used to. I’m not turning in my geek card yet, though. I keep my comic store membership, thankyouverymuch. I would totally rock prom with Stan Lee.

The Deadpool plot involves cancer, and since cancer rearranged our lives and Troy’s innards, I’ve not been able to sit though any movie or show that springs cancer on me.

As a survivor spouse, it’s hard for me to know what could be coming onscreen. The hopelessness, the defeat, the brave fight of the co-star/spouse/sig-other. As a writer, however, cancer is perfect. It gives you time to make decisions, get scared, fall apart, get yourself together again, then hopefully get cured – or cured enough – to do whatever is next in the plot.

But it’s beginning to feel like a crutch that writers keep in the corner. Every time somebody needs to overcome something, here comes cancer. Every time somebody gets tired, wan, here comes cancer. Every time somebody needs a six-month montage, here comes cancer. Every time somebody needs a reason to stand and watch tow-headed kids playing around a Christmas tree, guess what. And yes, this is my fear, my bitterness, my own personal PTSD.

So – as a writer – I was mortified last week when I was working on a character, and “he has cancer” popped into my head. Maybe my character DOES have cancer. His friend has MS, and his cousin is an amputee. His mom is a convicted felon. His cat is missing an eye. Those are all real parts of real lives. My characters lead real lives.

But “he has cancer” was like a slap.

Anyway – Deadpool has cancer, and his desperation at having stage four cancer and getting the “don’t make any rash decisions” talk leads him to seek alternative meds. Fully understandable. He wanted to live. Especially understandable. DONE IT ALL. Thank GOD Troy wanted to live.

But after several years of fleeing theaters, yelling at the television, ripping friends for NOT warning me, today I sat in the theater and watched the character fight. I knew how his sig-other felt about loving him for him, despite the scars that treatment left on him. I watched him fight to live and love. I watched him be the same person he was before, only amplified. Just like the man I’m married to.

Yes, it’s the stupid movies.

But I sat through the movie today, a baby step for this survivor spouse. I think Troy was proud.

*Marvel fans: GO SEE DEADPOOL. STAY UNTIL THE VERY VERY END. Die-hard Marvel fans know what I’m taking about.

**Stan Lee, you wanna go to prom, hit me up.

A line, a verb, an unwanted roommate.

We had been referring to Troy’s cancer as “our roommate.” That roommate who did annoying things at first – didn’t close the fridge door, beat you to the newspaper crossword – but eventually used your razor, slept with your significant other, and his/her mother/father, stole your money, wrecked your car, drowned your cat, and pimp slapped you for simply existing.

But really, cancer is a line of demarcation. It’s before and after, then and now. We speak of many things with a cancer reference.

“We should take a road trip like we did that summer before Daddy got sick.”

“I liked the dress you wore that Christmas after Daddy got sick.”

“Remember that baked ziti we had while Daddy was in the hospital?”*

I can look back at my work and see when I stopped writing, when words would have helped but didn’t come, or hovered in a dream, floating beyond reach. It was during cancer. I can see, also, that I was trying to be careful, and was afraid.

All the years that my children were small and I was exhausted, too tired to write, work and be a good mom, I chose to be a good mom in the way I could be, and I put my words on slow growth. They wouldn’t go away, the words, and nagged me through horrible depression, the characters calling and insisting they would have my attention. I went back to school for writing. My words came back.

Then cancer.

Or maybe cancer isn’t a line but rather, a verb. “To cancer” is to live with chemo, death, radiation, acronyms, meals made by others, carpools run by others, missed tests, bathroom crying jags, Friday nights with insurance papers and fax machines, weeks without showers, breathing machines, frightening nights of a patient’s deep chill despite a smothering of quilts, heating pads, electric blankets, body warmth. Flakes of mustache falling into cereal. Bones protruding. It is to live with knowledge of dilaudid and propofol and epidurals that don’t work, the precision of the morphine timer, the need to have your “he has cancer we are in the hospital the girls are fine yes i will call if we need anything” speech written in a 2-minute press conference.

Or maybe it’s all three. The roommate never totally left, thanks to scars, scar tissue, rerouted and retooled guts and bladders, and our beloved chemo brain. We will never stop thinking in terms of before and after. It will always be before and after. We will never stop cancering. Gratitude and fear and worry and more gratitude put me into crying fits in yoga or at the sight of a bald scalp. We have three-month, then six-month, then yearly checkups. We all know what a person with reddish, peeling skin is doing at least once every three weeks.

I’m glad the words are back again. Maybe they’ll help me, or you, or someone you know.

And here’s hoping the line, the roommate and the verb are all far enough away that I can look for new ones.

*it was some ahhhh-mazing ziti, because Daddy was in the hospital 10 times, not counting chemo, and we STILL remember that ziti. We ate it straight from the pan, on the living room floor. The kids were 10th grade and 8th grade. They’re now a college freshman and a high school junior.

Cold meds: Convincing little suckers

What I’ve discovered after a weekend of intense cold/allergy/flu med therapy:

Cold/allergy/flu meds make you hungry. Like, five PJ&J sandwiches in a freaking row hungry. Like, I need pancakes and grits, too, hungry. Which reminds me, why is it so stupid hard to find APPLE JELLY in the grocery store? Grape is boring.

Cold/allergy/flu meds give you freaky dreams. I’m unpacking my bags now because no, my mama did NOT call to say we were going on a girls’ trip to Key West. And no, my favorite curly-haired friend did NOT cut his locs and dye his baby hair* blonde. And NO, nobody asked me to knit a burqa.

Cold/allergy/flu meds make you babble. Like, you’re talking and “bibbetyboppetyboo” and “untangently” pop quite logically into the conversation. Friends get off the phone FAST.

Cold/allergy/flu meds make you eat everything in sight (not to be confused with simply making you hungry). After the five sandwiches, pancakes and grits, you NEED a bowl of soup, a glass of juice, and a salad before you go out for sushi. Because feed a cold, baby.

Cold/allergy/flu meds are unifying. Our cats, who can’t enter the same room without growling, fighting, acting generally like cats, sniffed out the cold meds in me and collapsed on top of me at the same time. It had nothing to do with the burning fever radiating from the body. Maybe not even the cold meds. IT IS THE END TIMES.

Cold/allergy/flu meds make you tired, which makes you babble about being hungry, which makes you eat yet again before going to sleep. HASHTAG APPLEJELLYBABY.

Cold/allergy/flu meds make you grateful for how grandma took care of you when you were just a little sick and also very sick. Your grandma loved you, in all your whining, sniffling, overeating glory, even when you were being a snotty brat. Kiss her if you can.

Cold/allergy/flu meds make you think you’re funny. Maybe you shouldn’t mix the three. Maybe you should read the instructions. No, that would be silly.

*baby hair, for you folks who didn’t grow up in the 70s, is what people call the very edges of hair, usually around the front of the scalp. it’s fine and soft, like most babies’ hair is at birth. It usually falls out, but sometimes, some folks keep theirs in the front. Back in the 70s and 80s, it was popular to grease down the baby hair and keep it slicked toward the face because if you could do THAT, you were the SCHTUFF. true fact, y’all. true fact.