I don't think "waiting for the other shoe to drop" is a Southernism, but it approaches the feeling I have had for the last ten years, knowing that my husband had been diagnosed with a severe case of a pre-cancerous condition for which there was no treatment, no way to go back in the other direction and erase the bad cells, just wait around until it turned into cancer and see what had to be removed. Did I mention this concerned his esophagus? A toe you can remove and still hobble around, but an esophagus?
The experience has been like falling off a very high cliff in very slow motion.
And to complicate matters, every year my husband lived with this condition the chances increased that it would become life threatening. It was like we were in some weird kind of cancer roulette that we could never escape from playing.
And it's not as if the problem were ever far from our minds. We could never blissfully ignore it for any stretch of time. There were meds to take at precise times every morning and night. A list on the refrigerator of what to eat, what not to eat, and when to eat it (forget eating out since restaurants can rarely tell you what is in their food). Each night we slept in a bed that is noticeably higher at the head than at the foot, like sleeping on a hill on a camping trip. Then there are the periodic biopsies and cute Polaroids of the stretch of affected esophagus. We would get out our little gallery of previous Polaroids and compare them. Is the affected area actually darker here? Larger now than it was five years ago?
When you wear a pair of ill-fitting shoes, you never really know how bad the pain is until you take them off.
This week we took off the shoes.
After ten years of waiting, finally a treatment has emerged that studies show to be successful.
Of course, living in the South, we had to drive to a city five hours away to receive this treatment. No problem. We would have driven to Alaska, if that's what it had taken.
Last Wednesday my husband had his second successful treatment, and the doctor predicted that when he sees my husband in December that the bad tissue will be 100 percent gone. And then, with corrective surgery, my husband will be off his meds for perhaps up to 8-10 years before more surgery may be required.
Last night in bed my husband rolled over onto his stomach and cradled his pillow. "This is how I used to like to sleep," he said, his face happy, expectant, hopeful.
He didn't have to tell me. I remembered.