Here is a toast to the miracle of love. Not to the romantic, chocolate, dance club nightlife type of love. Not warm sandy beach vacation, new bigger home and grand Thanksgiving dinner love. Not even baby’s first words love. I mean power passion that gets us through the hard times, type of love.
Edna and Ken are 90, married and both have active cancer. They have been partners for 62 years. At least one of them is in our office every week for some sort of care. They never visit alone, always staying close. Often they are in treatment chairs next to each other. It is clear to all that they are very much in love.
This couple has no family and with the passage of time, few friends. The burden of medicine, transportation, tests and treatment falls on their ancient shoulders. When Edna is weak, she leans on Ken. When Ken is ill, Edna guides him through. They listen and answer together, often completing or correcting the other’s words. In one moment they push each other to comply with medical care, and the next they protect from intrusive or harsh treatment. They are a care team.
In them one senses depth beyond the medical bond. They sit close and often touch. They frequently tease and laugh, even making gentle fun of the other’s limits. If Ken shuffles slowly down the hall, Edna promises to leave for a fitter man. When Edna cannot eat Ken rants, to all that will listen, about how she has never appreciated his cooking. He worries about her pain. She frets about his blood counts. There is deep respect and balance in their collaboration. There is love.
I do not know what their future holds. I do not know how they would get through without each other. However, I do know that for now their love gives them the strength to continue with grace, comfort and dignity.
Therefore, here is a toast to love. In love there is a life giving force. In love, there is humor, trust and hope. Love makes us so much more and love keeps us safe. Love holds us together and love carries us on.
James C. Salwitz is an oncologist who blogs at Sunrise Rounds.
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