My second gratitude is intrinsically related to my first gratitude. During the eighteen weeks of chemotherapy, I didn’t know if I would live or die and I felt myself retreat into my private world of dealing with the unknown with denials and fear and depression. I am immensely grateful to my wife of thirty years, poet Gail Rudd Entrekin, who, during the worst part of my chemotherapy, crawled into bed with me in the hospital–to the astonishment of the staff and other patients–and helped me watch the drip, drip, drip of the poison going into my body. Because I had a bad reaction to the drug, the process required eight hours each time. For three years afterwards, Gail was caregiver, constant companion, helpmate, closest friend, devoted lover, and loving wife. In many ways, my cancer was rougher on Gail than it was on me. As someone has said, it is harder to care for someone you love who is suffering than to be the one that is suffering and being cared for. We were able to capture some of the struggle and transformation that occurred in poetry. Gail and I recently completed a book of poems The Art of Healing that reflects our two journeys, as caregiver and survivor, from diagnosis to treatment to healing, and the coming to terms with what remains, what it means to be alive and part of a larger web of being.
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