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Close interpersonal relationships play a major role in coping with cancer effectively. Neelam Kumar’s husband passed away when she was in her thirties, and hence couldn’t be a part of her journey with cancer. There is a common element of guilt experienced by the other two authors, wherein Paul’s wife Lucy, and Anup’s wife Amrita, had to take up responsibilities in addition to taking care of their husbands. Both Paul and Anup seem to have gone through a sense of regret of not being able to be the husbands they aspired to be.
The process of shunning the aspirations and dreams Paul had set for him and his wife was not easy. He feels guilty for not being the person that Lucy had fallen in love with. He expresses his insecurities by commenting on the presence of acne on his face, and how Lucy used to love his smooth skin. Paul struggled to reach a minuscule of what he used to be, to be a good husband, a man who enjoyed biking, ran half-marathons, and threw up in the air his giggling niece. He expresses how Lucy had become a pillar for him, literally. The relationship seems to have taken a lop-sided nature for Paul, where he felt unable to help.
Paul speaks more openly about his ups and downs with Lucy. Towards the end of residency, he had begun suspecting that something was wrong with his body, but saying out loud the ‘C’ word was dreaded. His conflicted state of mind took a toll on their marriage – even considering the possibility of cancer was too excruciating. The distance between him and Lucy only vanished once the diagnosis was clear. In a way, cancer saved their marriage. Throughout the duration of the illness, the couple faced a number of dilemmas – the duration of the illness, its severity, and what would happen after Paul’s death. In face of a crisis, the two came close but the nature of the relationship had changed drastically. The treatment for cancer caused weight loss, fatigue, nausea, among other side-effects. Anup talks about the financial burden on the family and how Amrita had to sell her gold to make ends meet. He uses the metaphor of an ivory tower to express how Amrita had protected him from all possible stressors and problems they were facing. He talks about multiple occasions when she cheered him up, how she could notice.
There’s a similarity in the way both the male authors speak about their spouses. Their abilities to notice times when they were feeling low, or insecure about their looks – for Paul it was his smooth skin that was now covered with acne, and for Anup, it was his fear of going bald. In both scenarios, the authors have talked positively about their spouses. Any occurrences of marital strife have been blamed on the situation, but never on the partners’ inability to cope.
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