Last year, my wife fought off uterine cancer. My analog cameras helped capture what I saw with my eyes, what I felt with my heart.
A few days after this photo — the first on my “new” Zenza Bronica ETRS — was taken, Lynn went in for what was supposed to be a routine laparoscopic hysterectomy. Her doctor smiled and reminded us that only 2% of the patients of her age had malignant tumors. The surgery would take only thirty minutes, he assured me. An hour and a half later, I looked up from my reading to see him marching grim-faced towards me. He had bad news: she was one of the 2%.
Three days later we learned that the cancer had spread to her left ovary. He had removed everything, but he was guarded in her prognosis: he gave her a 75 to 80% chance of surviving five years.
She remained at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach for a week. To celebrate her release, I took her down to Newport Beach Pier to walk on the beach and not think about the months of chemotherapy and radiation that lay ahead. The fishermen were catching mackerel that day and the sea gulls were clustering around them, hoping to steal a fish. Lynn walked around slightly bleary-eyed, sharing with me an uncertain hope for her recovery.
We took many beach outings. Walking on the slightly sloping sand was easier for her than the mountain trails that we used to hike together. I could see the exhaustion in her eyes. We would amble until she could take no more. Then, I would take her to the friend’s house where she was recovering.
After her second chemotherapy treatment, she started to lose her hair. To hide the fact, she wore a wig and scarves. Friends came to us with weird outlooks and theories. Some said she might not lose her hair — on days when she had pulled out clumps by the comb-full. A woman I knew online urged me to talk Lynn into skipping chemotherapy and try a radio-wave treatment. I looked into it and discovered that the founder of the organization had, himself, died of cancer.
I had my own demons to wrestle. I live with bipolar disorder, so Lynn’s sickness was a special strain on me. People didn’t understand that I couldn’t be there day and night for Lynn, that I had take sufficient time off for myself; that I had to sleep in a familiar bed and get enough sleep so that I didn’t spiral into madness.
One day, Lynn pulled off her wig and said “Take my picture.” I pulled out my camera phone and produced this shot:
It was, perhaps, the saddest picture of her that I ever took.
All this did work for the better. In September — about a year ago — she finished her chemotherapy and was declared in remission. She regained the weight she had lost during chemo and regrew her hair. In spring of this year, we took a cruise to Mexico. Lynn felt invigorated and happy.
Life prevailed over death. We’re back to taking long walks every Sunday. I’ve added a Belair to my collection and continue to play with the other gems of my analog collection. The photos show me what we went through — Lynn as a patient, me as a husband who was for a time unsure about what would happen to her and to his own sanity.
If this should happen to you, do what your doctors tell you to do. Oncology continues to refine its techniques: the survival rate for uterine cancer is now 90% or better if it is caught early enough. If you are a spouse, make time for yourself.
And do not stop seeing — because our visions are part of life.
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