My Wife Was Dying, and We Didn’t Tell Our Children
When Jon Mehlman’s wife, Marla, was told that her triple-negative cancer cell would likely give her only 1,000 days to live, he and his wife decided not to tell their daughters. “Some might not have made the same decision, believing that the girls had a right to know they should savor diminishing moments,” Jon Mehlman wrote for TheAtlantic.com on Valentine’s Day. “But Marla didn’t want her girls to savor; she wanted them to sail, and that meant less information—not a lie, but a lacuna. Marla refused to let family time together feel too precious, too heightened, too sad.”
In his article, Mr. Mehlman talks about how grateful his children were that he and his wife hid her illness from them, on the basis that it would allow them more childhood “normalcy.” Having lived nearly the opposite experience, I would like to reassure both him and his readers that he is absolutely correct.
When I was 20, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She beat it, but the chemo irreparably damaged her arteries, to the point that the rest of her life was one of ongoing medical struggle. First came the wave of surgeries to install stents in all her major arteries. Then came the bypass surgeries. Next, one of the bypasses failed and spit out a blood clot that lodged below her left knee, and her lower leg had to be amputated. Then a bit more. Then a bit more. Then they took the knee. After that, her mobility went, and it was just a matter of time until a clot developed in the other leg. And so on and so forth.