When my husband was diagnosed with liver cancer, the first thing I did was buy school supplies.
This was not the initial superheroine move one might think; I wasn’t planning to enroll in med school to cure him myself. The trip to Staples was instead a surrender to the complicated and confusing slog of battling a large health issue in today’s health care system. My husband would most likely need lots of tests, doctor visits, medications, therapies…and someone would need to keep it all straight. It seemed unfair of me to expect him to keep track of it all. (He had just walked out of a cold white room being handed what was at best painful terror and at worst a death sentence, after all.) What could I do to help? I could remember all the names, addresses and phone numbers of the doctors, keep track of the medications, take notes in of specialist visits and maintain a running timeline of procedures, complications, symptoms and treatments. How to do this? By morphing into the best damn administrative assistant of all time!
Of course, you’re thinking, this would be the impulse of a naturally organized person, a woman whose closet is Pinterest-pretty and whose pantry has matching dry goods containers all attractively filled. Well, you’d be completely wrong. My bathroom cabinet overflows with half-used products I don’t especially like; I have desk drawers filled with bits of string and crumpled Post-Its and my car’s central console oozes with a viscous liquid that has fused coins into a sticky ball. Hi, I’m Dana, I’m sort of a mess!
Intuitively, I understood I’d need to bring someone else’s organizational A-game to the event of my husband’s illness. So I took a quiet moment at home to make a list of what I’d need in my binder: a plastic page to store medical professionals' cards (oncology trading cards, collect them all!), section dividers, a 1 ½” three-ring binder, a portable hole punch to make medicals bills and lab results fit in the binder. I bought plastic page protectors, one to slide in post-operative instructions, and one to slide in the timeline I’d update with his latest symptoms. I splurged on a label maker for those divider tabs (look how neat I am, teacher!), threw everything in my car and drove home to assemble it all, subbing in busy-busy-busy for W-T-F feelings, at least for the moment.