I saw Tracy intermittently for the next two years. Her busy schedule at work and at the cancer center made regular sessions difficult to schedule. Usually she'd see me when starting a new treatment modality or when faced with difficult treatment choices. I was both her therapist and coach, helping her navigate the maze of the medical system, while encouraging her innate fighting spirit.
As the months passed, even though she was trying various interventions, including chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, and in spite of her formidable willpower, her melanoma continued to advance, though much more slowly than expected. It spread from organ to organ, finally invading her brain, liver, and lungs. Throughout this time, John was at her side whenever she was at our treatment center.
While many people at our center suffer and die alone, regardless of family size, income, and social standing, others seem to be blessed by a caring and dedicated network of family and friends. We can usually tell when support is genuine and when its superficial. John's support was consistently identified by all team members as selfless and commendable. He and Tracy appeared to be an ideal couple. His care of his wife seemed to draw on an inexhaustible well of a good feeling generated by a long, happy marriage.
John wasn't just emotionally supportive: he also grasped the fine details of Tracy's disease and treatment options. During one visit to our cancer center, he confided privately to me, fighting back tears, that he knew it was only a matter of time before Tracy died, and that he felt it was his duty to make sure that her quality of life was the best it could be for whatever time she had left.