Shouldn’t I Be Over The Moon?

The crescent moon over Syracuse, NY. Photo by Jim Teske

Day before yesterday I drove my wife to her post-op appointment. Almost a year ago she was diagnosed with a breast cancer that forms strings rather than lumps, and though it was found early, she endured a summer, fall, and early winter of chemotherapy, operations, a double mastectomy, and now recovery. She lost her hair and most of her energy, had to take off from work she loves, and couldn’t do much family stuff.

At the appointment we heard that the cancer is gone and that she is on her way back to health. We were quiet, nodding at the doctor. I wondered, shouldn’t I be over the moon about this? It’s the news we hoped for. We guarded ourselves against bad news but didn’t know how to prepare for good. Driving home, I asked her about our lack of excitement and celebration. She said, we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, that we are tired.

Nothing much changed with the good news. She is still recuperating from surgery, still not close to being herself. Cancer was invisible to us. We saw only the effects: scars, hair loss, bruises from the blood thinner injections, a double mastectomy. My wife is still scarred, bruised, tired, and missing her long hair. The cancer is gone, but the effects of the treatment remain all too visible.

To go over the moon requires sudden, ecstatic surprise. None of that in this slow process of recovery and return to life. There is no moment when everything clicks. Things will return to normal over time. The bruising on her belly has begun to fade. The scars on her breasts will heal. Her hair will grow so slowly we will notice only after we’ve missed the whole process. 
Rather than being over the moon, we stand beneath the changing faces of it, the waxing and waning. While the full moon gets most notice, more often than not we look up at the crescent, a partial moon so familiar we easily forget the pull it exerts, shifting the tides and drawing us out of the darkness of night toward the warm light of morning.