Four years ago, at age twenty-four, I was in high spirits because my boyfriend was about to finish his last trimester of college and move to the city where I live d so that we could begin thinking about our future. We had met in high school and had spent most of our relationship living two hundred miles apart. Everything seemed to be going well, except that the back of my boyfriend’s neck had been hurting him for a few months. It kept getting worse, but the doctors reassured us that it was only an infection or an inflamed lymph node. On April 6, he received the call. It was nasopharyngeal carcinoma. At age twenty-two, he’d been diagnosed with cancer.
I happen to live thirty minutes away from the hospital that his doctor highly recommended for treatment. I insisted without hesitation that my boyfriend live with me and that I be his primary caregiver during treatment. The actual treatment would last only two months, and because he was young it was expected that he would tolerate the high levels of radiation and chemotherapy relatively well. As it turned out, he was extremely sick, not only during the treatments but for three months thereafter, because he could not tolerate his pain medication.