In September 2015, Jessica learned that she had stage 2B breast cancer, and six months later Dan was told that he had treatable stage 4 colon cancer.
DAN I was in a rehearsal room, casting a play of mine, when a text from Jessica flashed on my phone with the results of her biopsy: “It is cancer.” I felt instantly that everything had changed. I was afraid she would die, of course. But I knew, from previous traumas — abuse as a child, being disowned by my family as a young man — that we would have to change now, too. Not just how we lived, but in some profound sense who we were.
JESSICA Maybe it’s the Jersey girl in me, but I was all “fight” when it came to our cancers. When the oncology surgeon was laying out my options, I stopped her and said: “I have a 2-year-old daughter. I need to do everything I can to stay alive for her.”
DAN The pandemic has stirred up some troubling memories of “chemo quarantine” for both of us. Habit and ritual — to say nothing of magical thinking — helped me a lot during that time.
There’s a lot of talk about different kinds of marriage penalties in the tax code (when being legally married puts you at a disadvantage relative to...