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.
How much of yourself do you have to give to your partner in support, and what is the true cost if you forget yourself in the process? The fact of...