Roger looked up at me over the oxygen mask, his eyes drawn wide by the sores stretching his face. He lifted a hand for me to take.
“I’m glad you’re here,” Jen had said before I’d entered his room. “They’ve taken him off a lot of the medication. He’s very lucid, but he’s depressed and scared.”
The previous fall, Roger and Jen had begun couples therapy with me. They were both thirty-two and had been together for ten years. Three years before they came to me, Roger had been diagnosed with leukemia. A bone-marrow transplant had left him cancer-free, but his prognosis was guarded. He and Jen argued frequently, his desire for independence clashing with her insistence on managing his care.
When they first visited my office, Roger shuffled in, bent and thin, on a walker. He wore a baseball cap, pulled low to shield his light-sensitive eyes. When he removed it, I saw that his face was covered with scabs, his bald head mottled in odd colors.
Jen spoke first, asking how much I knew of Roger’s medical situation. I shared what I’d been told, being careful not to paint too negative a picture. Then Roger spoke. …