99 44/100% of Her Is Better Than Zero: Ivory Soap & My Late Wife’s Brain Cancer

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When my wife was still alive, I would half-joke with myself that the initial little bit of speaking deficit she experienced at the beginning of her Glioblastoma (brain cancer) was better than her not being around at all.

I would say to myself that “99 44/100% (of her) was better than zero.” This would become a silent type of mantra that I tried to use against the mounting pile of physical and emotional losses my late wife would face over the course of her 20 months with this monstrous, double-headed hydra of a disease. And to an extent, it helped me stave off part of the emotional toll.

At first, it was the tiniest increments of words that escaped her. Barely noticeable by a casual encounter. But, as someone who was by her side for 24 years, these tiny increments seemed as big as Mount Rushmore to me. 

As the disease persisted and “enhanced”, to borrow the phrase from medicine, she encountered longer and longer losses of words… my daughter and I got pretty good at filling in the gaps. When the gaps got longer than three words we implemented a logical word tree to get us from broad categories of words to narrow words. This worked but was time-consuming. Especially, when all she wanted to do was get some help going to the bathroom. This disease is insidious. 

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When you spend an enormous amount of time with someone (and pay attention) you are exposed to a lot of information about a person. Her likes and dislikes. How she liked her coffee prepared, what proportion of salsa in her breakfast burrito, how spicy to make a bloody mary, that she often didn’t want her feet covered with a blanket, the “proper” way to fold a towel, how to make the bed with all of the pillows bought for the purpose, how much sugar in a gallon of sweet tea, that she liked to clean her ears out with a Q-tip after a shower, Doritos spicy nacho chips were the most common chip to accompany salsa (Pace picante hot variety), Sanuk flip flops were the only brand worth wearing, and that a day was not complete without a kiss goodnight.

Truth is while we had her with us, any percentage was perfect. 

*Note: 99 44/100% is the same figure Ivory bar soap used to state as its purity.

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