A color wheel representing pink, red, orange, yellow, green, blue purple and grey

A Caregiver's Color Wheel

As our life moves through the days and the different ways cancer lives with us. The cancer intertwines almost like a loving cat; it is always there.

I've learned that color often dictates the way cancer reveals itself. It's not the color of the sky but the color across my partner's face. It's like a color wheel dictates each day and signifies different emotions that we experience.


A pink day is good, filled with energy. The day might be filled with busyness and making fond memories.

I hold on to pink days with hopes that another pink day will follow. But the truth is that it might be a while before I see this playful color on my loved one's cheeks.


Red is a color so close to pink but not nearly as loved. Red is hot, but not the hot one wants in a marriage bed.

It's the fever, chills, and the sound of the thermometer beeping out its reading. Red signifies those calls to the nurse line and waiting by the phone to see if we will be required to make a midnight trek to the hospital.

Red is the color of hot flashes and ice packs, of discomfort. Red is a warning color; it tells me to slow down to watch and observe.


Orange is a color that signifies a wide range of emotions. Some of my happiest memories with my partner are tinted orange in my mind, the summer before cancer.

Orange now feels like clinic walls, waiting room chairs, the smells of antiseptic, and the deep anxiety that comes with sitting in a waiting room. Sometimes, we might be walking into an appointment that changes the trajectory of our lives. Orange is the color of fluorescent lighting and the sound of elevator beeps. Once a cheerful color, it isn't always what it seems.


Sunshine yellow, a happy color, shines from behind my partner's eyes. These days sometimes feel the most sharp to me. That one day, this light might not shine out of their face, that it might dim, or that cancer might put it out entirely—happiness with a side of heartbreak, yellow, the color of a life worth knowing.


I'm sure anyone who is, was, or has known a person with cancer knows what color is coming next and the meaning it holds. Green.

Before my partner, I thought it was just an expression that people "turn green" when nauseous. It's an expression based on fact.

Green often goes hand in hand with gray, changing across my partner's face as quickly as you can change the television channel. As soon as these colors appear, my partner takes action, getting comfortable and falling asleep as soon as possible. As my spouse often says, "I can't be nauseous if I'm unconscious."


Gray looks like day-old oatmeal left behind in the sink. These days are dreaded. Gray days look like slumped lines and a low gas gauge. These days typically follow treatments such as radiation, Zometa infusions, and changes in lines of treatments. They sound like an alarm every 4 hours to dose out medication, tinkling from the jar, hoping that these will ease the gray cloud of discomfort.


There's a color we don't often see; it comes rarely. Blue is a color that represents sadness. Sadness comes and goes, but blue is grief. Blue is the gut-wrenching sobs that come from the bottom of your belly, deep and cleansing.

Blue is watching your spouse's heart continually break as they try to keep it together through so much toughness. I do my best to sit with blue, not to let my spouse be pulled away by their grief.


Purple days feel like storms. Days when nothing goes right. They're the worst kind of Mondays, the clinic days where everything is running late, and even days heavy with loss in the community. No matter what, storms will pass, often leaving behind a stark reminder of what you do have.

These color our life

Put it all together, the colors of our life, and we have a rainbow and clouds. How fitting for our life. It's filled with so much joy and edged with pain. Like every cloud has a silver lining, my cloud linings are pink and yellow.

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