Interview with Jack Emerald from Belly of the Whale by Linda Merlino
WRSB: Jack, thank you for coming on the show today. I remember seeing you play basketball in high school. I was a rookie reporter then, covering the local school sports events. You, Jack, were known as “Beanstalk Emerald” and somewhat of small-town-hoop-celebrity. How do you feel about that today?
Jack Emerald: I am complimented that you remember me. Personally I never thought very much about the celebrity thing, I loved to play basketball and that’s what I did. Today my boys play basketball, and the three of them are much better than I ever was.
WRSB: Your family is very important to you from all that I read in Belly of the Whale. I understand you passed on a big West Coast opportunity recently.
Jack Emerald: My family comes before my work, don’t misunderstand, I love what I do and was honored by my alma mater in California offering me a professor’s position, but my family has been through enough over the last several years and to be perfectly honest we are very content to live in our house at Ten Nettles Cove.
WRSB: We here at WRSB are pleased that you stayed in Gloucester and would like you to share with our listeners some of what you speak of regarding the last several years and your family. You were a caregiver to a wife with breast cancer, is that correct?
Jack Emerald: Yes, our youngest child was four years old when Hudson was diagnosed with breast cancer. My wife’s mother died of breast cancer when she was fourteen and for all the years that followed Hudson carried the fear of also dying of this disease.
WRSB: What kind of an impact did this double tragedy have on your family?
Jack Emerald: I for one never thought my wife would die young or from breast cancer. When she was diagnosed I made a plan, the same way I make a plan or outline for my marine research. I was sure we, and I emphasize the we, could beat breast cancer. Hudson’s mother died at a time when the treatment of the disease was in its infancy. Her chances were slim to none of recovery. I did not feel that those odds applied to Hudson.
WRSB: Your wife felt differently about her breast cancer, about her survival, correct?
Jack Emerald: She tried for many months to be hopeful. Hudson endured multiple surgeries, experimental drug therapy and chemotherapy, but one day, the day before our daughter turned five, she lost hope.
WRSB: What does a caregiver do when this happens?
Jack Emerald: Being a caregiver is a role you assume without thinking of yourself. Cancer was not about me and I tried everyday not to personalize its presence. I loved my wife and I always thought of myself as a good husband, not perfect, but for the most part a good guy. After she was diagnosed I became a better husband, I loved her more than I thought I ever could. I wanted her to have quality of life, no matter what happened. I thought about the times I wasted on small stuff, on insignificant complaints and I made an effort, no, a vow, that I would not do that again. When Hudson gave up, I didn’t know it. She was a pro at hiding her emotions from everyone. I just kept on doing what I was doing, pushing her to survive. Telling her, Hudson Catalina I love you.
WRSB: Thank you Jack, for being here today, your words will be welcome by other caregivers. It is clear that beyond medicine, patience and love are the best cures.