A husband tells it like it is…
This guest post from Cameron, is dedicated to my loving husband, who, has been not only my main man but my main source of happiness…I love you, Steve…
How I Survived My Wife’s Battle with Cancer
In the six years since my wife was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, she has frequently expressed that she cannot imagine all that I went through during her battle with cancer. Sharing this story is difficult, but I have shared it with her and hope to be able to share more in the future.
My wife, Heather, was diagnosed with mesothelioma only three months after the birth of our only child, Lily. On that day, I remember looking into my wife’s face as she cried and thinking, “How are we ever going to get through this?” As I sat there, ready to breakdown completely, the doctors began asking questions about medical decisions that needed to be made. These questions brought me back to reality, and forced me to face the gravity of our situation head-on. For the first of many times, I realized the urgency of making these decisions despite the overwhelming emotion of our situation.
Initially, after Heather’s diagnosis, my emotions were consumed by fear and rage. Communicating with others without excessive use of profanity was difficult. This situation just wasn’t fair, and I was enraged. Slowly, however, my need to care for Heather and Lily overcame my emotions. No matter how hard it was, I needed to be their rock, their source of optimism. The last thing my wife needed was to know just how scared I really was.
In those early days, my daily to-do list was often impossibly long. Arranging for my wife’s medical care while making sure our daughter and our pets were also properly cared for, on top of my already busy work schedule consumed more time and energy than I had to spare. As time passed, I learned how to prioritize in order to get things done, and I also learned how to accept help from the many friends and family members who offered their assistance.
Despite this loving support and my determination to do all I could to support my wife and daughter, on some days I still felt overwhelmed. The most difficult part of the ordeal came during the two months after Heather’s surgery in Boston. She flew to South Dakota to be with her parents, who had been watching Lily. There she would recuperate and prepare for her next portion of mesothelioma treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation. I, however, needed to return home in order to work, which meant a long two months away from my family.
During these two months, I only saw my wife and daughter once over a short, snowy weekend. I drove down after work one Friday, sleeping for a few hours in the car while the plows cleared the roads, only to arrive on Saturday morning exhausted. After a quick visit, I was back on the road to be at work by Monday morning. While this time was tough, I still do not view it as a loss. I simply did what needed to be done so that the three of us could be together as a family again once Heather had recovered. This cancer diagnosis forced us to make difficult decisions, but I took comfort in the fact that we could still make decisions.
In addition to learning to be grateful for the opportunity to make decisions, the thing I learned most through this ordeal is how to accept help from others. Thanks to the support of family and friends, we have emerged victorious, and I hope our story can be a source of help and optimism to family’s currently facing cancer together.