Cancer has a darkness and a lightness. It enters every aspect of your life and can have some dire consequences and effects on your everyday life, but it can also have some positives. Things you never thought about.
Lou has asked me to write this to try and give the perspective of husband/wife/partner. Obviously on my side it comes as the Husband but would i guess be the same for others such as wife or partner.
I have written several versions of this since being asked but I never feel it conveys exactly what I want it to…
But here goes:
Cancer. Hearing the diagnosis even though you have an idea of what is coming is hard. The first time was hard. The second time a lot harder. Lou has already been through some horrific treatments and has scars both physically and emotionally to prove it… Watching the person you Love go through the pain and feeling helpless is hard. It takes its toll on you in more ways than one. I have friends who have been in this position with their wives, and trust me we have all had similar feelings and fears….Listening to your wife beg to die because of the Chemotherapy isn’t something I ever want to hear again.
Hearing she was all clear and ready to move forward was a good day. No more trips to the hospital except for the normal routine screening that women are called for. A little celebration followed. we started to make plans. The future was becoming visible.
About 6 months after that news Lou sneezed… it hurt her. She has a high pain threshold, so if she says it hurts I know damn well it hurt! This continued for a couple of weeks and then the dreaded google self diagnosis that frightens you stupid got her to the point of phoning her breast care nurse. A quickly arranged visit to the consultant and then a plan for a scan we were unsure of what lay ahead, but two months later we got a phone call asking her to go in, quickly… we now know whats coming but it doesn’t prepare you for the words actually being spoken by a man who spent a lot longer at school than I did. It had returned into her Bones. Secondary Breast cancer. It’s in her chest. We have since found out it is also in her left femur near her hip. Lots of scans, biopsies, appointments and we’re where we are today. Being told she statistically had five to ten years left on the planet was the hardest thing I have ever had to digest and process. My mind focused on just those few words and I cannot remember the drive home from hospital that day, my mind processing the words that had been spoken so casually.
So, why is cancer dark? well…. you go to some dark places and imagine the worst. yes I have thought about her funeral. Would I be able to get through it? We’re not old, we haven’t done everything we want to. Why us?? It may be wrong but surely there are people more deserving of this than us… yes you will think that. It doesn’t make you a bad person, it makes you human. We all know people that seem to skip through life with nothing happening to them and not a care in the word….Bloody hell thats annoying….
I am in the fortunate position where I am 47yrs old and due to end my current work contract in a little over three years. we had plans after that. Nothing elaborate but they were plans for a period of our life before old age caught up with us. We were going to enjoy a few things, and allow my body to recover from 30yrs of shift work. Have a social life that my work had so consistently ruined.
Work becomes a distraction. You head in to give you something else to think about, only when you’re at work you’re distracted by home and unable to focus. It feels like you’re in a fog and unable to process things clearly.
Drink… I’ve stopped buying it to prevent me using it to sleep. I know thats not a good routine to get into and can only lead to disaster. I need to be fit and healthy for support, Because Lou needs it… I need to have broad shoulders, they’re getting some use!!! I cannot afford to be ill.
I don’t sleep at night anymore. I lay looking at the ceiling, my mind working overtime but on nothing in particular. I am often looking into the darkness. I am constantly tired now. I lay there listening to Lou’s deep breathing… a sign of sleep… it’s calming, it lets me know she is still there. But sleep evades me….
I have felt immense rage within. I feel it building and it takes self control to manage it. It’s like walking a tight-rope. One side is the rage and the anger, I want to dispense pain and feel it…the other side you just want to cry….uncontrollably… and it’s a constant battle between the two.
Something else to consider with this illness as well. Something you may never have thought. It’s bloody expensive!! visits to Hospitals, it uses fuel and thats not a cheap commodity anymore. Time… we spend hours at hospitals, Lou more than me because she sometimes goes five times a week for things like blood tests and injections that I don’t go to… then there’s the obligatory coffee when you get there because we always get there early because we don’t want to be late. It all adds up… Paraben free hair products and soaps etc… because Parabens contain oestrogen… and its oestrogen thats killing her and feeding the cancer. They’re not cheap!! Our diet has changed, more greens and Lou has lots of additional supplements to help her body through the drug taking.
I look at Lou and can see different emotions going through her head. She’s very pragmatic and focused, she is also wanting to raise money to help others. She can burst into tears at the drop of a hat. mid-lunch even. No warning it’s coming but it lands with a vengeance. Her future wiped out in a sentence. This produces an anger/frustration. Hearing peoples plans about their future… we don’t plan more than a month is advance at the minute. It’s November and Christmas isn’t even on our radar yet…we feel we don’t have a future…But I have also heard her Laugh more than ever before. A recent finding of the app Snapchat has her in stitches when her friends send silly little clips to her… you start to notice the little things and enjoy them. You will slow down in life because you have to and it gives you time to notice things you would normally have missed. How green the trees look in the summer, the wildlife, smells and so on.
We have some very good friends and family. They know when we need them but they also seem to know when we need space and leave us alone. You start to question some friendships and work out if there is anything being brought to the table by them… and can you waste precious time flogging a dead horse?? But everyone deals with this differently for their own reasons. Colleagues at both of our places at work have been fantastic, as have organisations we work for. The support has been amazing.
We try to use humour to get through this. The Consultant looks at us gone out when we’re laughing in his room. I don’t think he has that happen very often. If we didn’t use humour we would curl up and die. Positive outlook to the best of our ability is our only way. It’s our journey and we will deal with it in our way. Some may not like that but you know what… tough.
Sometimes i feel like there are lots of people around me but for some reason I feel so bloody lonely and lost in the world….
So… what has cancer taught me?? Well, firstly, life is way too short. Live it now and don’t put things off until tomorrow… tomorrow may never come. Enjoy friendships and time with friends, they are important. As a bloke, it’s OK to admit you need help, don’t bottle things up. Cancer may be a dark place as I have eluded to… but we have laughed at the most bizarre things, and laughed until it hurts… it’s not all doom and gloom!!! There is life with Cancer….