From Husband to Cancer Caregiver
My wife has said on many occasions that doesn’t really understand what I went through when she was diagnosed with mesothelioma. I hope that my words here will give her an idea of what exactly it was like for me, and be a source of help and hope to anyone currently struggling through a similar difficult situation.
Heather’s diagnosis came at a time when our life was so good, just three months after the birth of our first and only child, Lily. Our lives were filled with joy and excitement, but all too quickly that happiness was taken from us and replaced with fear and uncertainty. I remember looking at Heather as she cried over her diagnosis and wondering how we would possibly get through this. To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement. I was on the verge of having a complete breakdown when I heard the doctor talking to us about making important medical decisions. I realized that this was the first of many we’d have to make.
That didn’t stop my anger. After we received Heather’s diagnosis, I was beyond angry. I spoke to people using nothing by profane language on a regular basis. I was angry at the world for putting us in this unfair situation. I knew I needed to be strong for Heather, but it was much easier said than done. I quickly realized how selfish I was being, and that the last thing my wife needed was to see my fear. I was finally able to get it under control and be the rock she needed during this difficult time. I strove to be a source of hope and optimism for my family from then on.
However, my schedule was overwhelming. I had to make travel arrangements, take care of my wife and daughter, take care of our home, and work. I was overwhelmed and not sure how to handle it. Fortunately, we had many people offer to help us, and I learned to accept their help. With prioritizing and the help our friends and family offered to us, I was able to make it through this difficult time. I was still overwhelmed, but our friends and family made it much easier for me.
The most difficult time in all of this was the two months immediately following Heather’s surgery in Boston. Lily had been in South Dakota with Heather’s parents while Heather underwent surgery in Boston, and she flew directly there after her surgery to spend the next two months recovering and preparing for the next round of mesothelioma treatment. I remained behind to take care of our home and continue to work to support us. It was difficult being away from them for so long, but I’m just thankful we had the ability to make that decision.
I saw them only once during all of that time. I drove 11 hours on a Friday night after work through a snowstorm to see them, only to turn around and drive home Sunday to be back in time for work on Monday morning. It was a crazy amount of travel for a few precious hours with them, but it was worth every second.
It was difficult, but I learned so much during this time. Mostly, I learned that I needed to accept the help so graciously offered to us by our loved ones. Without them, we couldn’t have done this. I also learned to never regret any of the tough decisions we were forced to make. Rather than anguishing in the tough choices, we learned to take comfort in the fact that we retained the ability to make choices at all. Six years later, Heather is still here and she is healthy, despite all the odds we faced during this time. I hope that this story can help others who are going through cancer understand that it’s not hopeless.