Life With Cancer in the Family

I received an e-mail from a reader of the blog…even though I haven’t updated my story in a while I felt I’d share this story with anyone who comes across this blog in the future. This is a story a lot of people can relate to. The story of a spouse dealing with the heartache of their loved one battling an awful disease. I credit my wife for getting me through my struggle, she was so strong through it all…she injected me, went to every chemo, sat by me as I vomited, was with me as I lost and grew back all my hair, made sure I took all my medicines and vitamins, made sure I ate well, etc… the list goes on and on. Being a spouse, parent, friend or loved one of someone who is dealing with cancer is almost as painful as going through it yourself. I’m doing great now and will update on my story at some point in the future…

Please take a few minutes to read this story that was mailed to me…

My wife frequently tells me she can’t imagine what it was like for me, as her husband and caregiver, when she was diagnosed with cancer. I haven’t shared too much with her about my experiences during this difficult time in our lives, but I realize that my story could be beneficial to others. Perhaps, it will help someone else going through the same thing.

Three months prior to Heather being diagnosed with cancer, we had Lily, our first and only child. It was such a joyous time in our life, imagining what the future could hold for our beloved little girl.  However, when the doctor said mesothelioma, our hope and joy gave way to fear and despair.  I couldn’t grasp the reality of the situation. My wife just looked at me, and I did all I could not to break down. The doctor quickly brought me back to reality when he told us of our medical choices. The choices we made in that office were just the first of many impossible decisions we’d have to make over the following months.

I had a hard time controlling my emotions right after we found out. There were days when all I could do was curse in a fit of anger. I didn’t understand why we had to go through this. With time, I learned to control my emotions. I accepted our situation, and I realized I had to be strong for Heather and Lily. I needed to be the rock that held us together.

Most of my days over the following weeks were spent chipping away at a long and impossible to-do list. Aside from working full time, I had to make sure the house stayed clean, the baby was taken care of, the animals were fed, and other chores were done. On top of all that, I was busy making travel arrangements to Boston, where Heather would undergo extreme procedures to treat her. I learned to prioritize the list and accept help when it was offered.  While at first I tried to do everything myself, I quickly realized that I would run myself into the ground before I got everything done.  I started accepting some of the generous offers of help that came in from our friends and family, and I felt like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders.  I will be forever grateful to each and every person who reached out to us in our time of need.

One time in particular that was very tough for me was when Heather and Lily stayed with Heather’s parents in South Dakota. It was after Heather’s mesothelioma surgery in Boston. She went there to recover for two months, while preparing for the next phase of her treatment. Unfortunately, I was not able to go with them, as I had to return home to work.  In those two months, I was only able to see Heather and Lily one time.

One Friday, I drove overnight after work to see them. It was snowing, and I had to stop to wait for the plows to try to clear the roads. I arrived Saturday morning exhausted from the drive. I spent a little time with them and drove back Sunday morning to get ready for work on Monday.  It was a long trip for a few precious hours with them, but it was worth every second.

It was hard to be away from them, but I learned to appreciate our time together. I don’t look at this situation as a loss, rather a learning experience. I’m thankful for the help we had; I would have never been able to do this by myself. Despite the odds, Heather is still alive and cancer-free to this day, and I have so many people to thank. It is my hope that by sharing our success story, we can help inspire others who are currently battling cancer.

    • Amber
    • October 10th, 2013

    I was just in the middle of writing, thanking you for your blog, as you just posted this letter. I was diagnosed in August with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at 26. I’ve enjoyed reading through your journey and am so glad to hear you are doing well. Would love to talk more about if you changed any of your habits during treatment.. I’d love to get a clear PET early! Email me if you’d like.

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