June 23rd, 2016
| Survivor: Bile Duct Cancer
The respect and appreciation this cancer survivor has for her caregiver, her spouse, and her best friend are overflowing, and will inspire you to reach out to the people in your life who care for your physical & mental health with a big “thank you!”
My husband knows that I am not a doctor but that I sometimes like to play one on TV. On the day of one of my recent scans, I called him at work to tell him I’d read all the recent pathology reports from the scans done during my infection last fall and realized that lymph node we’d seen on the scan 2 months ago hadn’t been there during my infection. This meant the enlarged lymph node was new, post -infection. That meant it couldn’t have been residual inflammation from the infection.
He calmly told me it wasn’t a great idea to extrapolate these kinds of conclusions after I’ve read reports I’m not so great at interpreting. At this point I was crying and coming unhinged. He let me be scared but refused to be scared with me.
I don’t know how he does it. On this particular day of my scan my husband and I had a normal morning, getting breakfast, making lunches, getting our kids off to school. My husband drove off to work, and shortly after he left I got in my car and headed to Houston. He carried with him all day the anxiety that scans represent and in addition he hoped I would drive safely there and back, not be lonely, sad or overwhelmed and prayed the news the next day wouldn’t be awful. On top of all of that, he also has all the stresses of his daily job, meetings, emails, plus showing up in the way that’s expected.
Then his phone rings in the middle of his work day and it’s his wife who is crying because she’s suddenly faced with uncertainty. She is also very clear that she has proof things are bad. She is whispering into the phone and being very certain that the words she is speaking are facts. She wants reassurance that things will be alright but you see she has all these facts that are very concrete telling her things are not alright.
Here’s the important thing I want you to know: there are so many things my husband could have said to me that would have made this situation worse and so few things he could have said that could have made it better. How do you help the person you love while she is sinking into the dark abyss of her own mind? How do you keep yourself from falling in after her?
I actually don’t know how my husband manages to keep his composure when these scenarios occur, yet he does so with extreme grace. His refusal to believe the stories I tell him, which are based in fear and not fact, is one of his greatest gifts. He could be short with me because, you know, he’s in the middle of ten things at work and has a meeting in 4 minutes (which was actually the case when I called). He could unleash his own fear and escalate the situation so we both felt worse. He could just shut down and be unavailable.
Instead, somehow he was able to transcend the entire situation and convey his love, his total devotion and his belief that we will be ok. Then he had to hang up the phone, banish the image of his crying wife in a hospital gown 165 miles away and walk into a meeting like his entire life wasn’t hanging in the balance.
To all of you spouses/partners and parents who live with cancer patients: you are my heroes. Nobody, including me, has any idea how difficult it is to walk in your shoes. There are so many emotional land mines to navigate and you never know when one is going to blow up in your face. It’s a terrible reality of cancer.
I am so very grateful to my husband for being my partner in all this. He didn’t sign up for this, I’m so sure we didn’t ever see ourselves in this scenario, but man does my man shine.
Who are you grateful to have in your corner during or after treatment? Tell us in the comments below!
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