Thursday, November 15, 2012

Guest Writer

Recently, I was contacted by a man, Cameron, who shared with me his hard journey through cancer as a caregiver for his wife.  He asked me to share this story as it is poignant to the road the family and friends of people with cancer travel.  All of our personal stories are unique with regard to Erin and Claire, but many of us will identify with feelings, thoughts, situations, etc, with Cameron, our guest writer.  The following is his family's story.

How I Survived My Wife's Cancer Diagnosis

As her caregiver, my wife has said that she cannot imagine how I felt after her mesothelioma diagnosis. Its been difficult to share some of my experiences with her, but I hope to use this forum to share more.

Our first child, Lily, was born three months prior to my wife’s diagnosis. We went from experiencing a time of great joy to a time of immense fear and uncertainty after her diagnosis. When she was diagnosed, I looked into my wife’s eyes as she was crying, and I wondered, “How are we ever going to get through this?”

In the midst of her diagnosis, I was on the verge of a mental breakdown myself, but I managed to snap out of it when the doctors asked me questions about her future medical care. This day marked the first of countless days that I would feel overwhelmed. Despite my feelings, I had to make difficult decisions with my wife.

When she was diagnosed, my range of emotions included anger, rage and fear. I did not know how to control my feelings of anger. Many times, my communication style included needless expletives. It took a while, but I learned to control my emotions. I had to learn because I needed to be strong for my wife and daughter. They depended on me to be strong. In every situation, I had to be a source of optimism and stability. This was much easier said than done.

After the diagnosis, I often had long “to-do” list. The lists consisted of work action items, travel arrangements and other events. I was overwhelmed, but I learned how to prioritize and select the most important tasks first. During this time, I had to learn to accept help from others when I was overwhelmed to avoid feelings of despair. I am not sure how I would have cared for my wife without the help of these people. Many days, I was still overwhelmed even with the help.

For a two-month period following Heather’s surgery, I struggled immensely in her absence. Heather and my daughter were in South Dakota recovering with her family. She was also preparing for her next phase of mesothelioma treatment, which included chemotherapy and radiation. I was only able to see them once during this time period.

One Friday, I drove through a snowstorm for 11 hours to visit my wife and daughter. I slept for a few hours in the car waiting for the storm to clear. When I arrived Saturday, I was exhausted, but I spent the rest of Saturday visiting with my family and some time on Sunday morning before starting my journey back home.

I do not have regrets about making the decision to be apart from my family, or any other decisions I made during this time. I was simply happy that my wife was still around so that we could make these choices about her care. During this time, I learned some valuable lessons. I learned to accept help from others, and to be grateful for the opportunity to make the choices. This gave me comfort during a time of uncertainty. Through all of our struggles, Heather is still here and still healthy over six years later.  I hope that our story can be a source of hope and help to those currently battling cancer.

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