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My experience as the wife of a cancer patient – Guest post by Air July 26, 2008

Posted by Raul in Blogathon, Blogathon 2008, friends.
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This guest post was written and contributed by Airdrie who blogs at Talking to Air and co-hosts the Lipgloss and Laptops podcast

When I woke up this morning my husband was already in the kitchen feeding the kids. I noticed some small spots of blood on his pillow. My stomach sank — the sight of his blood always makes me queasy and worried. I’m guessing some of the pus-filled pimples on his face must have broken last night, and perhaps started bleeding.

My husband was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic colorectal cancer 19 months ago. Since then he has spent over a month in the hospital, had several operations, and endured months of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. You can follow his story over at his blog, penmachine.com.

The pimples on his face and torso are the side effects of an experimental drug treatment he is currently receiving through a clinical trial at the BC Cancer Agency. He has “used up” all his government-approved treatments, but there are still small tumors growing in his lungs. If this does not work, then I don’t know what is next – nobody talks about it. The future is uncertain. The only thing that is certain in my life is uncertainty. Thankfully, I have a great therapist who helps me, but that is another story.

When Raul asked me to guest post on his Blogathon, I had no idea what to blog about. Then I noticed that his charity of choice is the BC Cancer Foundation and I immediately knew that I wanted to write about: my experience as the wife of a cancer patient.

Let’s start with the good. They say every cloud has a silver lining. I have learned to enjoy each day with Derek. I now know what it means to live “one day at a time.” Each day is a gift, as they say. I have also realized that I am a strong person. I have inner strength. I take on the role of caregiver begrudgingly. But in the end, I am here for the long ride, through sickness and health.

I’ve learned that I need to ask for help, and that it really does take a “village” to raise a child, in this case, an adult child. My parents and his parents have played important roles in keeping him well, and keeping me sane. My children are flourishing, as kids do, despite the fact that their dad is sick. I have a huge support network, and it took Derek’s illness for me to see it, as though it was invisible before. For that I am grateful.

Now the bad. Cancer is not very sexy. Ileostomy bags, chronic pain, midnight runs to the Emergency room, multiple surgeries, medications and vomiting do not exactly fit into what I had pictured for our future together. There is a lot we can no longer do. He can’t get medical insurance to cover him for travels out of Canada. So I had to leave him at home during our family vacation to California earlier this month.

I was happy to leave him at home, close to his doctors. The truth is, I worry about him way more than I ever did before. It is almost at the point that I feel better when he is in the hospital, because when he is at home, I am always asking him, “how do you feel?” Not only is this very draining, but allowing myself to imagine a reprieve at some point in the future makes me think the unthinkable: only in his death will this pain, this cancer, stop controlling our lives. So I don’t think about it. But repressed feelings tend to build up and spurt out at inopportune times. And rather than keep it all to myself, I’m writing about it here for the world to see.

Truth time. It is most likely that my husband will die from this cancer. Even worse, nobody wants to talk about it. Everyone keeps saying to me that I need to stay positive. But what they are really saying is, “it is not helpful to think about the worst-case scenario.” Well, let me tell you right now, it is necessary for a wife and mother to think about the worst-case scenario.

Derek does not talk about it with me. His parents do not talk about it with us. But I have to think about it. I have two little girls to look after. So if I seem suddenly hard or selfish, I am. But it is not Derek’s fault. It is the cancer’s fault: the cancer that was not supposed to strike a young father at age 37.

Even the doctors don’t like to talk about it. I finally asked his oncologist the big question that everyone asks in the movies: “How long does he have to live?” The doctor said his cancer has a 30% five-year survival rate, with an average survival rate of two years.

So here I am, 19 months in to this role as wife of a cancer patient, and my husband is still alive. I am grateful for that. I honestly think I might fall apart if he were to die. But I am strong. I am realistic. We have put our “affairs in order.” I am drinking more margaritas than usual. I worry about blood stains.

I don’t understand what it means that patients only get 12-16 chemo treatments covered under the BC Medical Services Plan (what about Universal Health Care?). Who can answer that one?

I’m living life one day at a time. It seems some days to be getting worse, and other days to be getting better. I’ve never run a marathon, but I’m guessing it has to be easier than this.

Airdrie blogs at TalkingToAir.com and co-hosts the Lip Gloss and Laptops podcast.

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Comments»

1. nancy (aka money coach) - July 26, 2008

Airdrie. You have done an extraordinary thing in this post. You have addressed, directly, something that not only do individuals not discuss, but you have confronted, directly, our whole culture’s avoidance of death.

Thank you.

I’m amazed.

2. Blogathon! « Talking To Air - July 26, 2008

[…] 26, 2008 by talkingtoair Here is a link to my guest-post at Raul’s Blogathon. Be sure to check-out all his blog posts. He has some great stuff, plus some interesting […]

3. Beth - July 26, 2008

Airdrie – Thank you for sharing this. I can’t really imagine what you and your family are going through, but I do know that you and Derek are two of the bravest, most open and honest people I’ve ever met. And I know that your openness is helping more people than you will ever know! I hope I’ll see you guys soon (are you going to the Blogger Meetup on Tuesday?)

4. end times survival - July 27, 2008

[…] my husband was already in the kitchen feeding the kids. I noticed some small spots of blood onhttp://hummingbird604.com/2008/07/26/my-experience-as-the-wife-of-a-cancer-patient-guest-post-from-a…Post-Tribulation Rapture The End Times Christian Spiritual Survival …We at Last Trump Ministries […]

5. Raul - July 27, 2008

Airdrie – Thank you SO much for sharing your experience. During the Blogathon, I just kept thinking about you and DKM. I wish I was as brave as you guys are. You are an inspiration and an example, and I am honored to call you my friends.

6. Sambycat - July 30, 2008

I always love your writing. Hugs! I know -sort of- where you are at!

7. Overcoming fear and stigma: Airdrie’s series on mental health and surviving depression « Random Thoughts of a Student of the Environment - September 16, 2008

[…] individual. Airdrie contributed a really amazing post to my Blogathon writing about her experience as the wife of a cancer patient, and in this series, she reveals some of her struggles with […]


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