Wednesday, 9 January 2013

A story entitled "Learning to Live with Cancer"

The following short story is about a very brave family who have gone through so much turmoil, both emotionally and physically in their personal battle against Cancer.

Cameron contacted me some months back, telling me he had come upon my blog quite by chance and after reading posts I had written felt a certain symmetry in how we both explain ourselves,how we write, the experiences we have gone through and all the emotions,fears and feelings that we have undergone.

Cameron asked would I be willing to share just some of the experiences of his family in the form of a short story he wrote on my blog about his wife's terrible disease and I agreed immediately.

 The internet is a fantastic way to share ones experiences and in doing so if it can shed even the tiniest bit of light on someone who is suffering, well that's quite an achievement.

Learning to Live with Cancer

My wife often tells me that she doesn't know how I got through a life-changing event. When Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma, I didn't know what to say or even what to do, but slowly things fell into place. I hope that by sharing my experience here, I can help someone else currently facing a similar situation. 

Three months before her diagnosis, we were in the hospital, celebrating the birth of our first and only child, Lily. With such great joy and excitement in our lives, it was hard to imagine the time that was to follow. Sitting in the doctor's office just a few months later, we experienced the worst moment of either of our lives. When the doctors told us that my wife had mesothelioma, I looked at Heather, tears welling up in her eyes, and could not imagine how we were ever going to get through this.

Overwhelmed, I went through a brief moment of breaking down, but her doctor’s rapid questions about future medical decisions we would be asked to make brought me back to the present. It was the first time of many more occasions where we would have to make choices under the stress of severe emotional upheaval. I can only thank Heather for being strong even when we both had doubts.

Right after the meeting with doctors, I only felt anger and fear, which would come out in unexpected ways, particularly when I was frustrated. I cussed, ranted and raged at the smallest things. I felt angry at the world for putting us in this impossible, unfair situation. I knew that I couldn't be like that, and it didn’t take long for me to realize how selfish I was being. For my wife and daughter, I had to be strong, and eventually, it began to set in that this was more than a passing moment. It was going to be many months, maybe years. I never wanted my wife to see how scared I was. From that moment on, I did my very best to be nothing but a source of hope and optimism for my wife.

Afteragnosis, my to-do list grew considerably, and I had to learn to cope with all these new responsibilities. I had to help raise Lily, take care of Heather, our pets, while also holding down my full time job and helping to plan travel arrangements, doctors appointments, and so much more. Being that overwhelmed, I often felt that I couldn't take one more thing added to the list. I learned to prioritize and make choices, taking the list on one item at a time in order of importance.  I also learned very quickly to accept help from anyone who offered. Without the incredible outpouring pport from our loving friends and family, I honestly don’t know how we would have made it through this difficult time.

After work on a Friday, I decided to drive to my wife and baby in South Dakota. It was an 11-hour drive through a snow storm. I slept on the side of the road at one point as the plows worked to clear the snow. I arrived on Saturday and spent the rest of the day with my family, as well as part of Sunday, before driving back for work on Monday. It was a lot of exhausting travel for a few precious hours of time with them, but it was worth every second.

I never look back on this time away from them with regret, as hard as it was. Instead, I see that we had to be strong and we had to cope in the way that was right for our family. With cancer, we had to make many difficult decisions that no one should ever have to make, but we learned not to despair in those decisions. Instead, we learned to take comfort in the fact that we even had the ability to make decisions at all, and that gave us some small sense of control over a situation which all-too-often seemed completely out of our control.  

I learned a lot during this time. I appreciated my family more. I learned to accept help from neighbors, friends and family, and I also learned the value of making tough decisions. It took a lot of time for us to get to a better place, but after 6 years, Heather is still here and healthy, despite the overwhelming odds stacked against her. I hope that our story can be a source of hope and comfort to all those currently battling cancer.

I'll end by saying remarkably brave family and I wish you the best of luck in the future. A real pleasure posting on your behalf Cameron I hope your story can indeed bring hope and comfort to those people who need it.

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