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Photo by Brandon Morgan on Unsplash

Cancer Can Kill More Than Your Body

My hubby and I got LUCKY….Really Lucky.

I wrote a previous article/blog announcing that my guy and I were both diagnosed with cancer 17 hours apart from each other. He, with colon and I had cervical. It was January 2 and January 3 of 2018.

“Cancer is a word, not a sentence.” — John Diamon

We have both gone through surgeries now, (his was much more invasive and more serious than mine), and I am happy to say, that he has been given the “all clear” from his doc.

I am still waiting for my next biopsy in July to determine if anything further has to be taken out of me. Regardless, we are both basically back to real life and recovered. Thank goodness.

Throughout this whole ordeal, I have taken time to reflect on our experiences, and it has shed some light on the dynamics of relationships while one or both people in a relationship go through such a terrifying diagnosis and event.

My daughter came and sat with me for two days over my surgery. I was fortunate enough to have her to lean on and to be brave for. She made me laugh, gave me tons of cuddles and we talked A LOT. We played cards and Scrabble and watched endless hours of TV. She is 24 and understands my needs and my fears. My guy was also at my side throughout my recovery and made sure that I never had to test the limits of my body or my mind, supporting me in every way he could.

His surgery was terrifying. They removed a portion of his colon and he is full of staples and has a few new battle wounds. He amazed me with his speedy recovery, doing laps around the hospital the same night of his procedure. He made sure that he followed the doctor’s orders and forced himself to eat and exercise as much as he could, prior to being discharged. I never recovered from his surgery as well as he did. He stayed positive and I went into a deep dark hole of anxiety and depression.

As I sit and write this now, I am feeling much more healthy; mentally and physically, and he has been back to work for about a month, living life and back to on the” bill paying hamster wheel”.

I have seen so many people struggle with mental challenges when they, or their loved ones, struggle from an illness. I have seen cancer sufferers become angry, withdrawn, depressed, anxious and lashing out at the family and friends that want to help them. It does NOT just affect the part of the body that it attacks. It affects so much more. It can kill the cells it feeds on, it can kill your happiness, and it can kill relationships.

I have determined that in our situation, the only reason that I pulled myself out of the “rabbit hole”, is because my partner stayed so very positive. He didn’t let his diagnosis destroy his mind and refused to let it win. After we both survived our struggles, I feel like we developed a stronger, deeper relationship. BECAUSE HE STAYED ON TRACK MENTALLY

I never actually knew that I was going through mental stress. I spent 3 entire weeks preparing for his surgery, visiting him in hospital, and preparing for his discharge to come home. I never allowed myself to feel anything, other than stress and worry for him, even after JUST having my own surgery. I never allowed my mind to catch up with the healing of my body. My body felt great, but I was scattered, squirrelly and emotional. A trip to Walmart was the trigger that made me see that I just wasn’t right in the head.

I went into the store, filled a small basket with about 10 items, looked around and saw the people in the aisles and panicked. I set the full basket on the floor, and went to my car, where I sat and cried for 10 minutes before starting it and driving home, sans groceries. That’s when I knew I needed to see the doctor.

I made an appointment to see him, and felt like I needed to HIDE how I felt. I casually asked him for a few more days off work, as I knew I couldn’t leave my man alone yet. The doctor wrote my absence letter and asked me “and how are YOU feeling?”

I STARTED TO CRY…. I UGLY CRIED. I sat in the chair in his office and fell apart.

How dare he ask me how I was feeling? I had put my mind on auto pilot the past 3 weeks and never considered how “I” was feeling. This wasn’t about me, it was about my guy. He was full of staples and scars, and needed help to put socks on. I needed more time off for him.

He handed me a questionnaire asking me questions like “How often do you eat?” How many hours do you sleep?” Do you feel the urge to hurt yourself?” , and on and on. I filled it in honestly and he consulted with a mental health specialist. They both told me that my Anxiety level was ”off the grid” and that I am depressed. — Great. Another diagnosis.

He prescribed some meds and I went home.

The conversation that ensued with my hubby when I got home was a difficult one. I told him about the appointment and he had difficulty grasping what I was saying. He thought I was strictly going to see the doctor to get more time off FOR HIM.

This could have caused a riff in our relationship, but I never allowed it to. I am not sure if it was because the meds kicked in, or what the reasoning was, but I opted to let it be, and didn’t tell him how I had been struggling. I hid in the bathroom at home and cried periodically, I hated people, and I couldn’t stand my own reflection in a mirror.He had no idea, as he sat and watched mindless TV trying to get better.

I spent my days sorting cabinets, cleaning and writing. Eventually and slowly I got back into my regular workouts and got back on the treadmill.I stayed in my own personal space. I made sure he had food, comfort, and hugs in between.

I NEEDED MORE TIME FOR ME. I needed space for thoughts, emotions and release.

When you NEED to rely on your life partner, for emotional support, living assistance or physical help, the “ME” part is out of the equation. It becomes about THEM. It becomes a struggle of needs and reliance. It can either make you as a couple, or break you.

Working through the entire two months of diagnosis, surgery and recovering, being in each other’s space at home, NEEDING each other, and dealing with our own internal struggles, has MADE US STRONGER. There was a point, during all of it when I honestly questioned whether or not we would make it. I thought of leaving. I thought of quitting. I thought of walking away. But I missed him. I missed us.

WE GOT THROUGH IT.

No one should ever feel guilt for taking time to heal, from whatever life throws at you. You need to dig deep within yourself and check your emotions, check your body, and search your heart. You need to focus on being well, even if your partner isn’t. If you are no good to yourself, you are no good for anyone else.

This is my third crack at kicking cancer’s ass and so far, I have beat it again. This is his first time and he passed with flying colors, choosing to stay positive, active and healthy. Some days I dispute with myself, whether my anxiety and depression was because he recovered so well, and I didn’t? Or, was it from being so beaten with exhaustion from focusing 100 % on him?

Maybe it was a concoction of jealousy and guilt, that he seemed to stay in better spirits than I could manage?

I don’t know. It seems almost irrelevant now. It seems like years ago.

We have both learned that we CAN rely on each other. We CAN meet each other’s needs and we CAN beat cancer. When shit hits the fan, you have the choice of wiping the walls and ceiling as it flies around the room, or hitting the OFF switch on the damn fan before it comes to that.

This is a chapter we can now close. It has taught us to never take life, or each other for granted. It has taught us how to be humble and it has taught us that “we” are not invincible.

The take away lesson is that WE CAN GET THROUGH ANYTHING NOW. We both looked the C word in the face and gave it the finger. It has made us both stronger- Individually, and Together

Writer of relationships / early childhood and mental health . Poetry and fiction dabbler

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