My wife, Heather, has said on several occasions that she has no idea what life was like for me after she was diagnosed with mesothelioma. We’ve talked about this time in our lives before, but that simply isn’t enough to give her an idea of what I went through. With this article I hope to share more with her, as well as anyone else currently struggling through a similar situation.
Her diagnosis came only three months after she gave birth to our only child, a little girl named Lily. We were so happy and so filled with joy after Lily’s arrival, but all of that happiness and joy was replaced by fear and anger and uncertainty when Heather was diagnosed with cancer.
I remember feeling so many emotions. I was on the verge of breaking down, seeing the tears in Heather’s eyes and wondering how we would get through this, when the doctor’s words brought me back to reality. He was talked to us about making difficult decisions regarding Heather’s medical care. I knew this was just the beginning. I couldn’t help the fact that immediately following Heather’s diagnosis I felt so much anger. I was furious at the world for putting my family in this cruel and unfair situation. I was using profanity to communicate, even though I knew I needed to be strong for Heather and Lily. I needed to be their rock, their source of optimism. After a while, I learned to get a handle on my emotions and keep them in check. From then on I did my very best to be a stable source of hope and help for my family.
My days were difficult, however. I had to work, make travel arrangements for medical care, and take care of Heather, Lily, our home, and our pets. I wasn’t sure how I was going to get it all done. I learned very quickly that I often couldn’t, and that I needed to learn to prioritize. I also learned that I needed to start accepting the help that was offered to me by so many other people in our lives. We were very blessed to have those people in our lives, to make things so much easier on us. I was still overwhelmed, but they helped a great deal.
The most difficult period for me, and one that Heather says she cannot even begin to imagine, was the two months when she was away from me following her mesothelioma surgery. We sent Lily to South Dakota to be with Heather’s parents while she had her surgery in Boston. Heather immediately went to South Dakota afterwards to recover. I couldn’t go with her because I had to work. This wasn’t an easy decision, but it was necessary for my family.
I saw Heather and Lily only once during this time. I was able to leave work one Friday night and drive 11 hours through a snowstorm to see them. It was a quick trip. I had to get back into my car and drive the 11 hours home on Sunday so that I could be home for work on Monday, but I was able to spend one full day with them and it was the best day I had in those entire two months.
I learned a lot through this. I learned to accept help when its offered, and to never regret or second guess the difficult decisions that cancer forces us to make. It’s been six years since Heather was diagnosed, and despite the odds against her she is healthy and cancer-free. I can only hope my words help someone else going through a similar difficult battle with cancer.