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A Husband’s Musings on His Wife’s Battle with Breast Cancer

09/30/14

Permalink 07:37:09 pm, by joseph Email , 1134 words   English (US)
Categories: Announcements [B]

A Husband’s Musings on His Wife’s Battle with Breast Cancer

As a parent volunteer at my boys’ elementary school, I frequently have children laugh at me and ask why I'm wearing a pink bracket or shirt. For them pink isn't a boy’s color. Perhaps when they are older they will understand I wear it not as a fashion statement or because I look good in pink, but rather to show support for my wife who battles breast cancer.

In all likelihood, I will never endure the pain of being treated for breast cancer. The fear you have when you discover that lump is indescribable. The sickening feeling that overwhelms you when your doctor discusses the results, and options, is equally horrible. I will never endure the pain and suffering, both physical and mental, of having a double mastectomy and subsequent recovery. What I can do is stand proudly with my wife every step of the way, hold her hand to comfort her, and assure her that she is not alone in this life-changing battle.

I recall the countless trips we have made to doctors for exams, treatments, surgeries and follow-ups. There have been endless overnight stays at the hospital, dashes to the pharmacy for refills, and lost hours of sleep as I did all I could to make life more bearable for my little warrior. And I’ve done this without one complaint, because that is what a husband does; this is what is expected of you when the person you love suffers.

I am in awe of how brave my wife has been throughout the ordeal. From day one she took charge and faced it head on, fearlessly. Researching options, talking to professionals, and acting like a general, she prepared for battle. She knew what she wanted, even when some doctors tried to sway her. In the end even the doctors who had doubted her choices admitted she made the right decisions.

When it came down to it, there were two simple choices for her: try to save her breasts or try to save her life. It was an easy choice and once her decision was made, there was no altering her convictions.

For me, the term double mastectomy is very negative and graphic. It is the removal of not only your breasts, but part of your body that gave your children the nourishment and life early in their lives. These are the twin girls that have been with you since grade school, and you’ve watched them grow and blossom into motherhood.

As I watched my wife undergo this devastating procedure, I learned that while it is brutal in the physical sense, there was an emotional victory afterwards. Never again will she battle breast cancer. Never again will she worry, grow anxious, or lose sleep over the fear of the disease’s return. For the rest of her life she will never live in terror of breast cancer or let it control her life. She has battled and defeated this evil disease. She has survived and will continue to survive every day so that her children will have a mother and I will have my partner in life. Who else will laugh at all my jokes and childish antics?

So yes, I have no problem wearing pink shirts, nor do I have any reservations about wearing a pink bracelet. It is the least I can do to show my support to my wife and the millions of women fighting this disease. This is my way as a man, a son, a father and a husband to say to those battling cancer that you are not alone in this fight – and that having cancer is nothing to be ashamed of or a death sentence.

Now, as I’m writing this in the wee hours of the morning, I sit awake in my wife’s hospital room for the last time, listening the electronic BP cuff checking her vitals, hearing the sounds of the nurses outside, I admire my wife as she quietly sleeps. The Norco pill she took for the temporary pain is doing its job. As I watch my partner sleep, I thank her for making the brave choices for not only herself but her whole family.

It has been a hard bumpy road to recovery since the mastectomy. From the constant pain of tissue expanders, to being forced to sleep on her back at a sixty-degree angle every night, she has been uncomfortable for much of this ordeal. Limited mobility and constant anxiety attacks were par for the course. Simple things like putting on socks, combing hair, showering, going to the bathroom or hugging our children were nearly impossible, but she battled through. Absent now is the fear of remission, the abatement of uncertainty that comes from asking ‘what if’. There is no need for chemotherapy or radiation. No need for wigs. No more mammograms!! And there is no shame and denial of being diagnosed with breast cancer. My wife has encountered many other breast cancer survivors, developed relationships, and discovered a strong network of supporters. We have seen how those who have survived cancer before us are eager to support others just beginning the battle.

Finally, I must state how appreciative I am for my community, our friends and family who rallied around us during this whole ordeal. Thank you to the teachers and staff at Olympic View Elementary for their support. To my Angels in the OPTC who picked up my children and brought them home after school, brought us dinners, and checked up weekly, I must express my deepest gratitude. I am thankful for the family members who came by and helped take care of our boys and brought flowers to the hospital. I would be remiss if I didn’t say a special thanks to Nurse Janelle who sat side-by-side with my wife from day one, going to all her appointments with her, researching all medical options, and asking the doctors all the important questions. Oh, and for putting up with me and my sense of humor. And perhaps most of all, thank you to the nurses at Sharp Memorial Hospital who took extra special care of my wife and had to endure my constant knock-knock jokes, one of which I will share with you.

Knock. Knock.
Who’s there?
Cancer.
Cancer who?
Cancer see she’s trying to get some sleep in here?

I wanted to end this with a quote from a passage from The Fiery Cross in the Outlander series by my wife’s favorite author, Diana Gabaldon. It is between Jamie, the sexy redheaded Scottish kilt-wearing hunk (my wife’s words), and Claire, the woman he loves: “When the day shall come that we do part,” he said softly, and turned to look at me, “if my last words are not ‘I love you’-ye’ll ken it was because I didna have time.”

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