Friday, March 29, 2013

This is an article that a young man wrote wanting to bring awareness to Mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that is often times asbestos related.  I knew a co-worker who died from this type of cancer.  Below, Cameron describes what it is like to be a supportive husband for his wife who is battling this disease. 

Remaining Strong with a Cancer Diagnosis

My wife has said that she doesn’t know how I managed to survive while she was
suffering from mesothelioma. As her husband and caregiver, I did go through a lot
of hardship and emotional turmoil. I also learned several valuable lessons that I
hope to now share with others currently struggling through cancer.

Three months before receiving the diagnosis, our only child, Lily was born. Lily
brought so much joy and happiness to our lives, and the future of our new little family
seemed bright and exciting. However, in three short months, all of that happiness
would be ripped away, and replaced by fear and despair. The first time I heard the
words “malignant pleural mesothelioma” is still very vivid to me. I could only look at
my wife as she cried and wonder, “How are we going to be able to survive this?”

I would have retreated into myself and had a breakdown if the doctor had not
brought me back to reality with questions about how we would like to proceed in
treating this disease. We were given a list of different options, and were expected
to make decisions for our future in the face of this emotional struggle. It was on this
day that I began to learn how to make difficult decisions at the same time that I was
feeling entirely vanquished.

My days were filled with fury and anxiety after the diagnosis. My rage was out of
control, and I frequently used profane language when talking to people. I lashed
out at others angrily in the attempt to vent my emotions, but soon realized that my
outbursts were not helping our situation at all. After a little time passed, my feelings
came under control. I realized that I had a duty to be a rock for my wife and child.
Both of them needed me. There were times when I was feeling weak, but I managed
to remain strong in the presence of my wife. I didn’t ever want her to know just how
frightened I was. I was committed to being a source of strength, encouragement and
support for her. This was not always so easy to do, but I did my best.

Sometimes, I had so many things to do that I was completely overwhelmed. It was
up to me to take care of everything, including working, making the arrangements
for our travel and taking care of the baby and our pets. It seemed impossible in the
beginning, but I discovered how to prioritize my tasks. I also learned that I could not
do everything myself. I had to be willing to let others help us, and we were fortunate
to have several people who were willing to do just that. Once I let go of my pride and
learned how to ask for help, our lives became much easier.

Two months in particular were agonizingly difficult for me. After undergoing
mesothelioma surgery in Boston, my wife went to stay with her parents in South
Dakota to recover and prepare for the next phase of her treatment. Lily had already
been staying there during the operation, which left me home alone to work and take
care of our house. For the next two months, I would have to be apart from my wife
and daughter.

After work one Friday, I drove all night long through a snowstorm to see them. It
was a short visit. I got there Saturday morning and stayed until Sunday afternoon,
leaving in time to be at work Monday morning. It was a long, exhausting trip for not a
lot of time with them, but it was worth every second to see them. This was the only
time I saw them in those two months.

This experience taught me a lot about myself and my family. The best lessons I
learned were learning how to accept help from our loved ones and to never allow
yourself to regret or second guess the tough decisions that are forced upon you
by cancer. Rather, we learned to take comfort in our ability to make decisions at
all. They gave us some small amount of control over a situation that often seemed
completely out of our hands. After seven years, Heather is still by my side, and
cancer free to this day. I hope our story helps others continue to fight their own
battles with cancer.

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