There are heroes and then there are superheroes. Here are 3 of them.
When someone receives a cancer diagnosis, it’s not a singular personal thing. It’s a collective blow. A shared shock. A rabbit in the headlights jump start for the patient and their nearest and dearest.
Over the last year or so, it’s become clearer to me that the unsung heroes of standing up to cancer are often the ones who get the lion’s share of the impact. Almost, although not exclusively, the people that we live with are the ones who get to see us at our best, most scared, most pissed off, most anxious and most changed.
When I reflect on our recent
journey run in with cancer and the unspoken expectations of how we’d cope, who’d do what and how we’d manage it all, it’s clear that Steve was expected to ‘cope’ and to ‘be strong’ for me. And he was. But who is being strong for our heroes? Being the partner of someone with cancer is not easy; it’s scary, lonely and pressured. You become the information officer, the diary manager of appointments, tests and results and the punchbag for the patient because at our worst we just need to show our deepest vulnerability to the one we love and hand them all our emotions, in many ways just like a child reaching out to their parents to make things right again.
At times, being the partner/husband/wife is much much worse than being the cancer patient because at least we have to get on with the treatment regime, but those on the supporting side find themselves somewhat helpless to do anything quite often.
I’ve written before about the feeling of loss when your active treatment ends and you head off (in the case of breast cancer) into the land of hormone therapy and all its associated long term side effects. Talking to other breast cancer patients it’s clear that they too experience feelings of anxiety and concern at this stage and yet want life to get back into some sort of familiar groove.
And it’s our heroes, actually our superheroes, who long for ‘normality’ perhaps more so than anyone else. Their lives have been completely disrupted, their tanks of emotions have also been drained, their normal has been forever altered and in many cases who and what they are left with will never be the same again. I know that that may sound dramatic to many of you reading this, but it’s true; for many couples what they shared BC (before cancer) may not be able to be reinstated. It’s not necessarily worse, it’s just different. A different that you didn’t plan for.
So it was with great pleasure that my lovely friends Dee and Allie and I decided to arrange for all of us to get together with our husbands for a weekend recently, just to be together. Not for a ‘cancer conference’ but a chance to spend time well, to make new positive memories and create at least one strong silver lining from all three couple’s recent cancer challenges.
Naturally and probably quite stereotypically us ladies chatted and caught up on each other’s treatments, irritations and emotional state, whilst the guys………………………………..well who knows! Did they compare caring notes? Did they have deep discussions about what it’s like when your wife is diagnosed with cancer? Did they explicitly offer each other support and swap mobile numbers? Who knows!
Whatever they did or didn’t do, they’re still our superheroes and we love them and thank them for seeing us at our worst and seeing the best in us, still.
Thank you Steve, Gaz and Pat. For being by our side on this unplanned diversion and for staying there.