Immediately after my cancer diagnosis, I had a hard time digesting the enormity of the C- word and what it meant for my future.
In the midst of my confusion and anxiety, I reluctantly began the dreaded deed of telling people the news. The phone calls to my loved ones were hard and draining. After a few of the calls, I quickly realized that dropping the C-bomb on people left them speechless and terrified for me. I found myself reassuring everyone, one at a time, over the phone that “I-have-breast-cancer-but-I'm-OK-it's-OK-we'll-be-OK!” Needless to say, supporting my support system was exhausting. The one person who had not faltered with the news was my husband. “It's cancer,” I told him, over the phone. And just like that, he was in it for the fight.
After reading this blog topic, I decided to look up the definition for “support.” Courtesy of dictionary.com, it reads as follows:
- to bear or hold up; serve as a foundation for;
- to sustain or withstand without giving way; serve as a prop for;
- to undergo or endure, especially with patience or submission; tolerate;
- to sustain under trial or affliction;
- to maintain by supplying with things necessary to existence; provide for;
- to uphold by aid, countenance, one's vote, etc.; back; second.
People often talk about their rock: that one solid, steady, practical presence balancing out their emotional and mental chaos. Reading through the definitions of “support,” I found myself nodding. Yes, yes, this was my husband. He did all of these things; he was all of these things. He anchored me to shore when otherwise I would have been lost in a sea of grief, fear and worst-case scenarios. He was my rock. Over months, we waded through this uncharted territory together. My world as I knew it was crumbling around me, but he was the one constant. Always the practial one, he drove me to my appointments and took notes as the doctors discussed pathology, treatment options, prognosis.
He kept me laughing in waiting rooms. In the hospital, he helped me to the bathroom, set up my food tray, encouraged me to walk the halls. At home he helped me bathe, emptied my surgical drains, kept track of my pain medication. He told me I was beautiful. When he said, “Everything will be OK,” he really meant it. If he ever had any fears or doubts, he never let it show. When I felt burdened by others' fears for me, I was never burdened by his. For this, I am eternally grateful. He witnessed my tears of frustration and anger and he never told me I was crazy, but he also never let me forget that there would be Life After Cancer. When I was so consumed by my illness that I couldn't see beyond it, his gift to me was this anticipation of getting back to “normal,” this expectation that life would once again be livable.
To him, this nightmare was temporary. My feeling like crap was temporary. My baldness and eyebrowlessness, temporary. My fatigue, temporary. Night sweats, temporary. Insomnia, temporary. Tearful outbursts, temporary. My hopelessness, temporary. In the months that I felt like I was in a cancer bubble without any chance of ever feeling like myself again, he was my window to the outside.
You learn a lot about people when you go through something as intimate and frightening as cancer. Steve and I met as college kids and matured into marriage, home-ownership, careers. But when cancer happened, he said, “This is a very adult thing.” Cancer was what flung us into the Real World. Cancer and all the physical, financial, and emotional tolls it pulled us through showed me the strength of my husband, and the strength of our relationship. We, he said, would get through this. We, he said, would beat it.
July 8th marked the one-year anniversary of my diagnosis. I am at the tail end of my treatment, and as Steve promised, life is livable again. It's back to grocery shopping, laundry and work. It's back to talking about house projects, weekend plans and vacations. I still feel like I'm in that sea of uncertainty sometimes, but instead of treading water, I'm wading on the shoreline. And my rock? He's still right next to me, telling me I'm beautiful.
Share Your Thoughts
Is there someone or something in your life that has been your "rock" through a cancer diagnosis? Or, are you the one providing that support? Read more on this topic from other bloggers or share your comments below.