Cancer came knocking on my family’s door a little over three years ago. It was as devastating as it sounds. It’s hard to just say the words, “my husband has cancer,” let alone try and deal with the reality of it. But, many wives are dealing with the reality of their husbands getting cancer, just like me. Reality: 38.4% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes. Let that sink in a minute–roughly 40% of all men and women will have a doctor tell them, “I’m sorry. It’s cancer.”
Real moms (and wives) fight real battles with cancer every single day. We also come untethered. Feeling connected when you are coming untethered can give you breathing space. Breathing can give you hope. Sometimes that’s all it takes to make it through the day.
Everyone’s cancer story is different. That’s true. But, we all have one thing in common—we all have to keep breathing.
My hope is that by sharing my story you’ll find connection and remember to breathe–even when your husband gets cancer.
My husband was diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of 40. At the time, we had a two year old and a 9 month old. He had major surgery to remove the tumor a mere two weeks after diagnosis. Soon after surgery, we awaited genetic testing results to determine his fate and the fate of our boys.
At one point–the worst point–we were told that not only might my husband have to undergo a complete colectomy, but my two boys may have to as well, just as they were entering adulthood.
I immediately shifted into robot mode.
I’m sure there’s a psychological word for it, but for me it was just robot mode. There was no crying at first. There was researching, outlining everything, a million and one questions, and notebooking.
But, there was no crying.
Ultimately, we had the best case scenario happen at every turn of our process. We have been incredibly lucky. And, I am grateful every single day.
But, cancer she is a tricky bitch.
Even when you beat her, you still walk away with scars.
Find Your Oxygen Mask
When your husband gets cancer, you may eventually find yourself knee deep in some pretty serious collateral damage, too. You may not realize it at first, or you may not think your damage is important–especially when your husband is sick.
But, it is. And, eventually, you’ll need to focus on yourself to survive.
I keep hearing the “oxygen mask” analogy all over the place lately. You know the one–if you’re in an airplane you should always put your oxygen mask on first before your child’s.
Well, my oxygen mask has been my therapist and meditation.
She has helped me breathe, so I could keep on being a mom, a caretaker, and a wife.
My only piece of advice to you is to find your oxygen mask and strap it on tight.
Start running, knitting, yoga, therapy, or anything that helps you take a minute to live in your own space.
I know that so many young mothers are living this trauma every single day. As wives, mothers, women, we tend to take care of others instead of ourselves.
TRUTH: You will need to find your oxygen mask, or EVERYONE is screwed.
Cancer creates a “triage” environment in the home. Somehow, mama’s needs don’t rise to the level of necessity. The problem with that is that you can spend years as a caretaker without once checking in on your own wellbeing.
You will have all kinds of emotional baggage that you may not even realize you’ve accumulated.
You will need to take time to learn to breathe again. Even in the midst of CHAOS.
Meditation has become a lifeline for me. When things feel like they are spinning out of control, or if I can’t seem to handle the load that I have to carry, meditation has helped me step back and just DEAL.
It’s not something I do well. It’s not something I do every single day. But, it is always something that ALWAYS helps. Here’s the breakdown of how even the busiest moms can cultivate this practice.
What you KNOW to be true
If you are reading this, and you are going through cancer with your spouse—my heart knows your struggle. There is nothing anyone can say to make it better. Nothing.
But, the one thing I would tell you is to keep breathing. Keep your focus on what you know to be true TODAY. Don’t rush too far into the future. Don’t get lost in the past.
Just try to stay focused on today and the things that you KNOW. The rest will be.
And, don’t forget to breathe.