For better or worse: how cancer changed my marriage.
My husband, Carl, is my hero. He discovered the small, 1.2 cm lump in my breast. I have always been diligent to do breast self exams once a month, due to my strong family history of breast cancer. However, after hanging a reminder card in our shower, that is where I did my exams. I discovered the importance of doing self exams in the lying position, since my lump was absolutely not detectable in the standing position.
The night he discovered my lump, I brushed him off with a comment, "Oh, don't worry, I've always had lumpy breasts." But when doing a self exam the next day, I was soon on the phone making an appointment with my PCP. I felt embarrassed that I neglected to discover this myself and extremely grateful to my husband.
After my biopsy results and the reality that it was cancer, things became very emotional for both of us. We were able to be off work during this time, since we already had planned a vacation. So we talked a lot, read maybe too much and prayed a lot. He went to most of my appointments with me as my second set of ears. He was very supportive of the fact that this was my decision. We went to the cancer center's social worker for a session of counseling which was very helpful to both of us.
Many questions went through my mind, especially at 3 AM. I would lie awake. "Will Carl still find me attractive? What about the months of surgery and reconstruction when he can't hug me tight? How will the lack of estrogen affect my desires? "
I discovered that Carl was a wonderful caregiver; gentle and compassionate much more than I ever realized. He unwrapped the pressure dressing after my mastectomy and we cried together in front of the mirror. He held my hand when the surgeon pulled the drains out. He held me gently and we discovered new ways to be intimate.
When waiting for the reconstruction surgeon, she gave us a breast implant to look at and feel. We wanted to make sure it was very strong, so had a comical game of catch which gave us both much needed laughter.
Our journey with my cancer has definitely brought us closer as a couple than ever before. We used to take one another for granted at times, but facing the possibility of losing the one you love sets a new perspective. Every day of life becomes a blessing.
• Considering my husband as part of my health care team brought us closer and gave me strength.
• The fact that the decision was ultimately mine was very important.
• Not being afraid to cry together and having the sense of humor to laugh together was good medicine for both of us.
• Conflicts and misunderstandings can often be resolved in the office of a professional counselor.
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