Wednesday, October 30, 2013

In the Eye of Cancer’s Storm

It was a moment that made me stop and suck in a long, deep breath.  Cancer.  After an endless month waiting, we’d finally learned my husband’s diagnosis.  Squamous Cell Carcinoma, HPV-positive, to be exacting – or Cancer on the back of his tongue near his tonsils, spread to a lymph node in his neck.  Um, no, not possible.   I lost my mom to this insidious disease (gastric cancer) just 9 months ago; so sorry, Cancer, I thought, you’re not allowed to rock our world again just yet.  

But of course, Cancer can’t be counted on for timing.  My husband and I walked through a haze and shared the news with thick throats.  Then, we linked arms, dusted off and readied for another fight.

Despite medical advances, Cancer conjures our worst fears, whether your prognosis is curable or life threatening.  Still, many patients, survivors and family members are molded by the experience, even despite a crushing loss.   Walking alongside my mother’s battle left me stronger in some areas, vulnerable in others, but mostly more resilient and more appreciative of life. 

So while it was crushing to receive this news so soon after losing her, my husband’s Cancer appears to be one highly responsive to treatment; my faith is strong; and we enjoy a supportive community, great doctors and health insurance.   So it’s easier for us to remain hopeful and positive.  The real heroes survive, thrive, and/or heal when they don’t have those in spades.

Recently I contributed to a book by Kathe Wunnenberg titled, Hopelifter: Creative Ways to Spread Hope when Life Hurts.  The book describes ways to comfort those enduring crisis, like Cancer, divorce, unemployment, and more.  My own loved one’s journeys with Cancer make me a giver, and receiver of hope.  Because the greatest gifts cancer delivers are the sweet expressions of love and compassion. And for that we say, Thank you, Cancer.  But don’t think we aren’t going to kick your tushie!! 

(You can follow our story at Caring )

How to Cope with Cancer:

  1. Rely on family, friends, and faith.  Tap into your support system, or create one online.  You may choose to tell just a few close friends; or you may connect with the masses via social media.  Either way, don’t do it alone.  
  2. Accept offers for Help.  Most people want to do something to ease your load.  Let them!  Graciously accept offers to drop off meals, clean your house and babysit the kids.  In time, pay it forward.
How to Help a Friend or Loved one Cope with Cancer:

  1. Listen.  So many have been been touched by Cancer, so resist the urge to immediately share your own story. Listen, first and fully.  Ask questions.   There will be time to empathize with your own experience.
Don’t worry about the words; speak from the heart.  It’s hard to know what to say to a Cancer patient, so just be real.  One of the best emails we received came from our niece, Julie, who said simply, “this really sucks."

This content originally appeared in East Valley Magazine.