Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Story Continues

In July 2009 we spent a few days (or years, depending on your perspective) at a hospital about an hour away. The surgery was successful but we were still facing cancer. By this time we were both thinking, "When is this nightmare going to be over?" Other than having four babies, Shannon had never had a hospital stay and I've never been an overnight patient in a hospital at any time in my life.

One thing you'd better learn in a hospital is patience, and you'd better learn it in a hurry. It's not anything like being at home. You can't run down to the refrigerator and grab a snack. Privacy is unheard of (and, by the way, 70% of the people who pass by an open hospital room door look in; 100% of those who look in think it's strange when an occupant in that room waves at them). Obviously the sleeping arrangements are different as are the smells, the sounds and even the television. It's a different world and BOTH the patient and spouse have to adapt.


The day your diagnosis is listed as "cancer" is a day that is not easily forgotten. It seems as if your life is separated by a gulf; those days that happened before cancer, and then the days after. The challenge of fighting this disease permeates every pore, invades every thought.

It is easy to become overwhelmed by the everyday changes. New medications must be taken, many times to a confusing level of intricacy. Equipment might be needed, such as oxygen machinery or special monitoring devices. There are feelings of isolation, frustration, and exhaustion.

Eventually, one becomes familiar with what was once totally alien. The sound of the oxygen machine, while still loud, is now a familiar sound. The wires and tubes are organized, and the routine is set. The internet and the telephone help ward away the isolation, and big windows bring in lots of sunshine or snow or rain to bring variety to the day.

And then you can fight....and fight...and fight. Our motto has become, "Fight every day; enjoy every moment!"

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Day One

Time now to fill in some blanks. May 27, 2009 was the day we first heard the word "cancer" and Shannon's name used in the same sentence. The two of us were alone in the car when she told me. I took the news calmly. My immediate reaction was to try to reassure her that everything would be okay. I believed that and, in fact, I still do.

Half an hour later I was breaking the news to our children. What caused that word to stick in my throat and be held back by tears at that point I'm not sure I'll ever know. Maybe it was a rush of memories of all of the years Shannon and I had had together with our children; maybe it was the mistaken notion that a diagnosis of cancer was an immediate death sentence; maybe it was looking into the eyes of my children and feeling the pain that I knew they would feel in just a few moments when the word finally came out of my mouth; maybe it was just having to say the word, "cancer." Whatever the cause, the word did not come easily.

Tears and hugs and reassurances came next, followed by frank talk of a practical plan for dealing with our new challenge. Our routine would be interrupted. There would be hospital stays forthcoming, treatments to take, medical equipment to which we would need to get accustomed. In effect, multiple changes were coming and could not be stopped.

When cancer comes, it doesn't sneak in gradually. It rushes in like a flood, bringing with it previously untouched emotions, untold challenges and an uncertain outcome.

Friday, February 26, 2010


A lot of times I'll talk about how "we" are going through this. That may sound kind of strange. After all, Shannon is the one with the disease. I can't feel the pain she's experiencing, but I do feel pain. It just hurts in a different way. The emotional strain is the most challenging and from time to time that spills over into some physical pain. It's not really "sympathy pains" like a husband gets during his wife's labor. It's real pain. Casting this stress on God in prayer as He invites us to in I Peter 5:7 is my outlet for relief. When one is caring for a spouse with an illness, he or she needs to acknowledge the strain and take the necessary actions to deal with it so that they can have the physical strength to be there when their spouse needs them.

The key to success

The key to managing a challenge such as this is to stick together. There is no way I could possibly face the many doctor visits, pokes, prods, hospital stays, chemotherapy, and other trappings of cancer without a strong support system. That support begins with my husband of 30 years, who has never wavered in his love and strength. I draw from that strength to help me through each day.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Conquering, Not Just Coping

As you can see from the graphic in the header, the idea for this site started with a focus on how we as a married couple have been coping with cancer. When I looked up the word, "coping" and found that it means, "to struggle or deal, esp. on fairly even terms or with some degree of success," I felt that the word was so bland. To me, the idea of coping with something means you're putting up with it. Well, I don't want to put up with cancer. I want to beat it into submission. I want to control it, not allow it to control me. In short, I want to conquer it.