'You both have cancer? How do you cope?!' That's the question I hate the most. You see, my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2010. She underwent a bilateral mastectomy and had all the lymph nodes removed from her left arm in August. I was having trouble myself but I chose to ignore it, which was a big mistake, as I was diagnosed with advanced rectal cancer in December 2010.
We met when I was 16 and she was 14. We have been together for 34 years and have 2 wonderful sons aged 23 and 25. For the last 18 months we have lived our lives with cancer, and shared many of the same experiences, good and bad. Like sharing the same radiotherapy machine, comparing chemo side effects, both being assigned to the same ward bed, time after time, at Peter Mac, to both recovering from abdominal surgery and standing at our breakfast bench when an item fell to the floor and we proceeded to kick it to each other, saying 'you pick it up' and then working together to get it done.
Then there were the bad times, when we both felt like crap, but we both needed each other for support. The look of devastation in my wife's eyes, when her breast reconstruction went wrong due to infection and had to be removed. The times when all we wanted to do was escape from the world of pain we are in, but knowing there is no escape. The fear of not knowing what will happen next and whether we will both survive.
It's now December 2011 a week before Christmas. I have completed all my surgery and treatment. My wife is still waiting for her reconstruction surgery. I have just had what I thought was just going to be a standard consultation at Peter Mac. I now have to go home and tell my wife that I have secondary cancer of the lungs and it is non-operable, and non curable.
How do you cope? For me I know I am very blessed to have a wife who has stuck by me through hell and high water, and we will face whatever comes together. My answer to the question 'How do you cope?' is 'You just do'. There are no alternatives, how you cope is up to you. I have always believed that no matter what the circumstance or situation, if you delve deep and long enough, you will find a positive in everything.