When I first suspected my cancer was back, my loving partner (now husband) seemed resistant to believe it. After all, I'd been cancer-free for more than 11 years. But he was supportive when I said I went to the doctor to have a blood test and exam. Then we learned my PSA numbers had risen, which confirmed for me what I intuitively knew. (I’d done the research.) Even as we sat in the doctor's office, where the doctor explained what the higher numbers meant, somehow all he heard was “wait and watch.” I left the office emotionally numb; he left with the idea “it could be other things.”
Side Note: Part of the problem was that doctor, who was not the greatest conversationalist. He’s one of the top experts in his field, but that doesn’t include warm and fuzzy people skills.
To compound the problem, as we shared the “possibility” of cancer with our friends, many reinforced his denial with those "I know someone who..." stories of misdiagnosis, interaction of medications, false positives, infections, switched lab work…blah, blah, blah. (Part of me wanted to scream: "I HAVE CANCER, DAMMIT!!")
As the PSA numbers increased, we decided to get another opinion. This doctor we visited was the polar opposite of my doctor—cordial, friendly and very communicative. In our consultation, I gave him a run-down on the rising PSA numbers and he examined the detailed results of all the other tests. When my partner offered some of his theories of why my levels were increasing, the doctor listened patiently. But then he gently said: “No, he has cancer.”
I will never, as long as I live, forget the look on his face as he began to cry there in the office. At that moment, I actually hated myself for putting him through this...again. If I could have done anything to protect him from that pain, I would have.
I could not ask for a more supportive and caring life-partner. I can’t imagine going through this (either time) without him. The question of fairness (“Why me?”) has never been something that bothered me, but it’s certainly not fair for him.
I hear people tell him how strong, and brave and supportive he is (it's true!), but I often worry that he doesn't have someone who allows him to be weak, and afraid, and angry. It's why I've encouraged him in his own therapy sessions. He needs support, too.
It affects so many parts of the patient's life—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. But my diagnosis didn't just impact me; I often think my husband has had to make the biggest adjustments in this illness. I may be the “patient,” but he’s the patient one. (Did you like that pun?) I have cancer, but he's the "other half" of my cancer story.
I just wish I could take away his pain!
Note: Portions of this post were originally published on a previous blog; it has been revised and updated for this entry.