Friday, February 25, 2011

Seeing the other side of cancer

Maybe it should be required training for all those who treat people with cancer, to go through it themselves. There is no graduation or certificate or merit badge for going through cancer and its treatment and the ensuing ups and downs.

I recently attended a 'Cancer People Play Group' at its first meeting. This is a group for the lucky ones of us who are through treatment and still coping with the little 'what if' that niggles the back of your brain when you wake up in the middle of the night. (Its a Play Group not a support group because support groups are for sick people and its not for survivors but for cancer people because we don't like the label of survivor. Its open for new members - leave me a comment if you are interested.) Now that I have gone completely off my original topic with my self serving push for the play group, I will drag myself back on topic. At the play group, we all agreed that there is no graduation and diploma that comes with cancer - you get stuck in second grade for life.

But maybe doctors, nurses, and others who treat us, would benefit from the experience. A doctor at Memorial Sloan Kettering recently wrote about his feelings when it was his wife who was the cancer patient. My husband married me knowing I had had cancer once. Then he held my hand, changed bandages, squeezed drains, and passed me the kleenex through my second diagnosis. Then he became the cancer patient.

Last week when he had his first colonoscopy after his diagnosis, we did talk a little about how different it is on the other side of the table. If your spouse has cancer, you are holding their hand on the little cancer roller coaster from hell, but you get to get off every once in a while and watch them take a few laps with out your support. If you have cancer, you are stuck on the roller coaster for life. When I go to the hospital for my appointments, I can usually hang in there - check in, the nurse takes me to the little room, change into the lovely gown, and I talk to the doctor about me and my issues. Then I go with my husband and the doctor isn't concerned about me but about him. Sometimes I never even get out of the waiting room. Sometimes just that part is stressful.

Medical professionals see a lot of cancer - even if they are not treating a cancer issue - cancer people sprain ankles too - but they all see the little notes on the bottom of the files - history of 'fill in the blank' carcinoma.
But all of a sudden when they are the one coping - I would imagine its very different. I am not sure any training can prepare you for the real thing.


Ani Cavagnaro said...

I totally agree. Nobody can understand the emotions associated with a cancer diagnosis until it hits home. The pain is felt by the entire family. As I was going through my own treatments, my husband and my children were hurting silently alongside of me.

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Maartje said...

I'm sorry to read you have to go through so much in just one life.

It sounds like you're dealing well, though.

Have you heard of adjuvant therapies focussing on the mind of cancer patients or their relatives? Trained professionals can help you deal with your and your husbands cancer.

Find more information on - about adjuvant therapies, about picking up your life after cancer treatment, about the type of cancer your husband has.

I hope you stay well!

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