The courage to reach out

Cancer is lonely. That’s from my perspective as a spouse. I would assume that it’s even worse for the one who actually has cancer.

I spend a lot of time thinking; how can I not, especially since I work from home? I’m spending the summer driving the kids around a lot too which gives me a lot of time to think. But it doesn’t give me time to seek out real-life support groups.

Then I remembered my friend who just got married within the past year to a wonderful man, after having been in a bad marriage for years. Her new husband was diagnosed with cancer as well, a couple weeks after my husband was. We both sent each other messages saying we’re there if the other wants to talk. But like most things go, people get busy and those kinds of things go on the back burner.

So I finally reached out to her yesterday and she seemed so happy to have someone to talk to about it. She said that most people try to empathize but don’t really understand. And that’s true: it’s the kind of thing you really can’t understand until you go through it. I think I have created a two-person support group with my friend. I have another longtime friend who checks in on me a couple times a week, which touches me. But having someone who knows exactly what you’re experiencing is invaluable.

Cancer is like the club that nobody wants to join. All of a sudden, you’re plunged into this new world with chemo treatments and staging and oncologists and fears about catching a virus that will put the person you love most in the hospital. You second-guess what you eat for dinner and you change routines on a moment’s notice depending on what’s happening. You never know when you’ll have to shuffle your life around.

You think about death much differently when you’re in this cancer club. Suddenly something you thought would be for sure 40 years in the future is now something you can’t take for granted.

It’s terrifying in a way that nothing else is. But at the same time, it zeroes in your focus on the ones you love the most. Nothing else really matters. You still have to do all the usual day-to-day stuff and you try to keep life as normal as possible. Sometimes you even get breaks that feel normal, like we did this weekend.

But it also makes you look at life in a whole new way, and at your partner with fresh eyes. Suddenly they seem more precious than they did before and you really truly grasp how much of a gift it is to have them for another day. When you no longer assume you have all the time in the world, it makes you truly value what you have every day.

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