Three words that best encapsulate my 2015 are:
family, strength and love
2015 was supposed to be our year of rest, of recovery, of focusing just on the family. We had just bought our first home and had our second child.
However, 2015 got off to a rocky start. My husband was hobbling around Costa Rica with lymphedema after a botched surgery to remove a lymph node. I was in the UK with mastitis, again, and looking after my newborn daughter and 2-year-old son – who had a bad case of chickenpox.
I saw in the New Year in my pajamas without a drop of bubbly and no kisses under mistletoe. I was snuggled in bed, sleepily nursing my daughter, in the hope of some pain relief and of keeping her drowsy enough not to wake her bespeckled brother.
Things progressed from not so good to pretty horrific in quite a short space of time.
Having being told that the lump they had removed from my husband was not cancerous, a new lump appeared. After an afternoon reading medical literature I booked an urgent doctor’s appointment. I dropped my son off at a friend’s house, took a seat in the doctor’s office with my husband, popped my daughter on my boob so I could hold a conversation, and decided not to leave until I was taken seriously – I knew my husband had cancer.
Fortunately, our doctor (GP) is brilliant, and he took my concerns seriously and placed my husband on the cancer-query pathway.
Unfortunately, this is not a quick-pass to the required diagnostics, but apparently a ticket for a two-week wait and a meeting with a rather uninspiring oncologist. Said consultant oncologist gave my husband’s glands a quick feel and declared him cancer free.
What followed was a terrifying and isolating few months. I was the only one in the world who “knew” my husband had cancer and I couldn’t get anyone to listen let alone order a CT scan.
I lay awake night after night, suffocating in the knowledge that I might loose my husband; I might become a single Mum – a widow at 32. No one would listen to me. No doctor would run the tests and my husband understandably tended to exist in happy denial rather than the terrifying reality.
My husband was diagnosed with metastasized (intermediate) Germ Cell Carcinoma 3 months after his first related doctor’s appointment.
We moved in with my parents to be closer to the hospital and to have support and help with the kids.
Cancer stole so much from me in 2015
It stole my time; time that belonged to my children, “mummy time”. They were passed on to friends and family and into nursery while I tried to juggle the demands of a carer with those of a newborn and a toddler. I never felt like I gave enough to anyone.
It stole the control I had of my life; I couldn’t plan, prepare or make long-term decisions. My choices, be it how to spend the day, where we lived, when and where my son should go to nursery, all became limited and I felt trapped and my hand forced.
It stole our first year in our new home; our year of stability, our year without a landlord, our year to get to know our neighbours; to make friends, to develop a network, to get to know the area.
It stole my calm and gave me anger – a deep, bubbling, fury at the injustice of cancer and a frustration at my inability to “fix” my husband and make everything ok for my family.
Did cancer steal my year?
This year has not gone according to plan, but there is no point wishing it hadn’t happened.
My husband did get cancer in 2015, but it has shown me that hope and happiness can prevail. Even in the darkest moments, when I was at a complete loss, there was always a way to be proactive – to make something of the situation. Even when I felt I had nothing more to give – when I felt empty and drained from being pulled in so many directions, for never quite meeting my own expectations and from expending every ounce of energy getting through the day and being up-beat for everyone else – there was still reason to smile, even if I needed reminding of it. This was often through the kindness of others, which was immense.
The children grew, the sun came up and time marched on. None of these things can be resisted, and this year has taught me more than ever that things that can’t be changed need to be embraced. Like all things, I believed that “This too shall pass”, but how it passed day-to-day was, to a large extent, in my hands. I chose to give it my all and to seek a path forward when it seemed all doors were closed.
I have achieved things this year I never thought to be within my grasp. I have loved more than I ever dreamt I could. I have been stronger than I knew possible. I have become less anxious, less judgmental and more content. I have let go of anger. I have adapted more than I can believe and I have gained a passion and focus that I never expected. I have hit real lows, but I appear to have bounced back higher.
Just before Christmas we were lucky enough to hear that, as far as they can tell, my husband no longer has cancer. We are a long way from being back to “normal”, but whatever “normal” is, it will certainly look a lot different this year. But that’s more than ok.
What three words describe your year? Are you caring for cancer?
I offer discounted coaching sessions for people caring for cancer – I know how tough it can be. Contact me for a FREE (no obligation) Discovery Session to talk about how I might be able to help.