Every cancer patient ideally should have a care giver. One who can look after the person, get him or her to appointments and help them with their physical and emotional needs. Not everyone is so lucky.
Through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society I volunteer to speak to people dealing with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, something I had the pleasure of doing myself. Two men stand out in my mind, both young and living on their own.
- One moved from his home in the Midwest to join his girlfriend in college in North Carolina. Once Hodgkin’s entered the picture, she exited. He said he was managing with the help of friends, but he was juggling his cancer treatment while attending college full time.
- Another young man was from India. He was in college in the U.S. when he was diagnosed, went back to India for treatment, got into remission, returned to the U.S. but had relapsed. He had no family members in the U.S. but was reluctant to go back to India. He wasn’t sure what to do next.
Luckily I had my wife Bobbie to rely upon, who not only had me to care for, but a two year old daughter as well. I was at the ripe old age of 34 when I was first diagnosed. “In sickness and in health” is a nice phrase when you get married but I doubt many of us married in our 20’s think that’s an issue you’ll need to cope with in the next ten years.
I can’t imagine what I would’ve done without Bobbie. Despite all the issues we dealt with, the problems I had, going in and out of hospitals, getting better and relapsing, my fears, how there were times I would literally stink like the chemo I took, my weight ballooned while my hair disappeared, my delusions (I didn’t have cancer I was intentionally poisoned by a vast, secret network of assassins) she cared for me and loved me. We all managed to get through and I love her for that (and countless other reasons).
As much as we like to hear the inspiring stories of loving care givers, it doesn’t always turn out happily ever after with the couple, hand in hand, walking off into a cancer-free sunset. While working as an attorney for a legal aid agency I had a conversation with an older man who had survived cancer. He said he and his wife went through the motions of a loveless marriage for many years before his cancer diagnosis. He credited her for caring for him and helping save his life, but he wanted a divorce. He felt that life was too short to have a marriage without love and he was willing to give her what she wanted to make the divorce as quick and painless as possible.
If you are a cancer patient, I hope you are blessed with a caregiver. If you are the care giver, thank you for your time, energy, care and love you give. I hope things turn out happily ever after for you.