Thursday, 26 January 2012

Positive Caring

On reflection, my last post was a tad unbalanced. It is a hard row to hoe, I admit, but I recognise that there are positive aspects, and I feel the need to address those now. I've done venting and feeling sorry for myself for now, I'm ready to move on.

One of the things I've learned from my reading of others' experiences is that there's nothing like a life-critical situation for changing one's perspective. In the case of Christine's cancer, there's always been that "Oh my God, things are bad" feeling for both of us; when we first began this journey, nearly seven years ago, there was a lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt about the future, but also a sense that "this is worthwhile doing".

I can't really feel too sorry for myself; after all, I volunteered to do this. When Christine was first diagnosed and the seriousness of the disease was apparent, I immediately came over to join her. I'm no shrinking violet, I made my decision; made my bed, so to speak.

So without further ado, here's a glimpse into the positive:

When she came home after the mastectomy, it was hard for both of us. A wife sprouting tubes and pipes and drainage things was hardly easy for me as a new lover and husband. Even once those were out, and healing began, it was tough. This was a woman, who in her own words was " of the few women who was happy with my breasts", and now one of them was gone. Occasionally, after a while, it would become something to joke about; I'd forget which was gone and which remained, and would sometimes be surprised by the presence or absence of one as I hugged and caressed her.

From the outset, we learned to recognise the little things as important. Some of them were things we did together - the trips, walks and days out. I still remember them, and probably always will. Then there are the things we learned to accept and even laugh at. Some of these were funny little things, such as her hair falling out (from chemotherapy) the day of our wedding. Then we delighted as her hair grew back in, light, fine and curly. She had a head of hair like lamb's wool, pettable and strokable - this was something we laughed about, and which became important to us. As she was feeling ill and out of sorts (chemo being a dreadful curse), my stroking her head was a source of comfort to us both. It kept us in close contact physically and emotionally, and (dare I say) spiritually too.

As things moved on, there were changes. I find nothing pleasantly memorable about radiation treatment; her radiation oncologist had said he would be looking for a "brisk response". This, in layman's terms, basically meant second-degree burns over a good deal of her skin. There's nothing soothing about stroking weeping sores, nothing comforting about hearing her whimper in her sleep when she turned over. Daily treatments meant a continual reminder of what she was facing; in many ways, that was the toughest thing we both faced.

Of course, this has an effect on everyone in the family. I'd cry as I watched her change her dressings, weep in sympathy with her blasted skin. Tessie found it hard to sleep; she'd come in to our room at night. We finally worked out what was going on for her - she was checking to see that her mother was still alive. That's another thread of story, and I'd need Tessie's clearance to tell the whole thing.

Slowly, following the end of these things, we learned just to live with it. Unspoken was the fear that cancer would return, and what that would mean for her, for me, and for a little girl named Tess.

Meanwhile, of course, the cancer came back like the blasted yellow cat. I learned more than I ever wanted to know about lymph nodes, the anatomy of the torso, brain and whatnot, and how that would affect Christine and the rest of us.

Meantime, I loved her, and still do. She's precious to me; every breath, every time I feel her warm against me, every time I catch her looking at me with deep love in her eyes. For every smile, laugh and tear, there's a memory. There's love. We know it ain't forever, but as I have often said lately, forty-seven years would not be enough, let alone seven.

I carry on, thankful for everything I have; a loving wife and daughter, great friends, and the support of my men's group. A man could ask for nothing more.

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