One of the ways that cancer tries to infiltrate your life is to make sure that it gets into every, single, nook and cranny.
Just in case it missed out any little bit of you that it had not quite reached yet, it seems to keep on going. By this, I mean that as well as physically harming you, emotionally it drains you and those around you, bit by bit.
You may think that you are strong, you may think that you can stand up to anything – and maybe you can – but what you cannot do (no matter how hard you try) is to protect your loved ones from the harsh realities that cancer brings with it.
I have struggled with this part the most I think.
Not because I can’t accept the fact that I may one day have to leave my little family (and that they in-turn will lose me), but more so accepting the fact that I cannot protect them from it all. I have had to realise that it is an impossible thing for me to try to control.
I have had to let it go, and that in itself is no easy thing to do.
The person that you can least protect is the person closest to you, in my case my husband.
It seems that people tend shy away from mentioning how they cope – especially as a couple. Perhaps this is because we don’t like to admit any failings. Perhaps our very British stiff upper lip tends to appear to stay strong in times of hardship. Yet even less talked about, I have found, is how a relationship copes under the stresses and strains that illness brings with it. We tend to mostly keep things ‘behind closed doors’ in our society, and whilst I agree that privacy is an important part of any relationship – I equally think that it is important to be open and honest.
When all is said and done, ‘this’ has nearly, very nearly, broken us. It brings a tear to my eye just admitting that (albeit a defiant, angry tear).
I have been with my husband for many years. We are the best of friends, and we understand how each other ticks. However, the vows that we said to each other eight years ago have been thoroughly tested over the past few months.
‘In sickness and in health’ has a very real, true, meaning now.
You see, when you are poorly your other half is there for you sure – but when you are really ill the pressure builds and builds and builds, and it is sometimes unrelenting like a pressure cooker.
I have made no bones about the fact that my husband has been there every step of the way for me. He has held my hand, he has brought my sick bowl, he has driven me to appointments, waited for me and put up with all the emotional ‘ups and downs’ for months now. He is solid.
Yet I have found one thing to be very true. Whilst this situation has made us love each other more on the one hand, on the other hand it is dragging us apart, almost like a giant game of ‘Tug of War’.
Tiredness has affected us both, it brings with it snapping and grumpiness. Emotion has caused tears and anger on both sides. Struggling with maintaining jobs and home life is unrelenting and a daily reality for us. Happiness & relief at the end of treatment for him – whilst I experienced feelings of numbness and anxiety. A real wanting to spend as much time together as possible (should time cruelly run out) and yet, at the sametime the very real need for some serious head space.
I have read a few accounts written by others where the resulting pressures of cancer have caused the end to their relationship. On top of everything else (as if you need it) a relationship ends when the person you tend to lean on just cannot deal with it all, and this honestly, does not surprise me.
Everyone has a limit & cancer seems to have an uncanny knack of finding that limit.
Having said all of this as a couple we are all too aware that we are lucky, very lucky, and we finally seem to be coming out of the other side.
We are all too aware that the situation could have been much, much worse. We are all too aware that we have a fantastic support network of family and friends. It has been bloody hard going but I know that it will take more than ‘the bullshit’ to break us.
Leaning on each other is the only way we know, when all is said and done.
Feature Image ‘Hearts On Fire’ by Sharon Cummings
Our First Dance
John Legend ‘Stay With You’ https://open.spotify.com/track/51l8jiqsGYCiKUJBLXJvA9