The f***er that is cancer doesn’t just take on the patient, its attacks a whole family. My husband was my anchor throughout my cancer. Here’s his experience of being at the forefront of my cancer battle.
There are many challenges that couples go through in life which test us to our limits and make us feel, that life just isn’t fair.
One of those moments came for me on the day that my beautiful wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember sitting with Audrey and her doctor in a small room at Stobhill Hospital listening to him be very professional and straight to the point that my best friend had cancer.
It’s difficult for me to remember the exact words from the Doctor. You would think they would be engrained in my mind but in that surreal moment, it was as if I was listening to a messy blurb of words and all I could hear was the word Cancer.
I automatically went into ‘Mr Fix It Husband mode’ thinking of ways in my head of how I personally would fix all this nonsense that I was hearing. I somehow believed that I could get the scrubs on and perform the operation to cut out the cancer and do whatever was necessary to get my girl back to the way she was 5mins ago. This, I know, was crazy, but it was my way of coping with what I had just heard. For those of you that know me, at that point, some of my mates would take pleasure in telling you that I couldn’t even change a lightbulb never mind perform Surgery!
Although it may have been crazy thinking I could fix everything, it did give me a good starting point for being positive throughout Audrey’s illness. From day 1: ‘The Diagnosis’, to Audrey’s final Radiotherapy session, I never stopped believing that everything would be ok. Now this is a huge thing for someone who has lived most of his adult life with a ‘glass half empty’ look on life.
We developed a ‘Team Allan’ mantra which meant that each day Audrey was feeling low, I would remind her that she was strong and could come through any challenge put in front of her. It’s funny, Audrey recently asked me what I said to her at her low points to inspire her. I told her I had no idea. Much like sitting with the Doctor on Diagnosis Day, a lot of what happened last year is a blur to me. The irony of it is I have a Tattoo which is a cinema reel with the film falling out of it. This is exactly how I felt things panned out for me last year. Almost like my life was being played out on film and I was in the VIP seats watching the nightmare unfold.
With Audrey being at the front of my mind 24 hours a day after the initial diagnosis it was hard to focus on the normal things in life. I worked in a bank at the time and would regularly speak to 100 people every week. Each of these people knew about my wife’s illness and were extremely thoughtful when asking about Audrey’s wellbeing. This became difficult at times as you can imagine if you have to give a generic ‘she’s doing ok considering’ over and over. Although it was great feeling the love and support, it also meant that there was no way to escape the difficult situation I felt we were in.
A quick tip from me on escaping from ‘everything cancer’. Try to limit the amount of research you do on the internet and let the actual experts do their job. During Audrey’s insomnia following chemo, there was an evening where she talked at me for 2 or 3 hours without a breath about everything you could think of. I remember lying there thinking she had gone mad and the chemo had changed my wonderful wife for good. It was really difficult at that point not to freak out.
So, I did what most of us these days would do and googled the side effects of Chemotherapy. During my search, I stumbled across a forum for husbands whose wives had undergone chemotherapy. Whilst this forum reassured me that it was the Chemo drugs causing the insomnia and ‘madness’ , it also made me nervous as some posts stated that the Chemo drugs changed their wives forever! I now know this is not true in our case thank goodness, but please be careful what you read on sites which do not know your own individual case.
Audrey has already covered what it was like to break the news to our kids and how they handled it brilliantly. They also coped admirably when Audrey was extremely unwell in the week following her chemo where I would have to take each one aside and explain to them why mummy was crying.
I would often have a little cry to myself after this as I found it really difficult trying to explain why their usually bright and bubbly mummy was in pain or sick.
Speaking of crying. Audrey will always say to me ‘I’ve never seen you cry’ out with funerals. Lots of times during Audrey’s illness I could have screamed at the top of my voice in terms of how unfair it was we were dealing with this so young. It may be the typical ‘West of Scotland’ man in me, which does not allow such crying, but there were several times that I had to control my emotions for the sake of our kids and Audrey.
This was a hard task to pull off given the circumstances so I would save it for times where I was alone. I would find myself in the car on the M8 loads welling up thinking about Audrey and often what I would do without her. So lads, it’s ok to cry!!!
So, my soul mate had cancer……
It’s strange. After a while you become used to the fact that your wife had cancer and through sheer guts, determination and the wonders of modern medicine she has come through the other side. There are days where I simply forget that Audrey had a life-threatening illness and when it actually pops back in my head it brings back a fear from my sub-conscious that may never really go away.
As a person, Audrey has flourished into a strong, confident woman who is taking on new challenges every day and trying to live life to the full. I am somewhat envious at times when I see Audrey taking herself out of her comfort zone but then realise that she is beginning to rub off on me and as a team we are finding new ways to maximise our time on this planet. She is the sole reason I left my work in the bank for a completely different career.
As a family, we have also changed. As well as the negative things that Cancer brings to your life, it has also left us with a lasting positivity on how to live our lives better each day and cherish the time we have together. A 30 second conversation with a loved one is more important than that text or Facebook alert and we must all strive to get better at this each and every day.
As for me, I have learned so much about myself during Audrey’s illness. I know that I can also come through difficult times by focussing on what is most important to me in my life. The help and support of my friends and family made me realise that you cannot pretend to be bulletproof your whole life. If you need help, ask for it!!
I hope this gives a flavour of ‘my’ cancer journey with Audrey these last couple of years. I could have written a book and I have no doubt left out some important things. When she asked me to do a guest blog for her I had no idea where to start and now have a new-found respect for the blogs Audrey has published. From a guy who only recently joined Facebook (the last person Audrey knows to join!) this is a big step so hopefully I have given a decent account of myself. If not, Audrey (The Boss) will surely tell me!!!!