Facing Cancer Head On

My Bear was forever smiling
My Bear was forever smiling

You are never prepared for the words, "Your husband has cancer." Having been a paramedic you learn to put your emotions aside and deal with the situation at hand. So from the moment our doctor showed me the xrays and asked if I knew what they meant, my mind went emotionless and treated the fact instead of the illness. It was as if it would go away if I didn't think about the terminal aspects of the situation.

I learned to take one day at a time and frustration welled up in me as I watched the medical profession ignore the large mass in my husband's lung and turn to other aspects of his physical needs. Anger grew each day that they didn't start chemo or radiation because they were fixated on his heart and doing bypass surgery. In my mind, this meant they were also ignoring the need for expediency in starting treatments.

Early on there was talk of a partial removal of the affected lung and this gave us hope and something to cling to. The cancer hadn't spread to any of the other organs at this point and possibly he could beat this devil named Cancer.

But this was only the beginning of an eighteen-month ordeal that started out with all the platitudes that are fed to the patient and their loved ones. If we do this, we might have caught it in time.

He had his bypass surgery and that led to additional medical emergencies that kept the oncologists from doing what needed to be done or at least started.

Finally, the day came when they started the chemo and radiation treatments. It was decided that both would be needed to stabilize the growth and deter spreading of the cancer.

Over the first year of treatments, our family spent every holiday in the hospital while my husband went through various treatments and tests. He was losing weight but not his sense of humor. He was becoming frail but refused to give up the hope of survival.

On one of his many stays in the hospital, it was explained to us that surgery on the lung was not an option because the mass was too close to the stem that holds the lungs.

The first round of chemo treatments were done and they sent us home to come back for more tests to see the effects of the treatments. In retrospect, I think they were just trying to placate us because the chemo and radiation were having minuscule effects on the mass.

The oncologist decided that a second round of chemo was needed and the process started all over again. Only this time, my husband was getting so frail that he was losing his positive attitude. Finally, he asked what the prognosis was at this point in his treatments. Answer: Six months with treatments, three months without. That was the beginning of the end. My husband chose to stop all treatments and let the villain win.

Where was I in all of this. I would start out my day going to the hospital to drop off the laundry I had done the night before. Then I would go to work for two or three hours. The rest of my day until visiting hours were over were spent at the hospital talking and just being there for my husband. Then I would go home to do the day's laundry and to sleep. I was in automatic mode.

I don't think I ever rationalized or realized what my husband was doing I just spent the time trying to be supportive and loving. The paramedic had taken over and I was doing what needed to be done to keep my patient, my friend, the love of my life happy.

Over the couple of months between realization that this was not going to pass away from him and when he was at home, he took the time to make his funeral preparations and to dispense with his personal possessions. This took a fortitude that I greatly admired. There was no wailing or gnashing of teeth at what had been dealt to him.

He had endured surgery after surgery and even a beta drug test trying to beat the odds. In the end the beast won and he finally accepted medication to control his final hours of misery. Misery that he never let on he was feeling.

Spending the last few hours next to him, we talked. Me verbally and him in silence until the moment when I saw that there was no more rhythm of movement from breathing. My friend and companion had gone home and it was time for me to grieve.

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Comments 4 comments

bearnmom profile image

bearnmom 3 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Author

Thank you, suzette, for your kind approval of my story. Cancer is a scourge and I'm sorry that you had to experience it so close hand at an early age. I wrote this to let others out there know that it's a shared experience and that we are all together traveling this road with a loved one.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM

This is beautifully written and so sad. I can't imagine going through something like this. It must be so hard. I remember my grandpa had cancer from the time I was a little girl until he died when I was eleven years old. I remember visiting him for the last time the week before he died. He couldn't even sit up and I remember hugging him and hanging on to him for dear life. I knew in my heart I wouldn't be seeing him again. He died about five days later. He lived in PA and we lived in NJ. It was a sad time. But, they are out of their pain and misery and in a better place. That's the only way I could deal with his death.

To loose the love of your life is devastating. I hope your family and especially the grandchildren helped you through the immediate time when he was gone. What a loving story and I hope all is going well for your now. This was lovely to read.


bearnmom profile image

bearnmom 3 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Author

Thank you Billrrr for you comments and commiseration with my frustrations. I am so happy that you are a survivor. God bless you.


Billrrrr profile image

Billrrrr 3 years ago from Cape Cod

Voted up Bearnmom with a tear in my keyboard. Cancer is a beast and those involved in the battle get NO HELP. I know the American Cancer Society does great work as far as it goes. I also know (except for family and friends) there is nobody to help with all the driving to appointments, the extra bills, the bone tiredness and brain numbing exasperation. As a nine year vocal cord cancer survivor, I can relate to every word you wrote and every tear you shed. In the middle of my treatments I had no way to get to my appointments, except to be driven there by a smoker, who would smoke in the car even though I could barely breathe through the poison air!!! Four surgeries did not cure me over the space of two years. I wanted radiation but they kept forcing me into painful and ineffective surgeries. They kept saying "one more operation probably will take care of it." Finally I had the wisdom & courage to fight them off............I demanded radiation and it worked! Nine years later, I actually have a voice despite pretzels for vocal cords.

In your husband's case ------------

THEY SHOULD HAVE BEGUN SERIOUS CANCER TREATMENTS RIGHT AWAY. They knew that it would spread if they waited, but they waited anyway. If it were me, I would rather take the chance of succumbing to a heart problem than the torture of wasting away to the BEAST. I am so sorry for your loss and for the pain he suffered so needlessly.

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