There Are Warriors Of All Kinds
“You can close your eyes to things you don’t want to see, but you can’t close your heart to things you don’t want to feel no matter how hard you try.”
That quote is in reference to just some of the things I have been feeling quite deeply lately. I’ve had a lot on my mind, and much of it has to do with cancer. I can’t remember the last time my mind wasn’t focused on my partner’s battle with this destructive disease.
It’s been a little over seven months since the day she was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of breast cancer following the removal of a lump in her right breast. Fear of what the future held and of the unknown immediately set in. And then chemotherapy began, which we were ill-prepared for. It was rough. No other words can accurately describe the process, but like everything else, she handled it better than most. Being surrounded with positive people, the love of family, and a unquenchable thirst for life inspired and motivated her to get through it. It was difficult but together we rode the tides, tamed the chemo dragons, and to this day continue the fight to conquer this beast called breast cancer.
There was medicine for the side effects, and more medicine to help alleviate much of the discomfort and pain after the chemotherapy concoction would rear its ugly red head which was almost always immediate. When the effects of the chemo wore off, which would only be for a day or two – she would always say something like, “I almost feel normal again”. She couldn’t handle the heat or the sun and her bones ached constantly. She walked so slow and rigid during chemo, which was a natural side effect of the achy bones, I thought she’d need a cane at one point but she overcame that hurdle.
Through the nausea, fatigue, hair loss, bone pain, muscle pain, dizziness, constant aches and emotional turmoil, her body grew weaker and her mind grew stronger toward the end of treatment. By then she was able to mentally prepare for the invasive surgery that was to follow. Surgery required the removal of several malignant lymph nodes under her right arm and both of her breasts. She’s now approaching the end of radiation therapy which is taxing but not nearly as debilitating as chemotherapy. The scars that come with radiation are more physically visible than with chemotherapy, but she’s been able to slowly return to work which she sorely missed and her optimism is just as strong now as it ever was.
There are days when I hold her tight and gaze into her eyes so she can see the love in mine. As strong willed and beautiful as the day we met – I try my best to make her see and feel that I am only doing for her what she would insist on doing for me. There was a period when she’d apologize for having cancer so often that I finally mentioned off-hand that a blind man doesn’t feel the need to apologize for having no sight – and that was the end of that.
Often, I use my dry humor to keep us going. I hold her close in bed at night because even when she seems to be in some other place emotionally, I want her to know and feel that she’s loved. I comfort her when she feels like crying her eyes out because she’s blue about something having to do with the cancer. And then I’ll try to make her laugh because I know she’ll smile again and I hate to see the light leave her eyes for even a minute. When she underwent the double mastectomy I was afraid of what it would do to her self image. I was afraid of her losing whatever it was that made her feel feminine and like a woman, but those fears were quickly alleviated.
There were a few things I had to learn to understand, accept and eventually live with. The first was mourning the onset of cancer and the loss of what our life was before its arrival. Next was mourning the loss of her breasts while celebrating the things that mattered most. Life. She wanted both breasts gone at the onset of cancer. No reconstruction was decided so there would be less headache and worry later on down the line.
I learned that breast cancer serves as a major catalyst for women and their loved ones to change how they are living. I was in shock for the most part in the beginning. I’m finally at a place where I’m finding my bearings and learning how to navigate in this cancer culture which I now recognize as an epidemic. It would be awhile before I resigned myself to the facts of what was happening to our lives. But by then I was already determined to see her through every step of the way.
Myself and so many others have prayed that she have the strength to endure this battle and so far she has. Together we learned to decipher what things we had control over and what things we didn’t. Life becomes so much clearer once you begin to understand your role in it in so far as what ever it is you’re going through. The unexpected is the worst when it comes to cancer, so knowing as much as possible about what she’d potentially face became a driving force. Still, the learning curve processes on a daily basis.
I learned to listen to and adapt to my partner’s wants and needs all over again. Not only to her vocal demands but also to what I could see and feel just by looking at her and seeing with my own two eyes what signals her body was sending. She doesn’t always complain about the discomfort and pain but most times she doesn’t have to… I can see it in her eyes.
Any cancer diagnosis is scary but the more educated you are about the particular type the less frightening it will be. It is a lack of support and the unknown that can do you in before the cancer
Cancer hasn’t destroyed us, it’s made us stronger.
My partner and her parents will be walking in a half-marathon taking place on Feb. 12, 2012 at the Breast Cancer Marathon in Jacksonville Beach, FL. Here’s where you can donate directly to the cause:
This wonderful organization helps women and warriors of all kinds in their fight against breast cancer.