CONVERSATION AT END WOULD HAVE HELPED
Eight years after my wife passed from a rare feminine cancer, and five-plus years after my own brush with this killer, the thing that bothers me most is the utter lack of meaningful communication my wife and I had during her illness. I hold this to be my weakness, and I am haunted by it. She was a private person about such things and I, a military veteran with 24 years’ service, felt I could and would talk about anything. In fact, I couldn’t.
I did as much as I could to help her, but the thing that would have helped me the most was an honest conversation about her illness, and how my life might be without her. I wanted this, but somehow neither one of us could find the words to do so. She had disfiguring surgery and I couldn’t bear to look when she offered to show me. I considered this a hurtful thing to her and not an attempt to save her.
We could talk about almost everything else — nearly 44 years of marriage allows it — family needs, grandchildren, children, but for some reason I couldn’t get the words out, and I don’t think she recognized how much I needed to be led by her. I felt a weakness that shouldn’t have been allowed by masculinity.
I’ve moved on. Loneliness is a toxic thing, and I remarried. But even so, each day, I think of those days when we were alone in our house along with her illness, and how I couldn’t talk about how sad I felt that our lives had reached that point. In addition to losing her, my biggest regret is that we couldn’t have that conversation that might have left me feeling that I did everything I could have possibly done in those terrible weeks. We both avoided talking about the inevitable. We both knew what was coming. We couldn’t face it.
- Ron Harrison, Salem, Massachusetts
COLD CAPS PRESERVED HAIR — AND PRIVACY
I used Penguin Cold Caps back in 2009 during my breast cancer treatment. My chemotherapy regimen was Taxotere (docetaxel) and carboplatin with Herceptin (trastuzumab). Due to the frozen caps, I was able to keep most of my hair, just losing a small amount by my ears where the cap was not tight enough.
I had four children and was able to do so much with them during treatment without others knowing my diagnosis. I wanted it that way. Keeping my hair made things more “normal” for me in the roller coaster of cancer treatments.
I will forever be indebted to the inventor, Frank Fronda, and Penguin Cold Caps for helping me through this experience. I now speak with people who are about to go through chemotherapy to let them know about cold caps. Your Spring 2016 article, “Cold Comfort
,” really hit home for me. I hope that everyone will eventually have the choice to use cold caps during treatment. They were very expensive for me, but I would not change a thing.
- Angela Camp, Fairfax, Virginia
SINGLE MEN GET SICK, TOO
The article “Single File
” in the Winter 2016 issue of CURE was quite interesting. I could even relate to the various scenarios, except that I am a male! Sadly, the article is very one-sided, reflecting only one gender. Yes, there are men who “go it alone.”
We have many of the same problems, maybe even more drastic than those experienced by women. Men tend to be less accomplished in the kitchen and in the laundry room than women, we tend to have less of a grasp of cooking, while healthy or not, and our relations with our children, friends and neighbors tend to be less open and emotional than those of women.
I went through prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment, starting back in 1997, and I don’t recall my two sons sharing any part of my trip. I was alone when I was diagnosed (the tape recorder was a savior), I was alone when I boarded my dog and headed to the hospital (an hour away) for seed implants and when I drove myself home the next day. No, I did not hide it from my young adult sons, but they just were not there. I’m not sure they have ever asked how I am in the ensuing 18 years. Guys must be different; when I’ve asked them why they don’t ask, their answer usually has been along the line of “You seem to be coping with life on your own.” That’s pretty true, but is it because I can or because I must?
If CURE wants to be a women’s magazine, just let us guys know and we’ll move elsewhere. No hard feelings. But if you’re going to present yourselves as a cancer magazine for everyone, you’re going to have to work harder. Remember, more American men than women get cancer, and men are less likely to survive.
- Herb Skovronek, Morris Plains, New Jersey
Editor’s Note: The topics addressed in “Single and Sick” are universal in that they can affect anyone who is single and undergoing treatment for cancer, regardless of gender. However, we understand why our readers might find it meaningful to learn about the experiences of both men and women traveling this path. We’ll consider that idea in planning future stories, and in fact recently gave attention to the male experience in our Winter 2016 story “Role Reversal,” about men caring for their wives or girlfriends who’d been diagnosed with cancer.
SURPRISED BY DISAPPEARING SUPPORT NETWORK
As a single woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, I found my support system before that to be wonderful; after diagnosis it was virtually non-existent!
When my friends found out about my cancer, everyone said, “If there’s anything I can do, don’t hesitate to ask.” However, when I asked, the answer was always “no,” no matter how simple the task. One friend in particular, who was supposed to take me to the hospital, called the day before to back out because her husband refused to allow her to do it. His reason? I’m single. As a single woman, I have been discriminated against all my life, but never by a friend’s husband! I crossed that person off my support list, as well as others.
Interestingly, someone I barely knew called the day after surgery and said, “Oh my God, what can I do?” She meant it. Sometimes the ones who support you will surprise you.
- Jessie (Jan) Fuger, South Texas