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September 08, 2008
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September 08, 2008 – Charlotte Huff
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September 08, 2008 – Paul Engstrom
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September 08, 2008 – Tara Beers Gibson, PhD
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September 08, 2008 – Kathy LaTour
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September 08, 2008 – Charlotte Huff
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Back to 'Normal'
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Web Exclusive: Questions to Ask Your Doctor
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Dana Farber's Survivorship Clinic
September 08, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
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September 08, 2008 – Jessica Wapner
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International Thyroid Cancer Survivors' Conference
September 08, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
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September 08, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
East Meets West
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September 08, 2008 – Kathy LaTour
What to Know Before You Go
September 08, 2008 – Susan Kreimer
Far From Home
September 08, 2008 – Susan Kreimer
Message from the CURE Staff
September 08, 2008 – The CURE Team
Letters from Our Readers
September 08, 2008
Web Exclusive: For the Caregiver: How to Make the Adjustment Post-Treatment
September 08, 2008 – Charlotte Huff
Defeating Fear: Strategic Moves
September 08, 2008 – Paul Engstrom
Currently Viewing
Scott's Denial
September 08, 2008 – Tara Beers Gibson, PhD
Re-Entry: Age & Gender
September 08, 2008 – Charlotte Huff
Web Exclusive: How to Manage Side Effects
September 08, 2008
Web Exclusive: Preventing Breast Cancer
September 08, 2008
Breaking Down TCM
September 08, 2008 – Lena Huang
When Patients Don't Want to Know
September 08, 2008 – Joanne Kenen
Survivors Celebrate and Stroll
September 08, 2008 – Lena Huang
Active Recovery
September 08, 2008 – Don Vaughan
Challenges in Cancer Survivorship
September 08, 2008 – Kathy LaTour
Back to 'Normal'
September 08, 2008 – Charlotte Huff
Web Exclusive: Questions to Ask Your Doctor
September 08, 2008
What's the Right Decision?
September 08, 2008 – Jeffrey Belkora, PhD
Multiple Myeloma & Thrombocytopenia
September 08, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
The Last Tenth
September 08, 2008 – Jen Hoffmann
Keep It Moving
September 08, 2008 – Lacey Meyer
Glossary: Making Sense of the Jargon
September 08, 2008 – Katy Human
Surgery & Radiation: New Options, New Questions
September 08, 2008 – Katy Human
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September 08, 2008 – Lena Huang
Finding Your Compass
September 08, 2008 – Katy Human
Pretty Is What Changes
September 08, 2008 – Kathy LaTour
Dana Farber's Survivorship Clinic
September 08, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
Programs to Help People Quit Smoking Miss Minorities
September 08, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
New Funding and a New Voice
September 08, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
Advocating for Others
September 08, 2008 – Lacey Meyer
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September 08, 2008 – Paul Engstrom
Q&A: Vitamin D
September 08, 2008 – Len Lichtenfeld, MD
www.SharingHope.tv
September 08, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
New Pharmacy Breed Offers Special Attention, Drawbacks to Patients
September 08, 2008 – Jessica Wapner
Olympian Postpones Treatment to Compete
September 08, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
International Thyroid Cancer Survivors' Conference
September 08, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
Understanding Preventive Mastectomy
September 08, 2008 – Kathy LaTour
New Law Prevents Genetic Discrimination
September 08, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
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September 08, 2008 – Lena Huang
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September 08, 2008 – Kathy LaTour
What to Know Before You Go
September 08, 2008 – Susan Kreimer
Far From Home
September 08, 2008 – Susan Kreimer
Message from the CURE Staff
September 08, 2008 – The CURE Team

Scott's Denial

Patient denial places added burden on caregivers. 

BY Tara Beers Gibson, PhD
PUBLISHED September 08, 2008

My husband passed away almost five months ago, and I’m angry with him.

Scott lost his eight-month battle with an aggressive, undifferentiated form of sarcoma—he had just turned 38. After the initial shock of his diagnosis and the news that his spinal tumor had already spread to his lungs, liver, bones, bone marrow, and brain, I immediately understood there was only one ending to this story, and we would not be able to spend our lifetimes together to raise our two young children as planned.  

Early on, Scott looked through my teary eyes and said, “I know you know, but don’t tell me.” And thus the denial began.

Scott was reluctant to talk about getting a will or medical power of attorney back in September 2007 when he was diagnosed. He saw contacting an attorney as confessing his impending death, even though I was preparing my own will at the same time. He died less than one month after signing the forms. I am upset with Scott for almost leaving me financially unprepared.

Scott imagined he had more time to take care of his personal affairs. I encouraged him to write letters to the kids for their graduation, first day of college, wedding day, first child—any moment when he could have conveyed his innermost wishes and dreams for them. But he delayed day after day because writing down such thoughts was the ultimate admission that he would not be saying those words in person to his grown children.

Now I have the daunting task of being Scott’s mouthpiece and relaying my impressions of his personal hopes and desires for our children. At this moment, that responsibility feels hefty, but I hope with time I am strong enough to lift it up for Scott and our kids. I am upset with Scott for not communicating with our children directly.

Scott and I did not discuss the future and the reality that our life journeys were about to diverge onto separate paths. I was terrified of being left behind, a young widow alone to raise two young kids. Could I endure it? Was I strong enough? Who would be there to support me emotionally?

We were supposed to be life partners, going to soccer games and ballet recitals, standing proudly when our kids succeeded and comforting them when they did not, becoming grandparents together. We wanted to travel the world to share new adventures; now there was no more time.

During Scott’s illness, I longed to share these thoughts and doubts with him. I was scared and needed my husband’s comfort and reassurance. But because of the denial, we could not face the future together. So each day I cared for him, standing beside the bed, trapped alone with my fears. I am upset with Scott for leaving me.

Scott smiled at me at sunset one day as the kids scurried from the car into the house to greet our dog. I paused and smiled back, and amid our silence, the breeze carried the meaning behind his smile into my heart: “You are strong. You can do this. You will endure. I will support your spirit. Kiss our children for me every day. I love you.”

This is not the ending I imagined, but it gives me some sense of permission to move forward in life. I am strong and I will endure for our children and for Scott.

Tara Beers Gibson, PhD, serves as a scientific adviser for CURE and an associate director of scientific affairs at Physicians’ Education Resource.

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