The Cancer Waiting Game

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My husband is "that guy" who always takes care of everyone else, so his recent cancer scare was unfathomable.

Usually when I write about being a caregiver for a cancer experience, I am speaking to the things that have happened since my daughter Adrienne was diagnosed with breast cancer at 27. In the last few months, however, I have been supporting my husband as he went through the investigative process for prostate cancer, and it’s been quite the ride.

While I was intimately connected every step of the way with Adrienne, I learned so many things that are not common knowledge. For example, I learned that there are a series of steps that get taken to determine if it’s cancer and in a sense, each move up the ladder of diagnostic tests means that the chances of it being cancer go up a notch. When it was suggested that my husband undergo a biopsy, I knew that we were almost at the top of the climb, and I started to hold my breath.

My husband is “that guy.” He’s the guy who scrapes the ice off of my windows in the winter when he leaves for work 20 minutes before I do. He’s the guy that will stand in front of a barbecue for an afternoon making sure that everyone gets fed before he takes a bite. He’s the guy who lived alone for a year while I went to take care of our daughter because it was the only way we could financially make it happen. The thought that cancer would invade “that guy,” that it would make him have to undergo treatments that would weaken his body and spirit in ways that he could not fathom because he had not seen our child go through it, was the stuff of nightmares for me.

We decided not to tell the family what was happening. I remember my parents doing that and it used to make me so angry, but I get it now. Everyone who loves our daughter saw what cancer treatment can do and there was no way we would share that worry until we had to. Then a few days before the biopsy a discussion came up with Adrienne about why I couldn’t be with her to help with the new baby, and he let it slip.

I looked over at her and saw the blood drain out of her face. Because she knows all about what happens when you go through cancer treatment. She knows what it’s like to have your mind fog up, to be so fatigued that getting up to go to the bathroom is a monumental effort, to look at food as the enemy. She knows how life must be adjusted when your body won’t cooperate, and that you are never the same again. And when she met my eyes, we both knew how terrible it would be for “that guy” to lose some of that piece of his identity to cancer as she has lost some of hers. She recovered very quickly and I’m sure he didn’t notice. But I knew that she, too, had started to hold her breath.

I wasn’t there when my daughter went to get her biopsy results and heard the words, “It’s cancer” and it’s one of my greatest regrets that she had to face that alone. There was no way that was happening this time, so I went with my husband and sat trying to maintain calm while we waited for the doctor to come in.

The first words out of his mouth were “it’s not cancer” and I felt my husband’s tension ease as I squeezed his hand. While there are still follow ups scheduled to be sure there isn’t something the biopsy didn’t pick up for now, at least, “that guy” gets to be who he has always been for all of us.

As soon as we left the office, I pulled out my phone and shared the news and my daughter texted back one word that said all she needed to say.


Me, too, Adrienne. Me, too.

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