The Husband, the Wife and the Breast Cancer
"The call-back after my wife’s regular mammogram was the first thing to start the stress. Waiting to attend the breast cancer clinic, sleepless nights, and eventually the long stressful drive to have more scans was not pleasant. Breast Cancer Clinic – that was an experience – the husbands waiting, didn’t talk, didn’t read, it was like an elevator ride only hours long. As the other women came out and my wife didn’t, I got more tense, then I was called in to a meeting with my wife and a breast care nurse who explained next steps. So on to a biopsy and eventually, the drive home, where we talked about the complex process, thus far. New terms like DCIS, lumpectomy, mastectomy, radiation, chemo & others were our new vocabulary.
"Then the wait, so many waits! Each day, with more research online, sleepless nights and more questions, the stress levels rose. I was trying to be positive, supportive, but wife somehow knew it was not going to be that simple. Waiting sucks! Then eventually, back for the results and talk with doctor, nurse, and DCIS Grade 3 was confirmed. A lumpectomy with rads or mastectomy without rads, options flew around till, after more waiting, an 80km drive to the surgeon at the hospital for a consult. The drive home was weighing lumpectomy versus mastectomy options openly discussed. My wife now had some control, so she seemed better, as it was now tangible, not some big question mark hanging over her head.
"There was no way a woman, even a strong one like my wife, could do those drives safely. Her mind was elsewhere. Driving to appointments was quiet, each deep in thought. Driving home was deep discussions of what we now knew, and needed to discuss.
"As her husband, all I could do was support my beloved in whatever she decided was best for her. That turned out to be a unilateral mastectomy, no reconstruction and, after driving her to the hospital, I was amazed when the next morning, after surgery, she phoned and said come and get her! She was great and even able to do a little retail therapy before driving home! She’s tough…
"Once home it was my job to stop her doing things, discuss the future, and again wait for more biopsy results, praying for clear nodes and no invasion. When the dressing came off and the site was clear she was worried how I’d react. I was more worried about how she was and that there was no infection. We were so worried about each other’s feelings, even though we openly talked and inspected the site regularly. A slight infection had us worried, then drain out, seroma drained, and best of all a clear biopsy result – that was a happy drive home.
"Now, life goes on, but we are probably closer for the experience. All is well, but we now discuss the forms she has bought, the bras and tops she finds in shops and online with better necklines. She is happy with her choice of unilateral mastectomy and it doesn’t worry me at all – there is no way we’d ever consider her going through reconstruction, with all the risks, discomfort and pain. We just have a new form of ‘normal’ that now includes breast cancer meetings, and the annual mammogram lead-up stress. The rest of the time, we just carry on but appreciating life just that bit more."
--Niloc, Caregiver to wife