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The Other Side of the Breast -- A Husband’s Perspective

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Krista and husband

As you all know, for the last little while, my lovely wife, Krista has been blogging about her experiences with stage 4 breast cancer. I can see firsthand that her blogs have been very therapeutic for her, and informative, and entertaining for her readers. I’m very proud of her.

When thinking of subjects to discuss, Krista and I decided it would be an interesting opportunity to deliver my experiences as a husband and father.

This whole journey has been a roller coaster of emotions. Krista and I can be very different people emotionally and in the way we process information.

The very beginning started with Krista and I lying in bed. Krista was showing me her breast and was concerned about abnormalities. I told her it’s likely nothing (and I believed it was nothing), and told her to get it checked. This is where it all starts. Krista is the realist, and I’m the never-ending optimist.

When she did get it checked, and was booked tests for the next day, she phoned my cell crying. Again, I could not believe MY wife had breast cancer. And again, I told her it was probably nothing. Fast forward to our first meeting with the surgeon, to do a biopsy. Shit was getting real now. The doctor left the room, but he left his computer screen on. As Krista sat on the examining table, I read the notes as quickly as I could. In these notes, the examining doctor said she believes Krista had breast cancer. I almost dropped to the floor. All I had in my mind was I have to hold myself together. Krista was already scared.

The doctor came in and explained that Krista more than likely had breast cancer, but until the biopsy came back, we didn’t know what stage or what type. Stage? Type? I thought breast cancer was breast cancer. Cut the thing off and be done with it. Boy was I wrong.

When we got home that day, and pulled in the driveway, it finally sunk in and I lost it. I started screaming and crying like a toddler having a temper tantrum. IT’S NOT FUCKING FAIR!!!!!!!!!!

As the weeks went on, and the appointments increased, we started to understand what was happening, and her diagnosis. I’m not going to go into too much detail about the diagnosis, because Krista has done that. I’m just going to talk about my thought process during the last 2 years.

When something like this happens, the first thing you do as a man is have a pity party in your mind. “This can’t be happening.” There’s a feeling of helplessness that is unimaginable. I’m supposed to protect my family, and my wife has this life-sucking disease that I’m unable to fight. There’ve been countless times that I wished that this was happening to me instead. I think of my kids and think they need their mother more than they need me. As silly as this sounds, it’s how I feel.

Ahhh, the kids. They are a huge factor in how I process this. Ethan is 14, and becoming a young man, and I feel very confident that I can impart my manly wisdom and help him into adulthood. But let’s be honest, he is his Mama’s boy. Naomi on the other hand is 8, and when I think about her and the prospect of raising her on my own, all I have is numerous "Who’s the Boss?" episodes running through my head.

It’s weird. When I think about losing my wife, even though it’s likely years from now, I always think of how I’m going to handle the kids at the age they are now. Then I kind of make little deals with myself, or whomever. “Please let her be here for 10 more years, then Naomi will be 18.” I don’t say that because I don’t want to be a single dad, I say it because one of my fears is that Naomi won’t have real, tangible memories of her mother. How much do you remember from when you were 8?

Krista and Pat

Krista was blessed with a couple of travel opportunities since her diagnoses. I found that when she was gone, it was difficult for me emotionally. Don’t get me wrong, I want her to grab life by the balls and see the world, it’s just that her absence comes with a big dose of reality. For whatever reason, it’s like a taste of what it’ll be like when she’s really gone. I haven’t even told Krista this, but when she was away, I got anxiety and panic attacks. It started the day after she left, ramped up to full ridiculousness and then settled down when she was a day or two away. By no means do I want this to stop her from going anywhere. I’ll just need to find a way to deal with it. On the plus side, the kids behave better for me when she’s not here, and I actually clean stuff.

Sex… There, I said it. Krista touched on this, and now I’m going to give my side. Before she was diagnosed, but she wasn’t feeling normal, if I didn’t get it on the regular, I would feel resentful. Yeah, I’m a guy and I want to bang my wife, so sue me. But with the diagnosis came an understanding. I am no longer resentful, and she has limitations that we both understand. Contrary to what she may believe, I still find her as sexy as ever, and cancer has not changed that. Yes, I still do bug her for sex, and when she says no, we get creative in other ways!

There are some positives:

  • Like anything in life, there are two sides to a coin. Our unwanted guest, cancer, has brought us some gifts. It sounds hokey as shit, but it makes you really see what’s important in life. Arguments about money and stupid shit are rare now. We have a united front like never before. It may be a bad thing, but we are very “live in the now.”
  • We have the greatest friends and family in the world, and we are reminded of that day in and day out. The opportunities that have been presented to us are countless. You all know who you are, and we love you.
  • I feel very educated. I know so much more about breast cancer than I ever wanted to know, but if our experiences help anybody, it would be great.

In closing, through all this, I’ve learned a lot about my wife. She’s a mother, a wife, a fighter, a realist, a dreamer, a gambler, a traveler, an adventurer, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a bitch, the butt of my jokes, but more importantly, she’s Krista, and that’s all I want.

Patrick Rutter lives in Ontario, Canada with his wife, Krista, their son Ethan, 16, and their daughter Naomi, 10. Krista blogs about life with MBC at Metastatic Breast Cancer: Now What? You can also listen to our podcast featuring Krista’s conversation with senior editor Jamie DePolo.

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