Real Time – Part 2

By the time we got the phone call to tell us that my husband now had cancer in his lungs, I don’t think either of us were surprised.  While I had desperately tried to convince myself that this could still be some crazy infection, I think the four days spent waiting for the test results while I plied my husband with every healing tonic I could think of, gave us time to prepare for what they would tell us.  We were on the eve of leaving on a desperately needed two week vacation, and we had already decided that we would go anyway… the thought of launching straight back into the cancer treatment scene was too much for either of us.

The next morning we called Dr. E and asked if it was ok to wait a week or two to start treatment.  He said he thought it would be fine, he was leaving on a week vacation too… we would set up an appointment when we were both back and talk about starting chemo again.  We got in the car and began the 9 hour drive to our home town, where we would meet up with all our family members and our kids and tell them this horrible news in person.  The irony was that this was to be a big celebration visit… our home town friends who had cheered us along since his diagnosis over a year before had organized a big party.  We called and told them we wouldn’t make it to the party, not giving a full explanation.

I don’t know if it was the long car ride, or the unbelievable amount of stress my husband was feeling at the prospect of telling our children and his parents for the second time that he had cancer, but by the time we arrived at my parents house he was worse.  My sister was due to arrive with her family and our kids the following afternoon, so we decided to go and tell my husband’s parents the next morning and come back and tell the kids after they arrived, just to get it all over with.

We arrived at his parents and dropped the news on them and his sister.  Awful.   It was scary because my husband seemed to be getting worse by the day.  He couldn’t really talk without having a coughing fit, he was in pain, and he had no energy.  By the time we were heading back to my parents to meet up with our kids, I think he was starting to have an anxiety attack.  This was what had been plaguing him since we heard the news.  When the kids saw their dad they could clearly see he was not better.  I could see right away that my husband wasn’t able to get the words out.  I explained to them what was going on.  They reacted in somewhat similar ways to the first time… Our daughter after crying pretended everything was fine, staying close by her father. Our son on the other hand seemed distant and was awkward around him. I wasn’t much help to them since it was taking all my strength to hold myself together.  It was great that they had their grandparents and aunt and uncle there to provide support, answer their questions, as well as provide a much-needed distraction from the devastating reality of what was happening.  It was great that I had them there too because I was on the verge of falling apart.

The next day things turned from bad to worse.  When I went to check on my husband after having breakfast, I could tell he was struggling.  Mornings were worse for his breathing, and I could tell he was having a hard time trying to get it under control.  This time it was leading to panic.  That was when he told me he felt like he was dying…  Despite the shear terror I was now feeling at hearing those words, I immediately started talking in soothing tones and moved to start performing EFT* (Emotional Freedom Technique) tapping on my husband. After muttering “you are ok, you are going to be ok” dozens of times while going through the EFT circuit, he started to calm down and regain control.  I left the room, found my sister, and collapsed into a hysterical mess in her arms.

My sister got the kids out of the house and down to the beach while I tried to pull myself together.  I made arrangements for the kids with both sets of their grandparents for the next couple of weeks.  It was clear that I needed to get my husband home immediately before he got any worse.  It was shocking how quickly his condition had deteriorated in a matter of days.  After explaining to the kids, we packed up and left first thing the next morning, making phone calls from the road to set up appointments for as soon as possible that week.  Now it seemed chemo could not start soon enough…

Next up: Real Time – Part 3…

* EFT is something I came across a few years ago on the Internet.  Similar to acupressure, you tap a series of specific spots on your head, face, and upper body in a designated order.  I first tried it to help relieve my headaches, which it does amazingly.  I’ve also used it to great success with my kids, to relieve anxiety and calm them, or to take away a headache, etc.  It is just an easy technique you can learn in a few minutes and do anywhere. It is a great tool to have for stress and pain relief.  I don’t send myself any special messages or anything… just tell myself, or my kids (or in this case my husband) that “you are ok”, or “you will feel better” progressing to “ you are feeling better”. 

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How Do You Tell Your Kids Their Father Has Cancer?

How do you tell your kids their father has cancer?  Not only that, but the stage 4 there is no stage 5 kind of cancer.  How do you tell them this when you have only just begun to process this information yourself?

After leaving the clinic with his diagnosis, my husband and I had spent the day reeling from the news.  We revolved through feelings of shock, disbelief, fear, and grief.  We clung to each other and cried, unable to fathom what this could possibly mean for our near and distant futures. We read a few articles online as to what and how to tell your children.  Then I think we rented a funny movie and tried to take our minds off of all that had just transpired, and waited for the kids to get home from school.

We were a team, we had always been a team.  We left our hometown a month after we got married and moved to a different coast for my husband’s new job.  We had spent our entire married life together far away from our families, and what that created was our own very strong family unit.  We had no one to run to except each other when there was a problem, and I think we learned fairly quickly that communication and respect were key elements to our relationship.  This didn’t change after we had kids, they just became part of the team.

We briefly debated waiting until we had more information, until we knew what the plan was going to be before we told the kids.  But it was Friday, we weren’t going to see a doctor until Monday, and besides that, they would read it all over our faces as soon as they walked through the door.  We decide that we would just rip off the band-aid and get it over with, and then we would face it together.

I went back and found an email that I had written to my mother shortly after we told the children…

            We just told the kids… All things considered I think it went pretty well.  “Daughter (age 9)” burst into tears, but now seems calm and like she’s trying to pretend that it didn’t just happen (she’s buried it somewhere).  “Son (age 11)” was very concerned and wanted to know the odds of survival, and if dad was going to die, could he catch it?, is this the worst type of cancer?, who do we know that’s had cancer and lived?, etc. (he will stew with it I think)… Biggest concern for both is obviously is dad going to die… Heart breaking, but we managed to stay fairly calm.  Helps that we don’t have the hideous answers to these questions yet.  This has to be a bad dream right?

This began our policy of keeping the children in the loop on everything that was happening. It was important to us that they felt like we weren’t keeping anything from them.  We hoped that if they knew the plan, knew what was going to happen and when, that this would help reduce their stress and allow them to prepare for what would be happening to their father.  They were part of the team, they were part of this, and they would be onboard for all the changes we would eventually make.