A friend and former colleague whose wife died of cancer a few years back came to see me the other day. He now lives interstate so I haven’t seen him since my wife’s secondary liver cancer was diagnosed last year. We had a long chat about how I am coping. The conversation made me realize (yet again) that only those who have been through this really understand.
Amongst other things my friend reminded me that those of us caring for a loved one with terminal cancer are also victims. I know what he means.
Our suffering is different of course: we don’t face deteriorating ill health, growing discomfort and increasing pain, nor do we face our own impending death. But those close to someone with terminal cancer do it tough. It is hard.
Hard because you have to stay strong and provide comfort when in fact you feel helpless and totally useless yourself. Hard because you have to keep things ‘normal’ when in fact the situation is anything but normal. Hard because you known that your involvement, help and advice are absolutely essential, but also know it can so easily be misconstrued as interference. (I still vividly remember the time my wife screamed at me to stop interfering it was her cancer, not mine!)
The hardest thing however is the shame (guilt) I feel when I allow myself to recognize that deep down I want it all to end. For nearly 12 months now my wife’s cancer has dominated every waking hour of my days and much of my subconscious sleep.
This is the hardest thing, the guilt and shame I feel when I reluctantly admit to myself (like now, at the end of a tense day when my wife has taken the pain killers that allow her to sleep, and the children have retired to their bedrooms) that the tension and the waiting has worn me down and I just want it to end.
The guilt I feel at having such thoughts is without doubt the hardest thing.
Cancer Council NSW would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work.We would also like to pay respect to elders past and present and extend that respect to all other Aboriginal people.