There is a well-known saying that goes, “You never know until you have been there.” This was certainly true for me. There was no way that I could have imagined what it would be like to be told that my husband had cancer and, worse, that his cancer had no cure.
I can still remember the shock I felt at hearing those tragic words and the range of emotions that followed. Disbelief, anger, fear and sadness were all part of it. But the most prevalent emotion was a feeling of utter helplessness.
My usually ordered mind was in chaos. The only way I could rein it in was to tell myself that this could not be true, that my husband was not going to die and that I would find a way to save him.
It is amazing how rapidly things changed when my husband was diagnosed. Almost immediately we entered another existence, one of pain and death. The reality of this existence had always been there. But until mesothelioma was brought into our world, we had been able to ignore the fragility —and finality — of life.
And then something became quite clear. As I became a caregiver for my husband, I realized how many people are on a personal cancer journey.
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It demonstrated to me more than anything else could that regardless of color, creed, financial status or religious belief, all of us are human beings fighting to survive.
And it also brought home to me my own mortality.
I cannot imagine what it would be like to be told that I had a disease for which there was no cure. I do know that should this unfortunate thing happen to me that I will take a long time to accept it. And that just as I tried to find a cure for Brian, I would search high and low for a cure for myself.
But then, this is something we would all do. No one wants to die. And even if life is limited, we cannot live without hope. Hope is what makes us get out of bed in the morning. Hope is what allows us to sleep at night. Without hope, life has no meaning.
I had two years of on-the-job training as a caregiver for my beloved Brian, a role I never really expected to have to play. I had no training, but I had the very best motivation. I was driven by my love for my husband and my determination to keep him out of pain.
The pain- and symptom-management routine I put into place for him resulted in remarkable pain control and allowed for Brian to remain active and to continue to go fishing, his passion. Just as morphine and methadone eased his physical pain, fishing eased his mind and gave him something to look forward to.
Since Brian’s death, I have learned about the benefits of complementary therapy for cancer patients. I now work as a coordinator at a not-for-profit, cancer-support center that provides free complementary therapies to cancer patients and their caregivers. Therapies include:
All are carried out by fully qualified and accredited practitioners who volunteer their time on a weekly or fortnightly basis.
You might ask about counseling being a therapy. It is a vital therapy that can be of huge benefit to both the cancer patient and the carer. Often following a cancer diagnosis, family members try to remain strong for one another and hold a lot of their emotions in. Talking to someone who is not connected to the family allows for all the pent up emotions to be expressed and brings with it huge relief.
Complementary therapies have proved to be beneficial to cancer patients. Among other things, patients reported:
The therapies themselves are not the only benefit. People say that just by being able to choose to have one or more complementary therapies they regained some control over their lives and felt as if they were doing something positive to help themselves.