The legendary Dr. Phil certainly got it right when he said, “When a member of the family gets cancer, the whole family gets cancer.”
What he is saying is that everyone in the family is affected by a cancer diagnosis. And how could they not be?
Cancer makes us painfully aware of the fact that we can no longer take our life or the lives of those we love for granted. When a member of the family gets cancer, all the trivialities that once cluttered our lives are stripped away, and we come to realize that the only thing that really matters is the love we share with those closest to us.
A Family United
On the day that my husband received his mesothelioma diagnosis, our three children were with us. They had waited in the car while we went in to see the doctor and were the first to hear the sad news.
Still reeling from the shock of his diagnosis, Brian told them that his illness was caused by the asbestos dust he had inhaled as a child and that he was not expected to live more than nine months at the most.
Their shock at hearing this was equal to ours, and as we sat cocooned in our car, grieving together, it seemed unbelievable to us that the asbestos dust Brian had inhaled 45 years ago could be responsible for the terminal diagnosis he had been given that day.
Our Family Had Never Been Closer
There are no words that could adequately describe the fear and sadness we were all experiencing at that moment. As a family, we had never been closer, and I was so grateful that Brian had found the courage to tell our children what was happening and that we were all together at this tragic time.
Unable to accept that Brian was going to die from his disease, we began making a plan about how we would save him. We talked about getting supplements to strengthen his immune system, changing his diet, looking on the Internet for treatments that were available, anything that could give us hope and take our minds off the grim reality.
Eventually, we drove back to my son’s home, where we had the sad task of telling the rest of the family about the diagnosis.
Nothing was the same for any of us after that day. Brian’s prognosis of three to nine months weighed heavily on all of our minds, and we found it hard to focus on anything else.
This changed, however, when our eldest daughter, Michelle, told us that she and her partner, Mark, were going to get married and that they intended to do this as soon as possible so that her beloved father could be present.
Something Happy to Focus On
This was wonderful news. We already loved Mark, and we were so happy that he and Michelle had decided to marry. Suddenly, we all had something exciting to talk about and to make plans for, and this was a very-much-needed diversion for us all.
Naturally, being a woman, my thoughts turned to what I was going to wear on the day. As the mother of the bride, I wanted to wear something really special. Fortunately, it did not take me long to find something I was really happy with.
There are some very special occasions in a mother’s life, and a daughter getting married is one of them. I loved helping Michelle plan her special day and grew very excited as everything started coming together.
Brian, too, was caught up in the excitement. He chose a dark blue suit for the day and looked wonderful in it. He spent a lot of time working on the speech he was to give and even managed to put in a few lines that would make everyone laugh.
It was amazing how the preparation for the wedding helped us all to focus on something positive, and we became even closer to each other during this time.
The Wedding Day Arrives
Michelle was a beautiful bride. I sat there proud as punch watching her, and when it came time for her and Mark to repeat their vows, I was taken back to my own wedding day and the vows Brian and I had pledged together.
When Michelle repeated the words, “In sickness and in health, until death us do part,” I thought of how very true those words were for Brian and for me, and it was hard not to cry.
Happy moments were ahead, however. Our daughter, Julie, who is a singer-songwriter, sang a very special song for her sister. And following this, there was a surprise in store for Brian.
Knowing that her father loved the bagpipes, Michelle had arranged for them to be played following Brian’s speech.
The speech he gave was amazing and full of his customary humor. Once again, I was awed by the courage of this very special man.
When the time came for the piper to arrive, Michelle asked us all to stand in a circle around the room. Brian, thinking nothing of it, complied, and moments later the pipers came into the room. All eyes were turned to Brian to see what his reaction would be, and we were not disappointed. His face was absolutely beaming.
A Celebration of Love
During the reception, I took a look at my three beautiful children: my son, Clint, and daughters Michelle and Julie, and thought how blessed I was to have them near. There was sadness beneath our smiles, but we were united in our love for Brian and our determination to bring him joy.
My beautiful children brought many smiles to Brian’s face over the following months. Each had their own unique way of bringing him pleasure and letting him know how much they loved him.
Living in expectation of Brian’s death was the cruelest torture for all of us. I had known and loved him for over 35 years; the children had known and loved him for all of their lives, and there could be no measure for our grief.
The saying that “time cures everything” does not really apply to grief. You cannot be cured of loving someone, nor can you be cured of missing them when they are no longer with you. Time, however, does ease the sharpness of emotional pain and eventually there comes a time when memories bring smiles instead of tears.