Back and forth 

Julie has cancer. Had cancer. Has cancer. 

Where exactly does she fall at this stage? 

She had her right breast, for all intents and purposes, removed in order to extract a malignant tumor that was still incapaulated inside the tissue. 

She is enduring chemo. The nasuea, the hours of sitting while toxins flood her system, the after effects of joint pain and the moodiness that all come as a free bonus when you get the news; “you have cancer!”

It’s getting colder and work is ramping up. I’m busy with hiring more inspectors, negotiating contracts and sporadically building bridges. This means leaving my beautiful and moody wife alone more than I’m comfortable with. 

Right now I’m on my way to El Paso, TX. For those who don’t know where that’s at, El Paso is so close to the Mexico boarder that I have to trek through border patrol stations anytime I leave town. Luckily, I learned early on to take off my ball cap and sunglasses and I’m simply waived through with a smile. Apparently, blonde haired, blue eyed butches don’t exist in Mexico so the question of my nationality is never brought up. 

Julie is struggling. She is feeling insecure. Wondering if she is still attractive, wondering if she is still going to be active, wondering if she is still loved. 

I hate that. I feel like all these insecurities are my fault. I should be doing more. Telling her more often that she is beautiful, sending more flowers, leaving more notes, holding her closer. 

The reality is that the cancer and its subsequent treatment is throwing her into an early menopause. This means that the “typical” mood swings that we expected from her diagnosis are amped up. 

She shuts me out. She gets angry at nothing. She pushes me away and then pulls me back in. 

She is too self conscious to allow me to see her topless, which makes sex awkward and clumsy. My job is now to make sure that I don’t make a big deal out of the fact that she is lying there with a tank top on and I’m not touching her breasts. 

I tell her I don’t care. I wrap my arms around her and kiss her neck. I love her. 

It feels like the cancer was the easy part….


6 thoughts on “Back and forth 

  1. I really could not put a like on this post. My heart goes out to you and your wife. As I read your words, I could feel the painfulness of your in ability to be more helpful to your wife. I’m sure from your words you are there for her as much as you can be at this time. Your listening to her, feeling her, loving her, respecting her wishes and comforting her. You are being her helpmate…her wife. Please, keep sharing. Keep talking about your process. In turn it will help you but also help others who are going through something similar. Your wife and you are in my thoughts… praying that all will be well with you both very soon.

  2. Being present, witnessing her going through the treatment, and acknowledging how hard everything is – that is the best a partner can do in this situation. She has to know that there is really nothing she can do at this point to lose you – she is stuck with you no matter what – and that is the way you want it. I hope they got everything, and that she will have a safe and speedy recovery.
    A close friend of mine had a breast removed, and then after much flip-flopping decided to have it reconstructed. She didn’t feel like herself with the prothesis, and felt much better after the reconstruction. The reconstruction was painful surgery, but she is very happy with the results.

    • It’s funny that you said she’s stuck with me. I’ve told her that so many times! She is planning the reconstruction surgery. In fact, her insurance will cover the surgery to have her left breast reduced to match the right. She has always felt she was too “top heavy” (her words, not mine). I knew this would be hard and I don’t take it personally when she lashes out at me. It’s her insecurity that I wasn’t counting on. Thank you for your support!

  3. I don’t know if this will help but… I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer July 2014. I admit it was a rough year full of chemo, surgery (double mastectomy), radiation, more surgery to clean up the mess the surgeon made of the first one… but, I say this to tell you and your wife that there is life on the other side. As frustrating as it is right now she will get through this. I know, better than anyone how much all of this sucks. I identify with some of the things you’ve said about what she’s going through. It’s rough, no doubt about it, but there really is light at the end of this tunnel.

      • No, you really can’t prepare at all – too many factors and variables. You never know how you’re going to react to the drugs and no two people react the same way. And you may think you are fine with something (for me it was not having reconstruction) but then you find yourself flipping out over it anyway.

        If someone had told me, while I was going through chemo, that 40 days after my last radiation treatment I would be able to go mountain climbing, I would have laughed at them because I felt like shit and could barely walk 10 feet without having to stop and catch my breath. But, that’s exactly what happened… I’ve climbed 14 mountains this summer – so when I say that there is life on the other side, there truly is. I don’t believe in prayer but I’m sending good thoughts your way.

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