When my wife Pam was diagnosed with breast cancer, I thought our world was coming to an end. But I was wrong.
Through the tears, despite the anxiety, during the hospitalizations, surgeries, and chemo treatments that nearly put her underground, we traveled together in a strange and frightening world that was worse than any Halloween horror house.
But no, our world didn’t come to an end.
Everyone who experiences breast cancer has a different story to tell. Our story was harder than some, because my parents had both died of cancer years before, Pam’s parents were far away, and we had no children. So she relied on me more than the average breast-cancer patient relies on the average husband.
It wasn’t easy. I feel queasy at the sight of blood, but we dealt with it. When Pam came home from her mastectomy she had a little bottle attached to her that had to be emptied every few hours. When Pam started chemo, cooking made her nauseated, so I took over more of that department than I was used to. Then when we encountered an unsympathetic nurse, and Pam was too sick to argue, I made it very clear that we were unhappy with the nurse’s advice, and she backed off. When the treatment regimen prescribed by Pam’s first chemo doctor went bad, she got so feeble that she could barely breathe and couldn’t walk. I called an ambulance and she landed in the hospital, where she got two units of blood. The next day we agreed it was time to change doctors.
But we still had a long road ahead of us. Before chemo, her beautiful blonde hair was over three feet long. All of it went to Locks of Love, a place that makes wigs for sick children, and I had to get used to seeing Pam with less hair than I had. Her new chemo doctor switched to a milder treatment regimen, and slowly she began to regain strength. But it was the better part of two years before she could live normally again.
It’s a strange thing to say, but in a way her breast-cancer diagnosis and treatment brought us closer together. I know it can drive couples apart. There are many stories of the woman who got breast cancer and the man who left her. But I couldn’t do that, not when she needed me the most. She needed help with medical decisions. She needed help with trying to keep her job while undergoing chemo. She needed help when she kept feeling worse and worse and it looked like she just might not make it—not because of the cancer, but on account of the chemo she was getting. And she needed help when she got in a low mood and just wanted a shoulder to cry on.
Of This Sad Time tells the story of Pam’s diagnosis, treatment, and recovery from breast cancer. It’s written from the husband’s point of view. It’s not the husband’s body that’s directly involved. But a diagnosis of breast cancer affects both partners. Men like to be able to do something to help their partners. If you’re not a doctor, there’s nothing you can do directly to fix the problem that breast cancer hands her. This can be very frustrating to a man who’s used to taking action to deal with a problem. This story gives a perspective on what a woman with breast cancer needs from her man, and what her man can do for her.
Sometimes it’s a simple thing—finding funny videos to watch, for instance. And sometimes it’s really complicated—like keeping up with her umpty-dozen medications that she needs to take. But there’s always something to be done, and reading this book can help you understand something about what the treatment process is like, and where you as the man can fit into the picture. Because, believe me, your woman wants you in the picture. A breast cancer diagnosis is not the time to leave.
Of This Sad Time follows us from our marriage to the day Pam was diagnosed, and through the following year of worry, suffering, and conflict. It also shows how beautiful moments can happen even in the midst of treatment. Humans are not constructed to be 100% miserable all the time. Some of our most powerful memories of our lives together have come from that sad time when we were not sure if she was going to live another decade, or even another year.
I am glad to say that now, fourteen years after her diagnosis, Pam is healthy and cancer-free. We both hope that Of This Sad Time will give you personal insights into what it is like to go through the valley of breast cancer, and hope that you, like us, can come out better on the other side.
Book Details: Of This Sad Time, by Karl D. Stephan
Available at www.amazon.com
ISBN Numbers for print – 0997028327 (paperback) $9.95 and 978-0997028324 (paperback) $9.95
and Kindle (B0182Q8U0U) – $3.49