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It all changed overnight

Bob Riter is the retired Executive Director of the Cancer Resource Center. His articles about living with cancer appeared regularly in the Ithaca Journal and on OncoLink. He can be reached at bobriter@gmail.com.

A collection of Bob’s columns, When Your Life is Touched by Cancer: Practical Advice and Insights for Patients, Professionals, and Those Who Care, is available in bookstores nationwide and through online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. All royalties from the sale of the book come to the Cancer Resource Center.

If your spouse or partner is diagnosed with cancer, your life changes. You worry about the future and your days are filled with appointments, tasks, and caregiving.

If your spouse or partner is diagnosed with advanced cancer, your life changes even more radically.

As one man told me, “It all changed overnight.”

His wife, by all appearances, was doing well when a sudden illness brought her to an emergency room. A CT scan revealed that she had cancer that had already spread. Her cancer could be treated, but no one expected her to survive into old age.

They were both faced with practical and emotional challenges.

She couldn’t work, so their income went down. At the same time, their expenses went up – dramatically.

He wanted to take time off to be with her, but he had to continue working to maintain their health insurance and to have any income.

The emotional challenges were even more daunting.

He told me, “I used to discuss all of life’s big decisions with her. Now, I can’t. She’s so focused on her illness and trying to get better. I don’t want to bother her with my worries.”

He continued, “What I think about most is my life after she dies. I don’t know if I can or should discuss that with her.”

Cancer suddenly trumps everything in their world and in their relationship. “It’s almost like we’ve gone from a relationship of two to a relationship of three – me, her, and her cancer. Her cancer gets the time I used to get.”

He concluded, “Our relationship is still wonderful, but I don’t get to experience joy.”

I feel his pain. I only wish that I had a magic wand to wave to make it better.

The Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes has a monthly support group and other resources for caregivers. For more information, call 277-0960.

 

Click here for all of Bob’s columns

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