I thought June 20, 2013 was the worst day of my life after the doctors told me my husband had colon cancer, whilst I held our seven-month pregnant belly to comfort my breaking heart. Just a few months later, I was certain August 14, 2013 took the cake, as they told me the cancer was classified as Stage IV and had already spread to his liver. The doctor said any treatment from here on out would only prolong life–there was no cure. But, October 26, 2014 proved to truly be the most unimaginable, destructive day of my life. My husband, my hero, took his last breath, laying in my arms.
For sixteen months, doctors told me what to expect. They informed me of the side-effects of the multitude of surgeries. They prefaced the chemo–every different regimen, mixture, and hypothetical consequence of it. The skin rash was normal, it meant the chemo was working. The vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite–again, “normal,” since putting poison in your body to save your life, is normal, also. Hair loss, weight loss, just ‘loss’ was expected in the fight against cancer. The pain, they said, was normal for cancer patients, as was the never ending anxiousness, and never fully healed abdominal wound from the total colectomy. The oncologist even explained the severe depression for my mentally-tough husband was normal; after all, his entire life had been turned upside down. His life, our life, had been turned into something we hadn’t planned or imagined. Pain medication, appetite stimulants, anti-depressants, and anti-nausea and anti-diarrhea medications were prescribed, in hopes they would lull the side-effects.
No one told me the side-effects of cancer on my husband’s wife, or children though. No one talked about the severe depression that sits in when all control is taken away from your spouse, as they watch you suffer. No one told her what to do when her husband’s son asks for his daddy to “come down” and play with him, but tells his mommy that his daddy can’t hear him, all the way up in Heaven. No one tells that widow what to do when the house needs repairs, who to call, or the know-how to do it herself. No one told his best friend if it was okay to still be crawled up into a ball in her closet floor, two-and-a-half years later, silently crying to herself so their son wouldn’t see her again. There was no medical professional to tell his son’s mother if it was okay to be angry at him on the really hard days, after he was gone, because she was here to do life without him. No doctor prescribed medication for all the sleepless nights of insomnia that shook her soul. And no doctor had medicine to fix her broken heart. No doctor could tell her how his children would handle the grief differently, or what book to read to know how to handle each way. The doctors and nurses didn’t tell that widow what to expect on birthdays, anniversaries, or holidays. The medical team didn’t preface what normal was after cancer left a family, one less.
The side-effects of cancer are ones I never thought of in the storm we trudged through. I never thought to ask what was normal after the chemotherapy appointments were over, and the surgeries were done. I didn’t want to know, or expect to know, there were so many consequences left over after cancer ravaged his body. That’s cancer’s power though, it takes over so many lives, than just the patients. Doctors could not possibly foresee all of the side-effects.
I’d like to think I’ve experienced every last side-effect of cancer: depression, anxiety, insomnia, anger, uncontrollable sobbing, unexpected lumps to swallow in my throat to avoid the tears again. I’d like to think I knew exactly when it would hit, when grief is slowly creeping up, and when it will just take a bite out of me. I never do though. Side-effects of cancer keep coming. Forever. I can foresee the long-term effects of our son not having his dad teach him to ride his bike, or work on his first truck with him. I know the side-effect of cancer will make itself appear when his girl walks down the aisle. I am certain I will not be able to wash away the tears when our son advances through the stages of life, growing into the man his daddy wanted him to be. I don’t have a crystal ball though. I cannot see when the side-effects will make themselves more evident, and the days they fade a little more distant. Until then, I’m going to keep fighting cancer, and all of its side-effects.
Cancer Side-Effects Suck,