“True love blooms when we care more about another person than we care about ourselves.”
-Jeffrey R. Holland
That crazy guy right there, I love him SO much! He sure didn’t expect to suddenly be thrown into the role of caregiver at the age of 36 when I got cancer. Talk about putting your vows of “in sickness and in health” to the ultimate test. He quickly went from being not only a husband, dad and police officer to adding all of my mom duties to his list as well. And he handled it like a rock star! He never complained at all even though I know he was stressed and worried too. I just saw that November is National Caregiver month and I have so much gratitude for my personal sexy male nurse! (To read a bit about our love story, click here.)
I can see how a cancer diagnosis, or having to deal with any chronic illness for that matter, can either make or break a relationship. Receiving news that is life changing, and possibly life threatening, will shake even the strongest marriage. You just never know how you or your partner are going to react when you get this kind of news. For me, I just went into survival mode. I wanted life to be as normal as possible for my girls. I wanted to be strong and to show them (and everybody else) that I was going to be ok, regardless of the fear and anxiety that was going on in my head. (To read more about how we told our kids I had cancer, click here.) Part of me going into this survival mode was that I simply let Chad handle almost everything. This is very out of character for me because I am a doer and I know how I like things done. I think some people call it OCD… but whatever.
Luckily Chad’s way of dealing with my cancer diagnosis was to take over everything. And I mean everything. We have a very equal partnership around here so he’s always done a lot around the house, but now he really stepped up. He was not only a detective at a very busy police department, but he had a church calling where he gave many hours of his time to serving others. Also, as much as possible, he took the girls to school, their various extracurricular activities, doctors appointments and wherever they needed to be. He handled everything around the house too-cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, helping with homework, etc. I think it was a big eye opener for him though to see all that goes into keeping this household running. And I am forever grateful to him for doing all of this because when I wasn’t feeling super icky I had time to just be with my girls.
The other role Chad took on without hesitation was that of medical advocate. What you don’t realize when you first get a scary medical diagnosis is that you will have to advocate for yourself to get the medical help and treatments that you need. The first doctor I saw after my diagnosis is a great doctor, but she didn’t offer any other options other than the standard treatment of care. Chad was convinced that there was an alternative that would work. He spent hours online researching different treatment methods, cancer centers and clinical trials. He was talking about taking me to Germany if we had to for the right treatment. Ok, yes, we may have been freaking out a little bit. Although we are so grateful to have good health insurance, they just move slower than a snail at getting anything done. In the beginning, Chad was on the phone daily. Sometimes for hours at a time with our insurance. It was crazy! I’ve mentioned this before, but it seemed that nobody was in a hurry to get things done except for us. We had to call and keep calling in order to get appointments, tests and procedures approved. We had to basically harass our insurance to get the ball rolling for approval of the clinical trial. And when I say “we” I mean Chad. He did all of it. I think our account manager through our insurance probably rolled her eyes every time he called, but after things got sorted out I think now it’s like they are good friends.
And my clinical trial coordinator at UCI and the nurses all joke now about how you don’t want to mess with Chad. He was in contact with them as much as he was in contact with our insurance. He may have harassed them quite a bit too especially at the beginning, but he was always nice and respectful of course. And they still make fun of him for his lists of questions. He would always have a ton of questions at every appointment, but he was just looking out for me. We learned quickly that if you don’t advocate for yourself or have someone helping you do it, then things will fall through the cracks. As amazing as my doctors are, it still happens. They are so busy at the hospital that you really have to keep track of things for yourself and make sure that everything is getting done. And Chad did all of that for me. At a time when I was so overwhelmed both physically and emotionally, he really eased those burdens for me.
He was also the best nurse ever. He was right there through all of the nausea, vomiting, pain and exhaustion. He would pick up my prescriptions and make sure I was taking my meds on time. When I was having home hydration he would sometimes disconnect the IV when I was done, not that I couldn’t do it myself, but just a simple way to help me and take care of me even more. He’s seen more than any husband should. I mean, rectal cancer…it ain’t pretty. I wouldn’t have blamed him if he took the girls and ran for the hills! I’ve heard it said that when you have cancer you aren’t the only one who goes through it but that your loved ones go through it too. I definitely agree with that. Chad has gone with me to almost every single appointment I’ve had, he went with me to every chemo treatment, he was up with me at all hours of the night when I was having a rough time, he was sitting by my side when the medicine made me sicker than I’ve ever been, he has listened to all of my greatest fears, as well as listening to all of my hopes for the future and he kept me laughing along the way as well. I know that not everybody has someone to be there for them during times like this and I am so blessed that I have Chad.
I recently saw a quote by Thomas S. Monson that says, “We learn and grow and become stronger as we face and survive the trials through which we must pass.” It made me think of my awesome hubby and our relationship together. I am so lucky to have him. We’ve loved each other since we were just kids. He’s seen me at my best, he’s seen me at my worst and he’s been there right by my side the whole time picking me up time and time again. I am thankful that as we have been going through this huge trial that we have only grown closer and become stronger in our marriage. I know a big part of this is from keeping our focus on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Without that perspective we would have been completely lost and even more overwhelmed. I really will never be able to thank Chad enough for all he has done for me. He really puts me and our girls before himself all of the time. I know how much this man loves me and I know our girls will never question it either. My hope for them is to find a love like this one day with their future spouses. I don’t know what the future holds but I can promise Chad that I will love him forever and that no matter what happens I will choose happiness and to live our life to the fullest, grateful for each day that we have together.
Make sure to thank your caregiver(s) this month too, they really give so much of themselves to take care of us!
*To read from the beginning of my cancer journey, click here.