10 Things I Learned About Dealing with Breast Cancer

(Ladies and Gentlemen – the IT department (aka Meredith’s husband Ed) has popped in for a guest post) – colorful language warning

There are so many things you learn when helping your spouse deal with this disease known as Breast Cancer.  The following are just a couple that really come to mind (from my perspective).  These are in no particular order:

1. Take the Food
As some of you are a aware, I really enjoy cooking…a lot.  Cooking is my zen/therapy.  With all of the impending appointments, chemo-therapies, surgery and recovery, I had the vision of being able to retreat to the kitchen and relax while whipping up a tasty meal for the family.  I can totally handle cooking and nursing duties. Cue the “What the hell was I thinking” sign pointing at my head. It became apparent after planning everything out and having a ridiculous work schedule that we were going to need help with meals.  Fortunately one of our dear friends took the initiative to set up a schedule to cover meals during the most hectic times.  She used a service called mealtrain.com to setup the schedules and allow people to sign up and provide meals on available days.  This made thinking about what to have for dinner or lunch a no brainer.

2. You have a Team of Doctors
Having never been through this chaos before, we had no idea of the medical professionals we would deal with.   For some reason, we were under the impression there would be one oncologist and that person would be the point for all subsequent care.  Oh no. No no no my dear friends – there is no one stop shop for all your breast cancer needs.  You come to realize that you will be dealing with a fleet of physicians on a continuous basis.  You essentially have a team that consists of the following:

– Breast Surgeon
– Primary Oncologist
– Reconstruction Surgeon
– Radiation Oncologist
– plus all the physician assistants, nurses, and receptionists you know on a first name basis

Fortunately, we have a phenomenal team assembled and they have been brilliant in their care for Meredith.

3. You will be Humbled
You will be humbled by the outpouring of love and support by family and friends.
You will be humbled by the fact there are people you don’t know nor have met that are pulling for you and your family.
You will be humbled by the love that your team of caregivers show specifically to your situation.
You will be humbled when you are around other brave cancer patients who may not have as good a prognosis as your wife does.
I have shed many a tear over the sheer emotion this brings to me.

4. Club Breast Cancer
One thing that I have noticed is that once you have been diagnosed with Breast Cancer and start treatment you join a club.  The price of admission to the club is brutal and there are no perks.  However, once in this club, the members are fiercely loyal and supportive to each other.  There is no secret handshake but they know who is in the club.  They may acknowledge each other with a simple smile, a nod of the head, or a full out bear hug in the middle of the bakery section at the local grocery store. Yes, that last example really happened to Meredith.

5. Kids are Resilient
Early on we made the decision to be very open with Gracie concerning mommy’s “boo boo”.  I believe this was the right decision and would recommend that if asked by anyone coming into a similar situation.  Being open allowed us to have Gracie be part of the process.  We used books and talked to her so she understood mommy needed to take medicine and have surgery to get better.  She was able to be a “big” girl and help with mommy’s care.  We are very proud of her.

6. Cancer Sucks
Obvious statement I know.  I am saying that in the context of the enormous reach that this disease has on women around the world.  We participated in the Komen Race for the Cure and had several friends also participate in the Komen 3-Day Walk this year.  It was absolutely jaw dropping to see how many people participate in these events.  The statistics say 1 out of 8 women will get breast cancer.  Let me say that again – 1 out of 8.  That is mind blowing.  Ladies you need to go get your girls checked out.  Get a baseline mammogram and get it early – most insurances will allow for an early baseline.  Seriously, if I have to hire George Clooney to wear one of those “Free Breast Exams” shirts to get you in there I will.

7. There is no Finish Line
Fighting breast cancer is like a series of incremental steps/goals.  We’ve been diagnosed – need to secure a team of doctors.  Need to undergo chemotherapy – how many treatments, what are the side effects, and when do they end.  Need to do radiation – again how many, what are the side effects, and when do they end.   Need to get expanders out and the real implants in – when is that done.  Problem is that it doesn’t stop when you think you get to a final gate.  It is a life long battle of getting scanned, adjusting your diet, and taking every precaution to constantly improve your odds of survival.  It may seem like the battle is over, but the war wages on – do not doubt that.

8. Grey Area
The human race has come a long way regarding healthcare diagnosis and treatment.  Daily we are swapping out organs and making great strides to increase our life spans.  That said, there is still so much we don’t know.  With all of the latest and greatest technology and research there is still a very large “grey area” where not enough data is available to make definitive decisions.  So caregivers err on the side of caution and take any and all preventative treatments.  We felt this first hand with the recommendation for Meredith to undergo radiation.  All signs seemed to point to her not needing it, yet according to the radiation oncologist Meredith fell into the grey area.  Meaning it looks like chemo did it’s job and all looks well but we just don’t know if we indeed got all the cancer cells that may be outside of the local tumor.  So remember this when you make a donation to an organization benefiting breast cancer research.  Your funds are going to shrink and hopefully eliminate that grey area.

9. You say Shit and Fuck a lot more
Especially in the beginning after diagnosis.  In the beginning there is a groundswell of different emotions and conversations.  Inevitably it all boils down to one of these two words.  If only I had a dollar for every time either of us said fuck or “what the fuck?”. And we are not talking only in verbal communication, we are also talking social media F-bombs as well.  Twitter got quite an earful as well.

10. I Look Good in Pink
Yes.  Yes I do.

Comments

  1. Mary Johnson says:

    Yet another awesome guest post! Meredith has an incredible First Mate by her side! And truly, though there will be an ongoing battle, the worst is behind all of you! You as a family are rock stars! We continue to say prayers for you guys daily! Keep up the positive attitude! Great seeing you all the other night! We are with you every step of this journey and will be here if you need anything!!!

    Love,
    M.

  2. Mary Johnson says:

    And yes, Ed, you do look great in pink!!!

  3. Ed, I agree with Mary! MOLLY

  4. Hi Meredith,
    A Google alert pointed me to your post and I would love to share it with our facebook fans. I think that it is great that it is written from your husband’s perspective and think it would be well received by our many fans.

    All the best on your recovery and thanks for sharing the site.
    Mike
    Co-founder of mealTrain.com

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