How We Coped With My Wife’s Cancer Diagnosis
by Cameron VSJ

Seven years ago, my wife was diagnosed with mesothelioma. She has said to me on several occasions that she cannot imagine how it must have been for me, as her husband and caregiver. I hope to share my story here, in order to shed more light on what its like to be a caregiver to a cancer patient. For me, it was one of the most difficult, but rewarding experiences of my life.

Our daughter, Lily, was born three months prior to Heather’s mesothelioma diagnosis. Our lives were full of joy and excitement as new parents, and the future for our new family looked bright. I vividly remember the day that she was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Heather broke down crying at the news, and I was full of fear, uncertainty and grief. I didn’t know how we would ever get through it.

After her diagnosis, I experienced fear, anger and rage, and I didn’t know how to control my emotions. I often communicated with profanity, and angry outbursts were commonplace for me. I realized fairly quickly, however, that my outbursts were harming my wife. The last thing she needed was to see just how scared I really was. I knew that I needed to become a strong, positive influence for her. From that point on, I did my very best to control my emotions, and not let them get the best of me. I tackled every situation with hope and optimism, and made sure that my wife never saw me break down again.

Becoming a caregiver came with a long list of new responsibilities. It was overwhelming to plan for work, travel, my daughter and the pets, Heather’s doctors appointments, caring for our home, etc. Some days it seemed impossible, but I learned to prioritize and accept help from other people. The many offers of help that came to us from our loving friends and family were invaluable, and we will forever be grateful to each and every one of the people who reached out to us.

Heather had highly invasive mesothelioma surgery in Boston and went to South Dakota to recover at her parents’ home before beginning the next round of mesothelioma treatments, which included radiation and chemotherapy. Lily stayed there too while I remained at home, working to try to make ends meet. I was only able to see my wife and daughter one time during that two-month period.

I missed them so much that I drove 11 hours in a snowstorm to see them one weekend. I even had to sleep in the car a few hours while waiting for the snowplows to clear the road. I was only able to visit with them on Saturday and Sunday morning before leaving to be back at work on Monday.

It was difficult for me to be away from my wife and daughter, but I knew it was the right thing to do given our circumstances. I simply could not take care of my wife and Lily while working. As difficult as it was, we never allowed ourselves to regret the tough choices we had to make.

My wife’s cancer has taught me a lot. I have learned to appreciate my ability to make decisions and how to maintain control. Through my struggles, I learned how to overcome obstacles and keep fighting despite the odds. Now, six years later, my wife is still alive and cancer-free, and I am incredibly thankful. We hope that our story of success can be a source of hope and comfort to all those currently fighting cancer today.