I really don’t feel qualified to advise other people on how to support your spouse through chemo or cancer. At least half the time, I don’t know what I’m doing. Sometimes my “To Do” list for the day is simply: 1) wake up, 2) do the best I can, 3) go to bed for the night, 4) repeat. But I can share with you what I have learned, hoping that it will help at least one other person who is going through a similar experience.
The biggest thing I’ve learned from all of this is that you can’t do it alone. This is a huge, emotional, difficult experience. Your spouse will rely on you for a lot of support and you will need someone (preferably several someones) that you can lean on too. There are three sources through which I have gained strength during this battle. I highly recommend you reach out to gain strength through them too. They are: prayer, friends & family, and admitting weakness.
As a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, my faith is central to my life. While I usually pray regularly, I can easily say that the frequency and intensity of my prayers have dramatically increased lately. When Nick is hurting, I pray. When he has a fever, I pray. When the doctors’ bills come, I pray. When Nick’s blood test results are good, I pray. (We can’t forget to also share our gratitude with God!) I pray and I pray and I pray. In leaning on God, I get strength enough to get me through one more day, or maybe just one more hour.
I also am encouraged by the prayers of others. We cannot count how many people have been praying for us, but we have received many cards, emails, texts, and Facebook messages telling us that we are being prayed for. Each message encourages me and shines a bit of hope into my day. If you are looking for a way to support a friend who is going through cancer treatments, send them a note or message in whatever way you can. It may go unmentioned, but I guarantee it will be appreciated!
Having a good support system of friends and family makes a world of difference. We are very blessed to have what I can only imagine is the best possible support system out there! Our family and friends have been with us every step of the way, helping in whatever ways we need. From mowing the lawn to picking up popsicles at the store, we have had friends and family anxious to help however possible. I will never be able to thank everyone adequately! I truly feel that I am experiencing the miracle that is the Body of Christ.
One evening after a particularly tough day, I got a call from a close friend of mine. She asked how I was doing and if she could help with anything. I burst into tears as I felt so completely overwhelmed but unable to even think of a way she could help me. I told her I had to go to the grocery store to get something for Nick’s lunch during chemo the next day. But I had no idea what I was going to make, let alone what I would need from the store. She told me that she would come pick me up and go with me to the grocery store. It was exactly what I needed. Having her company made the task much less overwhelming! She talked and laughed with me, which was such an encouragement. By the time she drove home, it was late but I felt like everything was going to be okay. This gift of her time may seem simple, but it made a huge difference to me!
Gaining strength through admitting weakness has been the hardest lesson for me to learn. I’m a pretty independent and stubborn person by nature, so my first instinct is usually to plow through no matter the cost. When a good friend offered to coordinate meal deliveries for us each night during the weeks of Nick’s treatments, I didn’t respond immediately. My first instinct was to thank her but decline the offer. Surely, even pregnant, I could cook simple meals. Certainly we wouldn’t starve! I felt like I would be admitting some kind of failure to accept, but deep down I knew that it would be a huge help. So, despite my discomfort, I accepted her offer. It was probably the smartest decision I’ve made in the last few months!
The first day of Nick’s chemo treatments, I went with him. I wanted to experience what it was like for him. I felt it was important for me to be there at least one full day so I could understand what he goes through while there. After we got home, I cried and cried. It was just so emotionally exhausting. When dinner was delivered that first night, it felt like a miracle. I was just so grateful and relieved that I didn’t have to worry about cooking! As I’ve gotten farther along in this pregnancy, I’m even more appreciative of the meals that our friends share so generously with us! The lesson for me has been that it’s okay to ask for help. In allowing others to help you, it enables you to better support your spouse. If you are a stressed out mess, you are not going to be any help to your loved one.
Having a family member go through chemo is really tough. It’s never easy to see someone you love in pain. Watching them suffer and not being able to do anything to relieve them is torture. I have broken down in tears many times during the last couple of months. There is no sugar-coating chemo. It is a tough battle. Please continue to keep Nick and me in your prayers. Our battle is not yet over but we will keep fighting, one day at a time.