A Cancer Caregiver’s Story
How an expecting mom faced multiple challenges, including her husband’s cancer diagnosis.
Cancer doesn’t wait until there is nothing else is going on in your life. It just plops in your lap whether you like it or not. And suddenly you find yourself being a cancer patient or cancer caregiver.
That’s what happened to my husband and me in February of 2008, when he told me he had found a lump. My heart sank because Seth’s father had had testicular cancer, so we knew what this could mean. I remember just sitting on the couch with him and crying and holding each other and asking, what are we about to embark on?
We already had a lot going on in our lives, including a year of infertility. We had wanted and hoped to have children, but it just wasn’t happening.
When I finally became pregnant, we experienced such a profound sense of joy. Then, just three months later Seth told me about the lump, and instead of celebrating new life, we began to fear the worst for Seth’s.
Wrestling with our new reality
My relationship with God has always been important to me but all of the fear and uncertainty challenged what I believed, and I began wrestling through my prayers:
I know we have been waiting for this baby for a long time and he is a wonderful miracle. But If you are going to take someone, take this baby because I don’t know this baby yet. Please don’t take my husband!
These thoughts revealed some of the dark places that fear was taking me, which was why I was wrestling.
After Seth had surgery, our fears began to ease, but then he began several weeks of radiation treatment and I faced a new tension—it’s one that a lot of cancer caregivers face (and all caregivers, really): caring for your loved one verses taking care of yourself.
I am the type of person who handles stress by staying busy and doing more. Yet, my husband was feeling tired and wanted to stay home more and, in a sense, do less. So, I was pulled between trying to care for him and support him, but meanwhile trying to care for myself by staying busy. It was definitely a balancing act being a cancer caregiver.
It would have been easy for me to become bitter, so I had to protect my heart—because it’s not like Seth chose to have cancer—it’s not like he was doing this to me.
How I found hope, strength and peace
Throughout my journey, I needed to lean into those places that helped me find hope, strength and peace. I find that through family, friends and my faith. My relationship with God especially proved helpful, though I was wrestling with why he was allowing all of these struggles in our life.
There was one Bible story in particular that encouraged me—the story about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. A king throws these three men into the fiery furnace, and they said, “Our God can save us, but even if he doesn’t, we will still worship him.”
I just felt like God was saying to me through infertility, even if I don’t bless you with a child, will you still worship me? And when Seth had cancer, I felt like he was saying, “Even if this is a bad cancer, will you still worship and trust me? Even if you lose Seth?”
This helped bring my heart to a sense of surrender that freed me. I began to ask God to help me to love and trust him more today than I did yesterday. And I began to feel a supernatural sense of peace through all of the difficulties we were facing—especially my husband’s cancer journey.
Not getting a breather
After several weeks, Seth finally finished his radiation treatments, and was declared cancer free, which was a big relief to us. And suddenly I was no longer a cancer caregiver.
We thought we were going to get a breather, but then our son came seven weeks early. Instead of going back and forth to the radiation room each day, now we were going to the NICU. Thankfully, our son was safe and healthy, but it was one thing after the other with no breaks.
2008 was the craziest year. We call it, the year of It is what it is.
I’m reminded that difficulties, whether cancer or otherwise, never come at a good time. It’s just going to happen. And I think that perspective has helped us embrace it and just roll with it.
Not done with struggles
And now, 12 years later, we have come to a place in our life where don’t think that now that we weathered cancer, that now we are never going to have anything hard happen again. Instead, we kind of expect that we will have more struggles in life.
I don’t think that leads us to a fearful place, but it motivate us to continue to lean into those places that help us find hope when hard things come. And I would encourage others to do the same.
Those sources of hope are so important for helping you face the difficulties that inevitably come. Even cancer.
You can also read Jessica’s husband’s cancer story, The Tested Engineer.
If you would like to find peace like Jessica did, check out The Gift of Peace.
For help as a patient or a caregiver, read Asking God for Help.
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