My dad was working from home when my mom came home earlier than usual. She was visibly upset. He went to comfort her to find out she had received a call at work that day from her doctor. She had noticed a rash and sought medical advice to ensure everything was fine a couple of weeks ago. Neither of them expected these results. There it was, the “c-word.”
My dad tried to stay strong for my mom during this time and stay supportive, but there were a lot of unknowns — it was scary.
“At this point, we were not yet clear on the severity and progression of her cancer, and there was no reason to assume the worst. I remember praying for God’s help in the situation, which was beyond our control.” – Clark Morgan
When the doctor confirmed her cancer’s progression and her treatment outlook, it was bittersweet. The outlook was good, but the treatment would be difficult. A year full of chemotherapy, radiation, and a lumpectomy. The following weeks had felt like a bad nightmare, and that first appointment was a wake-up call for my dad. When re-telling this day, he said:
“For a few days after her diagnosis, what had happened hadn’t sunk in. It felt surreal. In one of our early visits to the cancer center, when they discussed the drug side effects, it hit me like a brick. I remember tears just welling up in my eyes as they were discussing what she would be going through.”
All he could do was embrace her and try to comfort her. He wanted to make it all go away to take the worry and pain from her. It was hard to imagine what the next year would look like for his wife. So, he did everything he could to control the things he could.
What could he control?
He could listen. My mom gave visible cues when she was having a hard time emotionally, and my dad began to anticipate when to offer extra support. As he went into caregiver mode, he learned all about her cancer, her treatment program, and used this information to figure out the best ways to help.
“When your wife, the person you love and is your best friend, gets sick, it’s hard knowing it’s beyond your control to fix it. I felt a bit helpless and did all I could to comfort and support her.”
He dove in headfirst, whether it was creating a CaringBridge account to update family and friends so my mom wouldn’t be overwhelmed or helping her get off the couch at night after treatment left her exhausted. Although Covid meant my father couldn’t go to treatments with my mom, he made it a priority to be the first face she saw when she walked out the door.
An Unbreakable Bond
Finding out your spouse is sick is shocking and makes you realize how they’ve become a staple in your life. Sometimes as awful as these circumstances are, they can be a chance to acknowledge how much your partner means to you and strengthen your marriage.
“Cancer made our marriage stronger. When you’re faced with something like this, you realize the time together you’ve taken for granted. I think our love is stronger, and we have a deeper appreciation for one another after walking through this together. It made me realize how strong my wife was. Seeing her faith and courage through her treatment and how God used and continues to use her was nothing short of amazing. Despite the darkness of cancer, she was a shining light to everyone around her, especially me.”
As my mom went through treatment, it was a vulnerable time for everyone. For my parents, there were more “I love you’s” and time spent appreciating one another. My dad’s listening skills improved during this time, and he started to recognize you can’t always fix everything. Sometimes it is important just to be there. He improved this skill significantly over that year, and it has helped their communication with one another. My mom saw my dad continuously show up for her, and my dad saw how strong my mom was mentally, physically, and emotionally.
The Good & The Bad
The most challenging moment for my dad was seeing how chemo sessions would wipe my mom out. She sometimes found it hard to move and felt she couldn’t take much more. When you see your wife struggling as a man, you want to make things better and protect her, which is a helpless feeling when you can’t do anything. The one thing he did do was pray and try to remain a positive influence.
Although there were many challenging moments, good ones also sprinkled themselves into the mix. When asking my dad to recall the good memories, “finding out her cancer was responding well to treatments” was near the top of the list but “finding out she was cancer free” beat them all. My dad is always in my mom’s corner, and this experience has shown him there’s always good even through dark times.