Cancer affects the entire family

Sorry about the lateness of this post – it's a combination of some technical issues and the fact that I am not feeling great this week. I don't know what it is, but I can't seem to get out of this cycle of sickness lately.

Elana Waldman

Sorry about the lateness of this post – it’s a combination of some technical issues and the fact that I am not feeling great this week. I don’t know what it is, but I can’t seem to get out of this cycle of sickness lately. Another bout of strep throat. Argh. So, since I’m not feeling so great, I’m also not going to do a video. You are going to have to settle for my stream of consciousness coming in the form of the written word this week.

All of this sickness got me thinking. When I can’t take care of things in the house, Mark has to step up and do the things that would normally fall under my sphere of responsibility. Okay, so he had to go into work 20 minutes late because I couldn’t get up with Syd this morning – no big deal, right? I agree. No big deal, if it happened every once in a while and if that was the only kind of thing that happened.

But the reality of it is that I am not dealing with the occasional infection or flu. My illness leaves me with chronic fatigue and weakness and has resulted in my immune system being compromised. And this is a good day. These things have far-reaching implications in my daily life.  I have cancer. But Mark suffers with it also.

Here is my thinking on the subject. When a person in a family is diagnosed with this kind of illness, it affects the whole family. Mark has to take on more responsibilities in the house. My mother comes to Toronto from Montreal whenever I have a chemo treatment. My sister comes to take care of me when Mark doesn’t want to leave me alone but has to go to work. And these are just the physical effects.

I know that these things can take a toll. Someone has to step up and take care of the things that I would normally deal with on a day-to-day basis, in addition to their own responsibilities. There are more than just the physical effects, though. There is the fear, the anxiety, the worry…while I have cancer and have to deal with the physical implications of the illness, my whole family has to deal with the emotional and psychological trauma associated with this kind of diagnosis.

Interestingly though, no one ever stops to ask me how Mark is doing. People often stop me to ask how I am and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the outpouring of support from the community. People stop Mark, my mother-in-law, my friends, and they all ask how I am doing. It is actually quite comforting to know that so many people are keeping an eye out for me. Thank you. But Mark needs help and support also. I don’t know if it is because he is the man and is therefore supposed to be strong, or if it is because he is so stoic, but he is living with cancer also. I see the fear in his eyes when I get a cold and he wonders if it means more than that. I hear the question behind his words when he asks me if I am alright.  I know his worry when he looks at me quietly for that one extra second.

Family members, care givers for those who are ill, have a heavy burden on their plates. They have to take care of their regular responsibilities, take on those of the person who has fallen ill, take care of children, and all the while try to hold it together to display a brave face for those around them. I try not to complain too often and I do try to remember my blessings, but the person who has to deal with my bad moods, with my complaints, with my unreasonableness is the one person who is suffering along each step of the way with me. So, I just want to say thank you. You are so brave and so strong and the support you provide, in all the little and big ways, carries me through.