Dear Barb—Faced with the Unthinkable

Dear Barb:

I hate to bring up such a sombre subject, but, in December, my husband was diagnosed with stage four cancer of unknown origin.  We were both devastated, but with the Christmas celebrations we managed to put the cancer out of our minds.  Now that the holidays are over, we are faced with the unthinkable.  My husband was given months to live, with treatment he may have a year.  We haven’t told our family and friends yet.  I just don’t know how I can live with this.  I have had a couple of friends who lost their parents to cancer, but never a spouse.  I don’t know how I can offer support to my husband when I can’t manage myself.  What is going to become of our relationship, how will it change? I’m just wondering how people do this, maybe you or some of your readers have some suggestions to help cope with this horrible situation.  Thanks for any help you can offer, Brenda. 

Hi Brenda:

I am so sorry for this diagnosis.  Cancer is a terrible disease, but so many of us have to face this as we go through life, but there is always hope.  A lot of progress has been made with cancer treatments and even living a few months longer than diagnosed can bring happiness to the patient and their loved ones.  So, I would like to start out by saying never give up, but also be realistic.  If treatment is not helping and you are running out of options, you have to accept the inevitable.  However, there are things you can do to make the time your husband has left as comfortable and fulfilling as possible.  Try to focus on the present, not what may be in the future; the present is really all you have, and, at this point, you need to cherish it.  Enjoy the little things in life, like spending time watching a movie, or going for a walk.  These things will become more important as your husband’s health declines.  You have to accept the situation as it is, you can’t control the outcome, and acceptance will make this journey easier for both of you.  As the disease progresses don’t be afraid to ask for help.  There are resources your oncologist can recommend that will assist with the care you both require if your husband declines.  Most likely you will begin the grieving process before your husband passes, and that’s ok.  Your emotions will flip flop.  One day you will be filled with hope and the next you will only see doom and gloom.  Through it all hang on to hope, nothing is set in stone.  Many people who are diagnosed with a terminal illness live for many years, but you have to maintain a balance between hope and reality.  This is your new normal, do your best to create memories.  I hope this information is helpful.  Maybe some readers will send in their thoughts and experiences.  All the best Brenda to you and your husband.

Email your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality; your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.
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