It’s a scary thing when you’re told your husband has cancer. Jim had just had a cystoscopy to check for bladder cancer. He had it done under sedation. The doctor came out into the waiting room and called me aside. His words, "It’s cancer.” My words, “What do we do now?” And the roller coaster ride began. Jim was scheduled for surgery and had the requisite tests done, including donating his own blood for the surgery. We were just a couple of days away from surgery when the urologist asked if we had seen an oncologist. We were dumfounded. No one had mentioned it and we certainly hadn’t even thought of it. When you find out you have cancer you just want to get it fixed as fast as possible. Surgery was cancelled. We saw an oncologist. Jim opted for chemotherapy before surgery hoping the chemo would rid him of the cancer tumors and removal of his bladder and prostate wouldn’t be necessary.
My point in telling this scenario is “we” – cancer patients and caregivers – don’t know what questions to ask when we get the diagnosis. We just want to address this terrifying disease immediately. Take time and ask the questions. Make an appointment with the oncologist, ask any questions you can think of. If you think they’re stupid, ask them anyway. And if the doctor thinks they’re stupid questions, get a different doctor. You have that right.
Jim’s bladder cancer eventually resulted in surgery and the removal of his bladder and prostate. He has a urostomy. As his caregiver I was taught how to care for his ostomy. Scared! You bet I was! I’m not a queasy type person so that didn’t bother me, but , oh my gosh, I didn’t want to hurt him and how would I know if anything was wrong? Again! Ask questions. Call the ostomy nurse, call the infusion center, call the doctor on call. You have every right to make those calls and don’t feel stupid!
Fast forward a couple of years, Jim has a recurrence of cancer. Cells are in a lymph node and there are abnormal cells in his urethra. He begins chemotherapy again. The second time around we’re a little more aware of what we need to do. I need to keep Jim as strong as possible with good nutrition, addressing side effects from the chemo and always being vigilant about infection. Jim and I have gone through this together. We’ve gone to doctor appointments together, (two sets of ears are better than one), we’ve spent hours together at the infusion center, playing Blokus, reading and, for Jim, sleeping. We take each day as it comes, addressing what needs to be done that day. And each day is a celebration as long as we are together.