From a husbands perspective...
Before I start, I need to say this. We got lucky. We got so freaking lucky. Jen caught it early, Jen acted fast, our doctors kicked ass and we kicked the cancer out the door. I have trouble expressing how hard it was and how much our family has been affected, because we are so damn lucky. There are so many others in such worse situations than us, so how can I possibly put down how hard it was, how sad I was and how much it affected me? I’m doing it because my wife is passionate about helping other women and other families. She’s passionate and this is not me feeling sorry for myself or our family, but a great outlet for me and hopefully to help others as well.
My wife was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 33. We had not even been married two years. An absolutely stunning, healthy 33 year old with no family history. She took good care of herself, she ate well, exercised regularly, didn’t smoke and rarely drank. Cancer was never on our radar. It was not in our families, neither of us even understood what cancer was.
The diagnosis left us both in disbelief. It just happened so quickly. She felt a lump, to an ultrasound to a mammogram to a biopsy. Then we’re seeing a surgeon and an oncologist and developing a plan for surgery and genetic testing. I still have trouble believing she was diagnosed with cancer today. I knew nothing about cancer and I knew nothing about what Jen was about to go through. I did some research on the disease, but I did more research on her doctors. I felt confident in them and felt confident that they had a good attack plan. To kill the cancer, in my 33 year old wife. Crazy.
I am a fairly emotional man. Sometimes I am so proud of my kids it makes me cry. At times, I am so in love with my wife it can make me cry. The day Jen was diagnosed I cried. I cried driving my car and I cried hard. I sobbed, I struggled to even see the road. After a few minutes of crying I made myself stop. I had to be strong. I had to be an emotional wall for my wife. She would never know how much this was going to affect me and hurt me. She still does not know today. I made a decision then, that I would be strong for Jen and strong for our family and fight this head on. Just like every other difficult thing I’ve done in my life. No self-pity, no feeling sorry for myself. Stand up big and make it happen. In this case anything and everything I could do to help Jen be successful in her fight.
Obviously the diagnosis was a big shock to both myself and Jen, but telling the kids was one of the most difficult things we had ever had to do as a couple. We didn’t know what to expect, so how were they supposed to understand and know what to expect? They both reacted differently. Eric, immediately broke down and started crying. We hugged him and told him everything would be okay and not to worry. Megan, being older, handled the situation a little differently. She asked some intelligent questions and did her best to try and understand what was going to happen through treatment. She surprised us the next morning with a painted survivor sign she had made the previous night. Still very powerful for me and makes me incredibly proud of her and her big heart. The sign is still hanging in our kitchen today.
The support we received from everyone was overwhelming. My parents called me several times a week. My business partner text me every single morning and asked “How’s Jen?” work colleagues, friends, neighbors, all offered so much support. Jen’s mom moved in to help all the way through chemo. Jen’s mom was a great support for us. We could never thank her enough for leaving her home, her husband, her dogs, and her horses to be here for us. It was all very humbling and it was very difficult for me to accept everyone’s help. But there is no question that it all helped me stay strong for Jen. All the support and outreach that I personally received truly did help me to keep up my front for Jen.
My wife was poked and cut and put under, trauma here and scaring there all as part of her treatment; having to watch Jen go through all this and not me was, and is, a terrible feeling. Even though the pain and recovery from the surgeries was rough, without question, chemo was the worse. Chemotherapy may have saved her life, but seeing what those drugs did to her and having no control over the situation was extremely difficult. Before it, during it, and now after it, I would have given anything for it to be me not her. It was a completely helpless feeling. Watching this medicine take your wife from you. I don’t mean the baldness, or the weight loss, or the energy. No. I mean my wife, I mean her. The fire, the passion, the laughing, the smiling, the affection. Chemo took my wife from me. Tough thing to think about, even more difficult to say. However, I am confident I stayed strong for her through the entire process. I am confident she never once saw me bend and that I supported Jen to the best of my ability. All the appointments, meals, custom bedside electrical wiring, Epsom salt runs to the store, drains and the ten thousand other things I did while staying strong made a difference.
We’re almost a year since diagnosis. Jen has physically recovered. She is more stunning now than she has ever been. She is working hard on healing herself emotionally and is making great progress too. I am so proud of how Jen has taken this terrible thing and turned it into such a positive for others. Her blog, the BFF’s, Instagram and how she has reached out and helped so many other women going through some of the same struggles Jen experienced too. I still have not fully faced cancer head on; and I probably never will. I still have not truly broke down and told my wife all my personal struggles, pain, and how this changed me; and there is no question, I never will. My job was and is to be strong for her and I embrace it today. There’s not a week that goes by without me reminding her, cancer will never win against us. No matter what happens, if we mentally stay strong, we can take on anything together. I love Jen with all my heart and I am so proud to be the man she picked to spend her life with.