Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I am hoping that you can help me deal with something that is breaking my heart and which I can’t share with anyone else.
Months ago, my wife found a lump in her breast. She was convinced it was a clogged milk duct as she was still nursing and refused to have it checked out. I have watched lose weight without trying, become sallow looking and tired al the time. But she still wouldn’t go.
About a month ago, she found a lump in her armpit and scheduled a check up.
As you can imagine, a biopsy was performed and she was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer that had already spread to her lymph nodes.
As I sat next to her in the surgeon’s office, I was so angry that she had neglected herself all this time. All I could think was how would I be able to raise our five children by myself? I wondered how we would tell our kids?
Well, I need not have worried about that. My wife refused to have anyone know – including our parents and friends.
She had surgery to remove her breast and lymph nodes. I took two weeks off from work – days that had been saved for Yom Tov – and we told the kids that she had minor surgery to remove a growth. They were also told not to tell anyone, as “Mommy didn’t want anyone to see her while she was getting better.”
I hired someone to be with her during the day as we wait for her to begin chemotherapy so I could go to work. However, the nights are unbearable. My wife is convinced she is going to die and spends her night crying and making me memorize everything I need to take care of once she is no longer here. I am a nervous wreck and terrified to losing her, Yet, I don’t know what to say to comfort her. I am beginning to lose hope, strength and the ability to function normally. Our children sense the heavy aura of anxiety and depression that has enveloped their parents and have stopped asking when mommy will be back to her usual self, walking around in silence when they come home from school.
Since I am still bound by my promise of not speaking to anyone about what has befallen us, I have chosen to write to you, which is not actually speaking. I so desperately need help!
A Broken Husband
I had a hard time reading your letter because it took me back to a time and a place almost five years ago when I, too, was faced with a similar crisis. But no two situations are the same and every person faced with a cancer reacts differently. What is the same, I believe, is the fear and the uncertainty that comes with a diagnosis, and the momentary sense of falling with no safety net to catch me. So that part of it, I can say without question, I truly understand and feel deeply for both you and your wife.
However, the need to regroup must be immediate, so that you begin planning your strategy for the battle that lies ahead, the one where the enemy is cancer and you are the army. You can’t afford the luxury of wasted time in self-pity or fear; on the contrary, you have to plan your tactic of how to defeat the enemy. So please read this to your wife.
You are in a scary place right now, but you have a powerful ally in Hakodosh Boruch Hu. Reach out to Hashem for the strength and courage you will need to beat this illness. Align yourself with top-notch oncologists and radiologists. Surround yourself with upbeat, optimistic people who will support you, uplift you and encourage you to fight for your life and return to good health. Employ the services of a therapist for you and your husband, as well as for the children. Talk to your children, who are going through their own terror of knowing something is wrong with their mother, but not knowing what or how to deal with it. Accept love and care from those who love you and allow them to help you in your endeavor to regain your health. Your family will be grateful that you allow them the privilege of helping you on this journey.
Most importantly, let your spouse be with you in your fear. Talk out your anxiety and listen to his so that he can comfort, reassure and support you so that you never feel alone. Ask questions of your doctors and healers, so that they will address your anxieties and put them to rest. Listen to music, read uplifting material, get dressed and put on make-up. Know that emunah, bitachon and tefillah are as potent as all the medication you are taking and will work in tandem to bring about miracles. Most of all, don’t entertain thoughts of death. As long as there is life, there is hope. I have lived it and not a day goes by that I am not grateful to see the sun come up in the morning. Please know that I care deeply about you and understand what you are feeling, so take heart in knowing that there is a membership waiting for you in the club of survivors.
To all my readers, I beg you to address any abnormality you find on your person, don’t neglect to self examine yourselves regularly and check with your physician if you do find something out of the norm. Early detection is imperative and leads to a speedy resolution. Eat well, exercise moderately and laugh a lot! Cuddle your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, breath deeply and inhale the fragrance of flowers, rain and fresh mowed grass (those with allergies… refrain from flowers and fresh mowed grass and replace with fresh coffee and rugelach!). Life is good, so live it to the hilt!