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Monday, August 2, 2021

#25SilverLinings 9 - Sorting Cancer Related Issues - Wrongway

Sometimes the steady ground beneath you is suddenly pulled away and you are not in control anymore! 

I was a bit worried about talking to my surgeon, because he and his wife were familiar and known people. If the drama of the previous hospital would be repeated in BCH & RC (Bangalore Children’s Hospital and Research Center) it would be very embarrassing for me. I had been visiting the hospital for my children’s checkups and medical needs, so most of the people were known to me. It is different to be embarrassed in front of strangers and among friends/familiar people. But there was no escape. Being my husband, his signature was required on the consent form, especially since he had come back from the gulf. My surgeon had also insisted on talking to him.

I really appreciate one thing about my husband. He made me forget my cancer and my surgery which was due in 3 days. He shifted my focus from cancer to his drama and responses. Great!

5.30 p.m, I slowly walked towards the doctor's room, reluctantly with my husband following me. The pediatrician was available. She immediately informed her husband about my arrival and he said he would come in a few minutes. Once he came, he greeted my husband and introduced himself as my surgeon. I sat there holding tightly to the edge of my chair, but then a miracle happened. My grumpy husband seemed happy and he had a smile. I was relieved as though I had overcome cancer itself. 

The surgeon explained in simple Hindi the diagnosis, type of cancer, the procedure I had chosen and outcome of it. He explained that though it sounded scary, people lead normal lives both professionally and personally after overcoming cancer. He stressed that the marriage will not be affected if we do not allow it to affect us. I could understand now why he insisted on meeting my husband so much. He may have had previous experiences of how cancer may have affected relationships, either strengthening them or breaking them. He asked my husband’s opinion on total radical mastectomy which I had chosen or conservation of breast, which was another option. My husband said, “You can go ahead with what she has chosen. I am OK with it”. 

Everything went smoothly and things got finalized. I was supposed to come to the hospital on Saturday evening. The preparation for the surgery would start then. I would be in the operation theater at 9.30 a.m on 28th of April. Relieved I walked out telling my husband I will be at the billing counter. Then I realized he doesn’t know where the billing counter is and turned back. 

“Will cancer spread to other people?” I heard my husband asking the doctor. 

“No, cancer is not contagious. It is a known fact”, the doctor tried to assure him. 

“ errr ummm I mean it will not even affect any person who is close to one going through cancer?” 

“No” the doctor was being irritated by now, because he could see me through the door and knew I was listening to this conversation, whereas my husband had his back towards me. The doctor did not know my husband because he had flown down from Abu Dhabi only the day before I went in for my surgery but he knew me very well. His wife was a pediatrician where my daughter was being treated and receiving her physiotherapy. The couple was familiar to me and he had shown great support during my diagnosis. At this moment he was not feeling comfortable. 

The doctor very well knew my husband was referring to sex between couple and whether cancer could spread to the spouse  if the couple had sex. 

When my husband tried to open his mouth again he said very firmly, “I know what you are saying. No, cancer doesn’t spread through any means. So far no one has caught cancer through close contact or things like having sex, kissing, touching, sharing meals from a person going through cancer. In fact, cancer cells cannot survive in another person’s body because their immune system will detect and kill foreign cells”. 

He paused to see if the person who he was talking to was able to understand and believe him. He continued, “Your wife will lead a normal life. She can go for breast reconstruction if ‘she’ wants it after she recovers from treatment. She will do fine and this will be just a hurdle to be overcome”. I love the way he stressed the point “she” in the sentence. He moved away, showing he did not want to continue the conversation.

My husband came out of the doctor’s office and saw me standing there. His expressions went through a lot of changes before he said, “You did not catch cancer from your sister. Doctor just said it is not contagious”.  Smart! One point for that. 

“Really? You just stole me the pleasure of accusing my sister of infecting me, especially now that she is going through terminal stage and suffering enough”. I can’t help being sarcastic. 

My husband looked away. 

I know I sounded bitter, but the bitterness had seeped into my whole being like some poison - an ugly, sticky, smelly poison. All I felt at that moment was a great humiliation. No sadness, no anger, no hatred, nor fear, just pure and loathsome humiliation. I bit my lips and did not flare up with anger because cancer had put reins on me. I needed to go through the treatment and manage my children as well. This was no time for ego stroking, or for kicking the husband out of life. This was the time to assure your husband that you will not infect him. No one who has not been there will ever understand how traumatic it can be to a woman, especially to the one who has a strong streak of ego flowing in her being to remain silent when she wants to flare up and let those emotions out. 

I remembered how my husband had been so worried and crying since the day he came. 

So he had been worried and kept to himself, occasionally shedding tears until the doctor confirmed that cancer is not contagious. How hypocritical we are! How shallow are our relationships! 

Today, I don’t accuse him of doing wrong. He did not know about cancer, naturally, it scared the shit out of him. He was at loss not knowing what will happen, how I will respond to the treatment or how much the treatment is going to cost him. He was also not sure that allopathic treatment was the right choice. I can understand the part where he wanted to be sure that he would not be infected by me. It was the way he went about it that hurt me. He should have trusted me. He should have either brought up the topic in front of me in the doctor’s office, or discussed it with him making sure I would not know about it by asking me to leave him alone with the doctor. He could have asked me about the disease as well. That would have made a hell of difference in the way I felt about it. When a person is dealing with a life threatening disease, it is not much to ask for people (especially those who do not stop telling you how much they care) to show some consideration and not hurt that person. But then, we are humans.  

BTW, the elephant in the room was addressed that day by him. Yeah! I have been there and done that. Yet, I don’t feel ashamed today since I have come a long way from there. I have survived everything and today I stand strong. I have to confess though that it takes a lot of effort and a rush of blood to my face to write these feelings down. 


2 comments:

  1. Oh wow. Way to make everything about himself while his wife is facing tough treatments. However I feel it should not have been you who felt embarrassed. He should have.

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  2. The experience you describe is very difficult. I am sorry that you must have the surgery; may all go well for you. Putting into writing your feelings about your husband's reaction has helped you to survive and stand strong, empowering you as an equal in your marital relationship.

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