When I was first diagnosed, I felt a bit sorry for myself that I didn’t have a partner to support me through this big change in my life and subsequent treatment.
With what I know now, I think this has been to my advantage in how I have coped with all of this because it has allowed me to be completely selfish and just concentrate on me and what I needed to do to get through this. The only emotional support I’ve had to give is to myself.
After the initial diagnosis, I did sometimes think it would be nice when you woke up in the early hours of the morning to have someone there that you could roll over to and cling to and have a bit of a James Blunt moment (warning: if you click on this link, take an anti-nausea tablet beforehand) and feel a bit sorry for yourself as they told you that everything was going to be ok. But that wouldn’t have necessarily been true.
You know what else is very comforting? Dog cuddles. And they don’t look sorry for you because you got cancer. They look at you with the same unconditional love as before and after you got sick.
I have seen enough scared husbands and partners hanging around doctors’ waiting rooms to know that having a partner in this can suck up a lot more emotional energy than women might have to give while going through treatment. I see these terrified men having to be supported by their partners because they are not coping with what she is going through and I think to myself, at least I don’t have to waste my energy trying to buck up the spirits of my partner and tell him that everything is going to be ok and we will get through this. I don’t have the energy for that.
You can feel that they are thinking about how they are going to cope with this. What if I have to bring the children up on my own? When women take on the majority of the child rearing and household chores, he is having to do things for the first time (and often not to her standards), she feels guilty for neglecting these duties or tries to keep doing them as usual, and there is a feeling of resentment in the air because doesn’t she have enough to do with just dealing with cancer?
If I got home from a day at the hospital after having chemo and fell asleep on the couch, woke up, fell asleep again, woke up and eventually put myself to bed, I just had to worry about myself. I didn’t feel bad that I kept falling asleep and therefore hadn’t asked my partner about his day or didn’t make anything for dinner that night. I did what my body needed me to do and felt no guilt.
Having someone at home does have its conveniences sometimes. If you are suddenly ordered to go to hospital, you don’t have to find a kennel for the dogs because there would be someone to stay home with them. And when you first come home from surgery and you need someone to be there for a couple of days, yes having a partner would be convenient but I just asked some kind friends who were more than willing to take on that role instead.
Then there are the older couples I watch in the waiting rooms that seem to nitpick and resent each other. Again, he’s often looking terrified that he is going to have to look after himself for the first time in 50 years because she has always done everything for him. He often has is own health problems so maybe he isn’t as sympathetic to what she is going through. They tend to argue about silly things like him buying the wrong brand of butter because he has just done the grocery shopping for the very first time.
I watch these interactions and am again grateful that I only have to look after myself and I don’t have to have those arguments and get worked up about things that don’t matter. I don’t have to emotionally support another person and help them with their feelings about this situation. It’s all about me and me doing what I need to do.
So going through this without a partner is entirely possible and possibly better for your health if it allows you to just focus on yourself, taking each treatment at a time and doing what you need to do to cope with the physical and emotional toll it can make on you.