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Week #9: Why the Leading Breast Cancer for Husbands Book is Wrong. (And this post has boobs!)

Posted by on July 6, 2010

Chemo Round Three

They put the IV drip in for 4 hours of chemotherapy.
The chemo treatments on Tuesday and Wednesday are difficult as usual.   It doesn’t hurt much to get it, but seeing her get injected with the red chemo drugs and sitting in a chair with an IV makes me depressed.

I try to alleviate my depression with some shopping-therapy and take the girls and Trish to the nearby mall afterward.  We find some good stuff – nice costume jewelry for Trish and new shoes for the girls.

Emma and her multiple personalities.

The kids persevere

Our girls seem to be doing okay lately.   Lily in particular has been incredibly helpful feeding the dog and emptying the dishwasher.  She loves to assist me when I’m cooking.    They get great report cards, although Lily turned in almost no homework during the final quarter, which coincides with the breast cancer.

We take them to the second day of chemo, which is really just a quick injection.  From what I’ve read, it’s important that they see the medical facility and meet the nurses who care for Trisha.  It helps demystify their perception of the chemotherapy experience.   And, they like being able to comfort mom as she gets the shot.

No one can bear to look as they inject Trish.

There are a lot of books about cancer for kids.  We found two really good ones, one each for Emma and Lily that are age appropriate. When Mommy Had A Mastectomy is easily readable to Lily, but includes lots of pictures and tells a loving stort.    The Year My Mother Was Bald is more factual, but also told from the point of view of the kid, and was devoured by Emma in one night.

A visit from Becky and GaGa

By Thursday morning Trish is feeling crappy and hits the couch, where she will remain for most of the next four days.  Her mom and one of her sisters arrive early in the morning on a red-eye to spend a few days with her and help us with the girls.

Suzanne and Becky take the kids to movies, playgrounds, and the pool for the next few days, which is a huge relief to me.  It’s difficult enough caring for Trish, but when the girls see her really sick, they can freak-out and be difficult to console.  It’s really helpful to have them busy.

Thursday night is, sadly, our worst night since she started Chemo.  She is completely dizzy and so nauseous that she dry-heaves multiple times, and spends a long time over the toilet.  It subsides enough for her to sleep.  

I’m really frustrated because we did everything the same as we did last time, when she fared much better.  At a check-up the following week, the nurses suggest that low-blood pressure and lack of fluids may have contributed.

Friday she barely eats or drinks, but at least she sleeps most of the day.  Things get progressively better as the chemo wears off and her strength slowly returns. She says she felt the cancer lump burn the day after the chemo. It’s gotten much smaller, and can’t be seen bulging from her skin anymore. Fucking-A.

Volunteer or Enlisted?

This is your brain on Chemotherapy
Having bought books for the girls, I sought some for myself.  There are surprisingly few books for husbands.  In fact, there seem to be only two,  Breast Cancer Husband and Stand by Her.  I read ‘Stand by Her’ this week.  It’s the newer of the two and has been the bigger seller recently.  There is a lot of good stuff inside.

In ‘Stand By Her’, the author has a suitably long section on managing the cancer support team; the doctors, family and friends that provide the services and help she needs.  

One of the staff custom-made pink ribbon armbands for the whole team to wear in support of Trish.
He itemizes each of their role in detail, employing a lengthy military metaphor.  The cancer-patient is the general (See our General in the picture above), the husband is the cheif-of-staff, the Doctors are the Field marshalls etc….

I suppose the image works for a lot of men, and it’s certainly simple to grasp.  But in reality it’s not much like that in my experience.  For one, the ‘General’ is coping with a deadly disease and is psychologically distressed. And she has chemo-brain, which doesn’t make things any easier. So I think the role of the spouse needs to be much firmer than the book suggests.

But the whole metaphor falls apart for huge group of her supporters: the extended family, friends and well-wishers. An army is based on a command system where people are doing a job.  Yes, Doctors are paid to do their work.  And our immediate family would do anything to help, even if it’s strenuous and difficult.

The PinkforTink raceteam!
But most of the people that want to lend a hand are like volunteers, who have their own lives and challenges. It’s not a job.  They need to support Trish in a way that works for them. And I need to help make that happen, like a volunteer coordinator, not a military commander.

The online event from Mythic and the gamers is a good example of that.  Here are a few more:

    • Our runner friends ran on Trish’s behalf helping her raise ~$2,000 for breast cancer research, which was a very powerful thing.
    • I asked some relatives that couldn’t visit to send care packages to our girls, which they did with generosity.
    • Busy friends pick her up for happy hour once in a while for some desperately needed socialization. (I still don’t know why my company isn’t enough. Shrug)
    • Near-by neighbors have taken our kids to the pool during chemo weeks so the girls get a break.
And the nails are georgous.
  • An old friend and artist is going to create a special piece for Trish.
  • Her Trapeze school wore pink ribbons in her honor at the show.
  • A rock-n-roll pro hooked us up with concert tickets, which helps keep her mind off stuff.
  • Our stylist/haircutter helped create a ‘spa-day’ for Trish and our girls and they bonded.
  • My mom is a great organizer and helped clean out our girls’ overflowing clothes closets, restoring some order to our home.

There is a huge group of extended well-wishers that want to support Trish but they need a little direction, which I’ve been happy to provide.  And these gestures mean a TON to her, precisely because she doesn’t expect as much from our ‘extended’ circles of family and friends.  It seems extra special.  So thank you all!

For spouses doing cancer-care: this is a key skill.  It has been for us, anyway.

101 Summer Surprises:

Cancerpalooza continues with five more surprises to make Trish happy, and piss-off that cancer.

Trish sleeps through most of the third chemo session.
36)   New headphones: I am a headphone collector, but Trish has been patiently using the same headphones for a very long time.  She deserves an upgrade, especially since she has to spend hours every month in the chemo chair listening to music.   She likes the active noise-cancelling kind, but they need to be portable.   These are fantastic, and also include a microphone so she can use these for gaming when she travels.

37)   Lunch at Mythic: Best. Lunch. Ever.   Thank you Andy, Carrie and the whole team.

Express dresses
38)   Clothes from Express: Express is cute (,although there is a lot of trashy stuff there.)    We bought a bunch of stuff on sale that she can wear all summer and fall.

It’s so easy to buy for Trish because she puts clothes together so well.  Check out these two outfits.   These are both inexpensive Express dresses that were about about the same price.

39)   Miu miu shoes: Trish likes heels, which is awesome.  Heels can hurt, tough.  These platforms are glam-tastic and don’t hurt at all, which is extra awesome. (You can see them in the picture above too.)  These things are EVERYWHERE, blogs, fashion mags, and the front page of the Saks website.

40)   Healthy Eating: I’m a pretty good cook, but I admit I’ve gotten lazy in the past few years.  The cancer has given me a reason to prepare food every day, including breakfast, for both of us.  We haven’t eaten a frozen meal or take-out in weeks.   We always ate a lot of organic, but I try even harder to get good quality, clean food for her.

2 Responses to Week #9: Why the Leading Breast Cancer for Husbands Book is Wrong. (And this post has boobs!)

  1. Dave

    Love this blog, as I have said before. I started reading this when Trish was diagnosed, but when she is fully recovered I hope you will continue blogging as you are excellent at it. Great read and you guys are awesome. :)

  2. David

    Thanks Dave!

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