What it’s Like Dating Someone with Cancer
What’s loving someone with cancer like? It sucks. It totally sucks, but you need to man (or woman) the fuck up because it sucks way worse for them. Nobody wants, or asks, for cancer to be in their lives and that’s the one thing you need to realize if you end up on this journey. The likelihood you will end up on this journey is increasing more and more. Sorry to be a Danny Downer (or a Realist Richard a.k.a Dick) but cancer will affect 1 in every 2.5 humans* and 1 in every 3 canines.**
Let me preface why I wrote this article and how it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to type. I write a lot, shoot I even once had to write a final paper on Wal-Mart’s “positive” business practices in undergrad and that was much easier (and I cried a lot less).
May 13th of this year wasn’t your ordinary Friday the 13th. There was no Jason Voorhies and we weren’t attending sleepaway camp at Crystal Lake. (I know his mom was the killer in the first one so chill out horror buffs.) By far this was one of scariest days in my girlfriend Tiffany’s life. I’m sure she would’ve preferred a machete-wielding murderer, but instead, it was brain cancer, again! The third time actually, an anaplastic ependymoma grade 3 brain tumor was the determination. Fuck, you guys, I’d much rather it be the hockey masked killer because at least we’d have an idea of how to get rid of him for good.
Cancer has been a big part of our lives for the last four months but still take into consideration this is all personal experience. My hopes are that if you currently, or ever, need some advice on this situation that this article will enlighten, help or at least make you smile. Whether they are you lover, mother, brother or other (Hey, it’s 2016!) they will need you and you will need them. You don’t have to do all of these things but even some of them will make life a tad easier:
- Take delight in the simple things – there’s all types and stages of cancer so what your loved one can and can’t do will vary. All exceptions aside, no matter how insignificant these pleasures seemed in the past, enjoy the fuck out of them. Getting ice cream, going for a walk in the park, catching a movie and whatever else that’s been commonplace in your happiness, do them, do all of them to your heart and their body’s extent.
- Be selfless – Whether you’re a parent, partner or pal, you’ll have to be more of that than you ever have. You will sacrifice a lot except for the time you’re spending with your loved one during their battle. Forget your bar night, booty call or concert, those will always be there in some form or another. I’m not saying that who you’re being selfless for will pass, but do you want to take the chance that seeing JR JR for the fifth time is worth not being there just in case? Please allow me to toot my horn for the only time in this article but I probably slept 15 hours in the three days Tiffany was in the hospital for her craniotomy AND her first three days she was home combined (Tip: I wrapped our comforter taught around her and slept on top of the covers so if she rolled over onto the freshly sawed part of her skull I’d wake up out of my very very light sleep. It was the first time in a while I didn’t utilize an all natural herbal sleep aid before bed.)
- Make them feel comfortable. Comfortable can mean anything from physical pain, self-esteem or being in public settings. Your number one concern in life at this point will be to make sure they aren’t in any type of pain. Obviously to the extent of your own abilities, you aren’t a shaman, and if you are, what the fuck are you doing not curing this shit already? Trust me you’ll love making them feel comfortable, it’s rewarding and uplifting, onerous at times but you also don’t have cancer so don’t be a little bitch.
- Let them know how proud of them you are by giving them praise for every little success. Don’t treat them like a baby, no one wants to be patronized, especially when everyone else in the world will be doing that. Just realize that shit that was once easy might not be right now. Didn’t get sick from the chemo? Party! Took a poop after a week of pain meds? Celebrate! Ran a mile even though they were sore from steroids? Shindig! Kicked radiations ass? Sunday Funday! You get the picture.
- Be realistic – shit is going to happen. The good, bad, beautiful and ugly parts of life you’ll encounter before, during and after this journey. As referenced before, it will be physical, mental and emotional. If you’re really lucky, sometimes separately, but most of the time it will be a nice combo of two or all three. There’s always going to be the chance that something will or won’t happen, but the best counterpart to realism is rational optimism.
- Love them as they were they day before they were diagnosed. Which really means no matter how much they change physically, mentally or emotionally it’s most likely because… THEY HAVE FUCKING CANCER. If you hold that against them then they don’t need you, all they really need is the feeling normalcy. Imagine looking into the mirror every day and not seeing yourself work, waking up and feeling like nothing on your body works. Now imagine going through that without the support of a loved one. When they can’t stay strong, not matter if it’s for a morning or a month, you might have to stay strong for the both of you. As taxing and exhausting as it sounds, you made the choice to stay after you heard the diagnosis. Remember this, you didn’t puss out and run away, that right there says you’re the most stellar of human beings. You are stronger than you think and the universe is telling you that you’re needed for something greater than yourself.
- Read books and blogs, watch shows and movies and partake in forums or Facebook and support groups. These will give you peace of mind, advice, closure, comradery and commonality. Your loved one and you will need and want all of those to get through.
- Listen to your doctors. There’s a reason they are called ‘Doctor’. Stay the fuck off WebMD and Google. You already know they have cancer, don’t scare yourself into thinking they have polio or toxoplasmosis. For the longest time, I used to tell people my physician’s name was Dr. Webb and he was an M.D., which is most likely the reason for an influx in hypochondria. Thankfully I got health insurance and saw a real doctor. Those internet searches will cause you more stress in the most stressful of times. If you are going to try and Google cancer away, get on Pinterest for some head wraps if they go bald.
- Ask questions – ask them, ask yourself, ask those doctors, other survivors and survivors family members. It never hurts to ask in any situation during life, especially one like this. Couple the asking with talking about it. Talk about anything and everything with them, with other loved ones, with a therapist or my personal favorite, the bartender. There’s true healing power within information and reciprocal communication.
- Do things you wouldn’t normally do. Are you grossed out easily? Get over it! I had no problem washing brain blood from a newly sutured and stapled scalp, and even the most squeamish shouldn’t wretch at helping a loved one. Assuredly they would do the same for you so there’s no questioning what you should do for them. Step outside of your boundaries even if it’s just to make them smile.
- You need them as much as they need you. Their bad days will be your bad days and their good days will be yours too. They are already such strong humans for battling this disease and it’s going to be hard for everyone but keeping the mutuality is critical to emotional survival. Always be there to help them survive, in turn, it will help you too. If they are of an adult mind frame, don’t coddle or instruct (Doctor’s and girlfriend’s orders).
- Smoke weed – with them and for yourself. I must put a disclaimer, Michigan (where we are from) is a medicinal state and I can only legally advocate said treatment because of this. If you want to go the natural route in a non-legalized state I can only suggest to find a trusted source and only medicate in your home/private property. Medicinal strains and medibles (medicinal edibles) all have different purposes and effectiveness, consult Leafly, doctor or caregiver as good resources.
- Donate your time, money and energy. There’s a lot of options when it comes to giving, from volunteering, monetarily contributing and getting your ass out there and running, you can always help in the fight against any and all cancers. Click here for more info on Head for the Cure
To make this long article short; man/woman up, love them more than ever, and cherish every damn thing.
Straight from the feels of the author: Tiffany, throughout this endeavor you have made me so proud and overly adoring of your as well as contributing the help I needed to be stronger than I could ever realize. For that, and so much more, I love and thank you.
Title Image – Shirt from fuckcancer.org