By John Aubin
For this month’s blog I have been asked to write about “life after cancer.” I wasn’t sure I would submit anything for this, as it’s a touchy subject in the Aubin household, but I figure our situation is similar to that of many young cancer patients and their supporters. It may be a little darker than my last blog that was all about loving my wife and fun stuff like that, so if that’s what you’re looking for that, you might want to skip this blog entirely. Here is my view on life after cancer.
I have always prided myself on being optimistic, while being a realist. If I were just an optimist, I would say that Amy WILL beat cancer, she WILL live into her 90s, probably outliving me in the process. She WILL see her many grandchildren and her great-grandchildren grow up. Unfortunately, my wife has stage four metastatic ovarian cancer which has spread to her lungs. This is where the realist in me does its due diligence. We have been told that the type of cancer Amy has will likely never go into remission. She will be dealing with this off and on, permanently. The goal for us is a No Evidence of Disease (NED) diagnosis.
The NED Diagnosis is exactly what it sounds like. She goes in for scans and tests frequently, if they find something we go into treatment, if not we get a reprieve until the next set of scans. When you are an optimist you say it could be years in between treatments. You say the scans are just to be safe, but you are pulling for the NED diagnosis to last for years, hopefully even decades. When you are a realist, you are forced to tell yourself that it’s only a matter of time, and then your partner is back in treatment.
The NED diagnosis is both a blessing and a curse. When she is in treatment, there is nothing you want more than to get that NED diagnosis, so that you can get your partner back from the side effects of cancer treatment (make no mistake, when someone is in treatment they are very much a prisoner to the side effects). When she is out of treatment though, while you are happy that there is no evidence of the disease, you are still worried. You are not sure when it will be back. It may be back next month or next year. Hell, it might be back already and they just missed in on the scans! There is no sense security. There is just an uncomfortable wait, which includes even more uncomfortable conversations.
So in this blog, I have been asked to discuss life AFTER cancer. At first I thought I was poorly placed for this. Like I said earlier, we don’t get remission, just an awkward dance with an NED diagnosis. In essence, we do not get life AFTER cancer. The reason I decided to write this blog is because the realist in me recognized something. While WE don’t get life after cancer, I probably will. And that thought terrifies me, because it means losing the love of my life. Losing that person I tell everything. Losing the person I cuddle with in the middle of the night. The prospect of a cold lonely bed in the middle of the night makes me sad.
It means being a single parent. And yes I have thought about being a single parent, but it’s never in the cool way they portray it on cheesy TV shows and made for TV movies. You know the ones where the single parent is incompetent at first but then there is a touching scene and it ends with you thinking that everything will be OK. Nope. Being a single parent for me is explaining to my seven year old that her worst fear has finally happened. It’s knowing that there will be an emptiness to EVERY family event going forward, as we remark how much better it would be with Amy there.
I said at the beginning of this post that it would be darker, and I’m sorry, but I have met a couple other supporters who are in a similar situation, and felt it necessary to share. The realist in me may prepare for the worst, but I am still always mindful that we still do have time together, and that time matters. It is time that we get to love and laugh with each other. It is time my child has with her mother. There are many who don’t even get that with their loved ones. This is why optimism is important; even in an impossible situation there is something to be grateful for.