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Help with an angry caregiver

Lone Starr
Posts: 2
Joined: Aug 2011

Hi-
I had cancer several years ago, and it looks like it's come back. I'm dealing with the possibility of recurrence okay. What I'm not dealing with well at all is that my family and my wife (we're recently married) don't see eye to eye on everything from my treatment choices to who's going to take care of me. In fact my wife is freaking out so much that she's talking about leaving me or getting me through this and then leaving because she doesn't want to live her life in fear of going through this again or ending up alone if things don't go well for me.

I've tried to be really supportive of her because I know how scary this can be for the caregivers, but she says I'm not doing enough, and that I'm not making enough effort to resolve the differences between her and my family. I'm really trying my best, but I have no idea if I'm "doing enough" or not.

My wife has even mentioned that I need to be more supportive or she might lose motivation to care for me. Then later she apologizes and says she's just scared, and asks for forgiveness, which I give her every time, but I feel trapped in the middle and surrounded by a lot of negativity and it's exhausting.

I love her, but I'm afraid of how her negativity and anger will impact my recovery. She seems so angry about how this effecting our/her life and future, but she doesn't seem to realize what's she's doing to me even though I've told her. I can't get her to counseling. I don't know what to do or who to talk to about this. If I tell my family they'll be mad and things will get worse. And things are going to get worse because we haven't even gotten to the treatment phase yet.

I've spoken to counsellors, but they just keep bringing up more counseling for us. I'm at a loss.

Any thoughts?

bluerose's picture
bluerose
Posts: 1089
Joined: Jul 2009

In a conversation you have with your wife you might want to slip that question in and see what she says. Not in a tit for tat kind of way but just something to think about because I am sure your answer would be 'of course you would be'. In marriage doesn't it say 'for better or for worse?'. Life tests us and cancer is a test, that's for sure. Some marriages get stronger in bond when things like cancer happen and others fall apart, my marriage fell apart but then it wasn't all that stable to begin with as I look back on it now but the stress of cancer surely didn't help.

You were right to try to get her to a counsellor and I think it's awful she didn't go with you, does she want your marriage to work? Well she might have to do some work to make that happen, relationships are work no matter what. Sounds like she might have an unrealistic idea of what a true relationship and marriage is really about. She sounds very young.

I can see her being scared and lashing out but that isn't fair to you. Remember it's YOU that is sick and needs a great deal of support and yes caregivers need care too but right now the focus should be on you and keeping you in a healthy place so that you can heal. You are right to be concerned about her impact on you with all of her negativity and issues of threatening to run off and leave you. That is a heck of a statement of love - I will stay with you as long as all goes well?

I know you said that counsellors don't seem to have been very effective for you so far but there are other counsellors and maybe what you need is a good psychologist right now instead of just a counsellor. They tend to deal with the here and now and how the social dynamics of relationships and your personal feelings interact, I would try that if I were you and see if you get better understanding. Go yourself so that you can get some support from them and if your wife wants to join you in therapy later then good but you need support now. You will get it on this site too, lots of people who can help you understand the process too as many have been there. Abandonment feelings are fairly common with survivors.

Be strong and keep writing, it's good therapy too.

Blessings,

Bluerose

catwink22's picture
catwink22
Posts: 239
Joined: Sep 2009

I'm SO sorry you are being pulled through this. My feathers are a little - no - a lot ruffled after reading your post. Maybe I am taking it the wrong way, but all I heard is your wife crying ME, ME, ME! YOU are dealing with a life and death situation! Listen to your family and friends they are truly the ones who love and care about you and have YOUR best interest in mind. To threaten you with abandonment at a time like this in your life is selfish and heartless. I'm sorry if I'm being too harsh and this is not what you wanted to hear, but I have been in two bad marriages (before my cancer diagnosis - thank God) and I wish I had listened to my family. It would have saved me a lot of heartache and important relationships. I believe in marriage and love so I'm not saying divorce is your answer, but she is not committed to you right now. Listen to your head and gut...NOT your heart. Your heart is for loving, your head is for decisions. Stay strong.

grandmafay's picture
grandmafay
Posts: 1625
Joined: Aug 2009

I'm not sure I understand all of your post, but I am going to make a couple of observations. First, I would think your treatment and care is something you and your wife should be discussing and making decisions. I'm not sure why your family is involved in those decisions. Maybe your wife feels that they are too involved with decisions that should be made by the two of you. You're right, she is scared. She is facing the possibility of losing the most important person in her life. I know this is a life and death issue for you, but she is afraid that she may have to go on alone. Perhaps the possibility of a cancer recurrence should have been discussed a little more in depth before your marriage, but it is too late for that now. Now both of you need to deal with now. As a surviving caregiver, I can understand your wife's fear. What she may say now comes from that fear and I appreciate that you understand that and can forgive her. My suggestion, and I don't know if this is right for you, is that the two of you sit down and agree to fight this disease as a team. You need to assure your wife that her thoughts and feelings are important to you. Tell your family that you and your wife are a unit and they must respect your decisions, even if, or especially when, they don't agree. I can understand that your family helped you make those decisions last time you faced this, but things have changed. Your wife needs to grow up a bit. She needs to recognize that this is the time when those in sickness and in health vows come into play. I'm sorry that you both have to deal with this so soon, but nobody promised us that life or marriage is always fair. let her know that you are scared, too. Realize, too, that though you have been through this before, she hasn't. Help her understand what to expect. The unknown is the scariest. Also, remember that none of us can really tell you what is the right thing to do. You and your wife must find your own way. Take care, Fay

jimwins's picture
jimwins
Posts: 2085
Joined: Aug 2011

I'm so sorry you are having to go through this.
Cancer just isn't enough, right?

I'm in the hospital now getting cycle 4 of R EPOCH and
the prednizone hasn't quite kicked in or I'd
probably be cussin' Texas style.

After re-reading your post, I think the nut of it is in your
first statement:

"What I'm not dealing with well at all is that my family and my wife (we're recently married) don't see eye to eye on everything from my treatment choices to who's going to take care of me."

I'm only getting your perspective on this so I have to respond based on that.
I'm assuming "your family" were your caregivers/support from the previous cancer
and you trust them. They probably feel they have some stake and "say" because
they have been through this before and have been family longer than your wife.

The best thing would be for your wife and family to resolve their issues and
compromise in your best interest and share their support through their love of you.
Treatment options should be your decision while you are mentally capable of doing
such. Number one thing is work toward improving your health/life for obvious reasons.

There may not be enough time to turn your family/wife dynamics into
"The Waltons" and you may have to make some tough decisions if they can't
work together at least temporarily in your best interest to see you through
this.

Gosh, I wish I could press a magic button and make it better.
But oh, if I could do that, none of us would be on this site, right?

I wish you the best.

palmyrafan's picture
palmyrafan
Posts: 398
Joined: Mar 2011

I am so sorry that you are going through this, not surprised, but sorry.

When I was diagnosed in 1993 with brain tumors, my husband and I had not been married even a year. It was a 2nd marriage for both of us and his mother (his father had Alzheimer's) told him that no one would think less of him if he just wanted to walk away. His response to her was "what part of my marriage vows don't you think I understand?".

My dad and my stepmother were married 27 years and she had severe chronic Crohn's for most of the entire time. My father finally divorced her after 27 years because he couldn't stand her attitude and/or the disease anymore.

My point is this: some people can handle being caregivers to their spouses, regardless of the issue, length and prognosis and others can't.

I give my husband (of 19 years) an "out" when I get a new diagnosis or new treatment options. His "out" is that he didn't sign up for this and I understand if he has had enough and wants to walk away. No hard feelings. Why? Because I love him enough to let him go. His response to me? "You were drafted, but I enlisted and I will keep re-enlisting for however long it takes". I am truly Blessed.

I recommend counseling for anyone undergoing cancer treatment. It's nice to have another person listen objectively to what is going on in our lives without judging us for how we feel. You can't change how your wife or family feels. My family is the biggest set of ostriches there are. Especially my dad. He sticks his head in the sand when he hears of any conflict. They all prefer to act like everything is normal. If that is how they choose to live, that's up to them. But I refuse to take ownership of their feelings because they can't deal with reality.

Regardless, take care of you and your needs. You don't need the extra stress of worrying about how everyone else is feeling.

Peace.
Teresa

bluerose's picture
bluerose
Posts: 1089
Joined: Jul 2009

You are indeed truly blessed to have such a committed and loving spouse. My marriage broke up after a few years after cancer treatment and although cancer did put a heck of a stress on the marriage I know that it was broken long before and even more so after I found out about my ex's other woman. Man, you think you would know a person after all that time married.

Anywho all the best Teresa and do let your husband know that people on this site look to him as a true hero in his fight to help to rid his wife of this horrendous disease.

Blessings,

Bluerose

palmyrafan's picture
palmyrafan
Posts: 398
Joined: Mar 2011

Unfortunately no, my husband is an only child. I am truly Blessed in our relationship as he says he is. We are best friends. I try to make sure he has enough time to pursue his own interests and sometimes I get angry at him for not playing a round of golf when I know he would really like to. He does get frustrated though and we both are quick to acknowledge that when we get angry "it's the cancer talking". I am also quick to praise him for all he does. He wears many hats and I don't take him or anything he does for granted.

But he says he has learned many things about me, life, cancer, etc. while we have been battling this ugly beast. I realize that we all have our own crosses to bear and if all of us were to throw our issues, problems, etc. into a huge pile, 95% of us would take back our own problems because at least we know what we are dealing with.

This isn't easy on any of us. We all have our good days and our bad days. We just do the best we can with what we have been given and hopefully one day, there will be a cure.

Blessings

Teresa

nasher
Posts: 507
Joined: Apr 2010

Ok that just sucks.

I have stayed strong through all of my wife’s medical issues and she feared everyday that I would decide it was enough and walk out on her. I wouldn’t it is for better or worse sickness and in health. I just could not understand why she was afraid I would leave her.

Then once she recovered I went through multiple major surgeries and thyroid cancer and I was afraid every day that she would leave me. I finally understand it was fear that 1 more thing could go wrong.

my guess is your trying to get her to go to marriage counseling ... in my opinion that’s the wrong approach there are Grief and Loss, Illness, Depression, Anxiety, Stress, PTSD, Addiction, Eating Disorders, Codependency, Trauma, Life Transitions, Parenting councilors out there should be able to find ones in your area for illness and depression and stress related with major medical issue "the big C" instead of a marriage councilor (guess what they do marriage counseling too I bet)

If she is saying you are not doing enough...and not helping resolve the differences between her and your family. Maybe you can figure out what these issues are and help to resolve some or ask her for what she needs from you to help.

yes she is scared try to remember how you were round 1. Can you get her to your medical appointments so she can help understand and if you can get her to ask the questions?

Do you go to a cancer support group those help a lot even for the spouse.

She is afraid of loosening you, she is afraid her plan to live her life with you will be over... or she will have to quit her job and devote her life to taking care of a invalid for the rest of her life.

Talk to your family and see if they can for the moment give her a break and some support while you go through all of this.

See if you can make a list of what the differences in your wife’s plan and your families plan for your treatment and care are, analyze these and figure what group you need to convince on each separate issue. You are pre treatment phase you need to get as many of these sorted out prior to treatment or they will come up again.

being I don’t know what type of cancer or what the differences are or what the plans are its hard to say more. Please write more so we can find ways to help you.

Craig

Noellesmom
Posts: 1317
Joined: Aug 2010

I know that question seems pointless, but it isn't. And it doesn't even have to be your cancer and treatment she was there for.

And as a survivor, you know that anger is very normal.

I'm not making excuses for her behavior but I agree with another poster who said they didn't quite understand all of your post.

If she was there for you before during your diagnosis and treatment (as a girlfriend, perhaps, or someone you were close to?), please remember it is possible for caregivers to develop PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and a person with PTSD will definitely react in some unexpected ways.

She needs help, whether she stays or not, dealing with what looks like some obvious issues.

You will deal with the recurrence - you have no choice. Sometimes, the most difficult thing to do is stay when you have a choice to leave. Would she really be useful during your treatment and recovery in the condition she is in right now?

I caution others not to simply think of her as selfish: she may truly not have the fortitude to deal with what may happen and may recognize this in herself. Good for her and good for you.

Or, as I said before, perhaps it is PTSD. Either way, counseling is good for all concerned.

catwink22's picture
catwink22
Posts: 239
Joined: Sep 2009

Hi Noellesmom, I'm truly very sorry for the loss of your loved one and I appreciate your perspective on being a caregiver. I understand about fortitude and how difficult is to deal with the medical and emotional trauma of cancer and that some people are not able to cope with that. We give our opinions and experiences according to what a person posts. I went back several times and re-read Lone Starrs' post and some of the things said just don't seem to be a lack of fortitude. For instance (and I know these are out of context, but they speak the loudest to me):
"she says I'm not doing enough,"
"I need to be more supportive or she might lose motivation to care for me."
"she doesn't seem to realize what's she's doing to me even though I've told her."
I hope you're right and it's not selfishness that motivates her, but the reality is there are people who are narcissistic and I've been unfortunate enough to have experienced it. Maybe I came on too strong and was unfair to her, but it comes from the pain that a person like that caused me. I say it to raise awareness and avoid a possible destructive and painful path.

jimwins's picture
jimwins
Posts: 2085
Joined: Aug 2011

Obviously this post has "hit home" with some of us and I think that is a good
thing along with the different points of view that have come from this.

I just wanted to say I appreciate everyone's input on this.

Hugs

Noellesmom
Posts: 1317
Joined: Aug 2010

Good morning, cat.

I have no way of knowing whether I'm right or wrong - I just want to make sure we all remember there are two sides to every story.

My current cancer patient is my husband who is very much alive, praise the Lord.

catwink22's picture
catwink22
Posts: 239
Joined: Sep 2009

Hi Noellesmom, I'm so happy to hear that your husband is very much alive! I saw on your profile that you had lost a loved one to cancer and was referring to that, and again I am truly sorry for your loss. Your husband is very fortunate to have your care and compassion and I wish only the best for both of you.
Fondly,
Cat

"Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That's why it's a comfort to go hand in hand."
~Emily Kimbrough

sue5749
Posts: 170
Joined: Dec 2010

Thank you for saying that! I too agree with you! There are two sides to every story. Some people can keep on going and going like a die hard battery. But just maybe the other person just can't keep going and doing(would really like to) but just can't. Everyone is different. Not better, but different. Do not judge. I try to do my best. But maybe it's not the best in other peoples eyes? Who knows? I always ask my husband, You know this could very well be me that has the cancer. Would you be there for me? Of course he said "Yes" But would he really be strong enough? All I know I try to do the BEST THAT I CAND DO for today. Hey, I think God has HIS own plans for us anyway. When we are weak HE IS STRONG.

chemosmoker's picture
chemosmoker
Posts: 525
Joined: Aug 2011

I love this site.
For as silly as this may sound, I had never scrolled down below the TYPES of cancer discussion boards! I accidentally hit and held my scroll key and, walla, here I am at the topic and thread I didn't know was here. I was looking for these issues in the other forums, based on cancer type!

I thought I was the only one going through this, or that at the very least it was a rare occurrence. I kind of knew better in my gut, but, MAN- am I happy to NOT be the only one!

I could have written that post. We have been married for 16 years now, and we have been through things almost as bad as this. But nothing is as bad as a stage IVb diagnosis and the real thought of loosing the future, all of our plans and dreams and hopes, who's going to be there for the children, and on and on and on.
So, I try to be as understanding as possible;
Yes, I am the one who is sick, but if I cannot put myself in HER shoes and realize what SHE is going through, then I have truly lost perspective! I am not excusing selfish or abusive behavior-NO ONE should ever do that, cancer or not. I am simply saying that I agree with many others here being one who is going through exactly what you are with my spouse right now, and I never expected this.
I think we always (and wrongly) assume that our partners are us, or like us, as we can only see through our lenses. I have to realize that she is seeing things from HER lenses and how SHE sees them. Not the way I do.
I hope this helps. I am just SO glad to hear I am not alone with caregiver anger and the threat of loosing the ONE person I assumed would be here and deal with this as a #1 support, no matter what.
It comes and goes, there are good days and bad days. Like anything else in life, this is a process and we will never arrive, it is the trip that we must learn to enjoy, the journey.
As William said "We don't need to learn to wait for the storm to pass, we have to learn to dance in the rain!" I am sure I butchered that, but I think you will get the jest of it.
Peace and tell us more, tell me more! I am hungry for advice, too!
-Eric

Lone Starr
Posts: 2
Joined: Aug 2011

I just wanted to thank everyone for their comments, advice, and support. It was hard for me to write the first post because somehow it felt like a betrayal of my wife. But I was so sad and frustrated I needed to tell someone. I have no idea what's going to happen to us. I am very drained and tired and just emotionally flat about the idea of going through treatment again. It's not that I want to die or don't want to fight - I'm just indifferent. I was drawing strength and energy from the idea of fighting for the sake of my loved ones, but now when I see how my wife is acting and I know the pain that's yet to come, I wonder if we'd be better off apart. I know her fear and suffering is great, but I have trouble accepting that although I'm trying to assuage her fears, I don't feel I'm getting the same consideration. I don't want to become a selfish jerk, but sometimes I feel like I need to remind her that I am the one who is sick and although I might not look sick yet, I have physical pain and mental pain that is causing me not function so well.

So thank you everyone for your suggestions and good luck with all of your stuff. Hopefully I'll be able to offer some support to others once I finally wrap my head around this whole recurrence crap.

catwink22's picture
catwink22
Posts: 239
Joined: Sep 2009

Lone Starr, only you know your situation. We only get a little snippet of what your life is by what you are able to write. My words to you are from my own experience of hearing these types of things. I can only say that wanting to live is NOT being a “selfish jerk”! I hope you find the love and comfort you need and DESERVE during this difficult time. Please let us know how you are doing and we will be here for you and praying for you.
Cat

grandmafay's picture
grandmafay
Posts: 1625
Joined: Aug 2009

Do what is right for you. You might want to get help from a counselor to overcome the feeling of indifference. Know that you are not alone. Sadly, many marriages suffer when the stress of cancer is added to the mix. Take care, Fay

nasher
Posts: 507
Joined: Apr 2010

sounds to me that you may need a professional to talk to about some of your issues.

every time i think I have my head wrapped around something i find out its the other way round.

this place is here for us to talk about the things we feel but others around us don't agree with.

Only you can decide when enough is enough but if your not sure then fight.

myself I am very attached to life and I expect to fight so much they need to nail the coffin shut but when medical issues get so great I wont know until I get there.

my mind is wandering off topic again... guess its time to close this message

bluerose's picture
bluerose
Posts: 1089
Joined: Jul 2009

This has happened to me in the past with my NHL, I had one recurrance about 2 years after the first treatments and diagnosis but THAT WAS IT. Disease free and considered cured now for 23 years and you can be there too in the future. Like someone else said here, you have a big enough fight ahead of you THAT IS WORTH IT BY THE WAY, life is worth it, and regardless of this horrific timing of your wife's to melt down now when you need her the most, regardless of all of this you will go on. My husband, at the time, was with me through the second diagnosis but the stresses of him during it all weren't easy. It's a long story, not for this posting, but in the end when I was better - a few years after, I actually asked him to leave. I had gotten new strength from the cancer experience that actually showed me my strengths and I faced it, he was making things harder for me in several ways. It was a huge decision though not only for the obvious of a marriage breakdown but also I physically needed the help and was basically asking it to go.

However mentally it was the best thing for me so I am telling you this because I want you to see that you too no doubt are going to learn a great deal about yourself from this recurrance and my bet is that most of it will be good.

The occurance that survivors get after the first diagnosis and treatment is a devastating one for sure, the worst I think after the shock of the diagnosis. First time out a person rallies their strength and raises the cancer flag of battle and says 'charrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggeeeeeee', let's defeat this thing. BUT when it comes back so much of the strength of the person is zapped by disappointment and fear that they might never be free from it again. Well I am here, 23 years after my recurrance, to tell you that you can be free of cancer and it is worth fighting for. Only God knows what's around the corner for any of us, diagnosed or not, you have work to do on earth or you wouldn't still be here. I believe that.

Take a deep breath and find a great counsellor and lean on him for the time you are going through this. Don't go through it alone, you have this site to support you but you need that counsellor too. Make that your job today, find a counsellor you can relate to and take back your power. Your wife can come with you to counselling or not but you have to take care of yourself first.

You can do it.

Blessings,

Bluerose

palmyrafan's picture
palmyrafan
Posts: 398
Joined: Mar 2011

sounds like it could work very well for you. If your wife won't go with you, then go for yourself. Hello!!!! You are fighting cancer, you shouldn't be fighting everything else along the way too, including spouses and family.

There are counselors out there who specialize in chronic/long-term illness who are highly qualified to help you. I am Blessed to have one who also has a sub-specialty in marriage counseling. My husband and I both go singly and we go together and it has made us stronger as individuals and as a couple.

Please do what is best for you. You continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.

Peace,
Teresa

KateNTx
Posts: 39
Joined: May 2011

Your wife needs to get help. Seriously. Or, maybe she can talk to some of us who would give ANYTHING to be in her shoes again. My own grief is really raw and angry, so it may make me judge her harshly, but in the entire time my husband was ill, when we knew Unknown Primary Cancers have a low to non-existant cure rate, although remissions can occur, I NEVER once thought of let alone threatened/mentioned leaving him. It sounds to me like she is grieving the loss of her "idea" of the relationship and therapy might help. If she's unwilling/unable, you might want to make other plans for your care. This is no time to have added emotional strain in your life.
Kate

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