Dec 30, 2012 - 2:26 am
I'm new to this site and I'm really new at telling people about my problems... but here goes! (I apologize for the lengthy post. I wanted to be as concise as possible but it's a really long story to begin with)
My husband and I were working as researchers in Korea. We were in our third month there (two months into our official marriage) when I got the news. My mother has cancer. That news was enough for me to book the first flight back home (California) to be with her. We (my husband and I) thought we'd be in for a long battle, so I could go to and fro Korea to California and stay with her more permanently as that time would come along.
I arrive in California to make appointments with doctors, talk to her insurance provider, make sure everything concerning her health care benefits, life insurance policies, trust/will/health care directives, etc are all in order to the best of my ability. She took a turn for the bad and we took her to Stanford because of the pain she was going through. They did emergency testing (these tests were waiting insurance approval) which revealed conflicting results. Two MRIs, two CTs, an endoscopy, a paracentisis, and a biopsy (along with a lot of bloodwork) revealed differing diagnosis. They ended up diagnosing her with unknown primary cancer. Unfortunately, they didn't do a whole lot for her pain and vomiting but still released her after a week.
You can imagine that I was a mess during her stay at the hospital. An ER doctor thought she would only have a few weeks to a month left. I snapped and confided in my husband. After hearing the news, he also booked the next flight back to help take care of my mom as well as me. Unfortunately, he was only able to stay for two weeks before his work called him back.
We (my husband and I) soon realized that this wasn't as long of a fight as we had imagined, and I realized that I was needed here. My round-trip flight has turned into a one way ticket and I have been tending to my mom since. This has put a tremendous strain on our new and 'budding' marriage. I don't think he completely understands why I have to be here (I have family that can help care for her), or why I have to put my career and marriage on hold because of this. I want to tell him that I need to be here for my mom but also for myself. I can't stand the thought of not being here for the one person I love unconditionally (parents divorced when I was young). I'm also the most capable person in my family to handle the paperwork and stresses of juggling everything that comes with cancer and treatment. I want to tell him that I can go back to work later, and that no employer in their right mind (or with half a heart) would resent me for doing what I am doing. And I want to tell him that this IS the biggest obstacle our relationship/marriage will ever face, that there are no do-overs, and that if we can get through this together, there's just no stopping us. But, I can't. Or, at least, I don't think the words are coming out right.
After being discharged from Stanford, my mother had a terrible week. She was unable to eat, drink, or make bowel movements. Anything she tried to swallow would come back up within the hour. We took her to an oncologist to finally discuss her options. He reviewed her case and took one look at her before telling us we needed to check into a hospital. The oncologist said given her current condition... days.
So we did check her into another hospital. They took good care of her and was able to convince her to do a round of chemo. It seemed to have worked! She was discharged after a week at this hospital with her pain and nausea under control. Soon, she was back on her feet and broke her 3 week record and made her first bowel movement.
That's great for my mom, and I'm really excited about it... but... it doesn't look like I can share the news to my husband anymore. He's grown distant and unresponsive. He used to share his everyday activities with me, but that's past tense. I've tried to start conversations with him, but he's gone cold and quiet. I eventually confronted him about it and his response... talking to me doesn't make him feel any closer and it just reminds him that we're far apart, and that he'd rather spend that time working hard now so that he could spend more time with me when I'm reunited with him. What he says makes sense, but it still hurts nonetheless. This is the most difficult time I'll ever go through, and although I have the support of family, friends and support groups, my husband really is the person I want to come running to for support.
After a few more exchanges, he's decided that we shouldn't talk for now and pick up where we left off when I come back to Korea. I'm devastated. I don't understand why this happened, why he could just ignore me to deal with this on my own, why things just took a turn for the terrible so fast.
My mother's condition is still stable for now. Another visit to the oncologist this past week revealed more information. It's still cancer of unknown primary, but now we know that it's spread to the lymph nodes, liver, peritoneum, omentum, etc. The oncologist suggested that her chemo is the reason she's still here today, but the aggressive cancer will come back and continue to eat away at her. There is no cure. His chemo treatment is suggested to extend her time, but realistically, no more than four months.
My mother is scared. She's 51 this year and hasn't lived a full life. She hasn't seen her youngest daughter graduate from high school, she hasn't seen grandchildren crawling around on her living room floor, and she hasn't taken a peaceful vacation; ever. She's scared because she doesn't know what happens after she dies; and I don't know what to tell her.
I can only be one place at one time. I can be the daughter holding a bucket to my mom's head as she vomits. I can be the person that holds my husband's hand while he's stuck in the hospital with food poisoning. I can be the sister that takes my little sister shopping to get her mind off of things. But I can't do it all at the same time.
As my subject line suggests, I'm torn. I know I left my husband completely alone in a foreign country. I know I broke our travel plans to go from one destination to the next. But I also know my mother is dying. I know there is no cure and there is a limited amount of time left.
How can I possibly feel better about anything right now? Sometimes, I get really frustrated at how my husband ends up giving me the silent treatment or tells me that I have family and friends around to confide in instead of him. Why does he respond the way he does? Does he know he's actively hurting me? Have I done anything to him that would drive him away when I need him the most? What's left in a long distance relationship if we don't talk to each other? What can I tell my mom about death (what happens to her when she dies)? I don't think there's any simple answer for the problems I'm facing, but if there is, I believe this would be the place I could find it.
Thanks for reading!