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Husband has cancer; how do I handle my feelings?

lamina102
Posts: 1
Joined: Jul 2019

I’m not sure where to start but my husband is 33 and was diagnosed with Stage IV appendix cancer in November 2018. It was a rough 7 months while he was healing from a big surgery then chose to go through intravenous chemo but he has not had recent growth and is taking the pill form as “maintenance” chemo now.

I am super thankful that everything is going as good as it is and that the maintenance chemo is a lot less harsh for my husband (he had a very difficult time at the end of the initial chemo treatments).

What bothers me is his lack of empathy now. For example, when he talks about work like it doesn’t matter. He knows how hard I have to work at my full-time, very demanding/stressful job, yet he will make comments that he can do whatever he wants at work and he may not show up any certain day because he doesn’t feel like it (not that he has doctor’s appointments to go to or is really feeling sick, it’s just because he doesn’t want to). Don’t get me wrong, I’m super thankful that his work is flexible with him because I know some jobs aren’t and I know it would be more difficult to handle if we did have his income as well. Plus, work has been good for him to get out of the house because he doesn’t have hobbies or really anything but me to keep him going. But I feel there is no empathy there for other people. I feel that whether it is true or not that he can get away with anything at work that you still shouldn’t go around almost “boasting” about it.

Since he has been diagnosed with cancer, he will use that as an excuse not to go to my family events and has even cut himself off from his own family because he doesn’t want to deal with their “issues”. I get that it must be very difficult to know you have a short time left to live and that you wouldn’t want to do things that you don’t want to do, but still. Even now he’s feeling better compared to before; I’ve never asked him to help out at all around the house so I have to do everything: cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. But now I’m starting to feel resentful that not only am I trying to take the entire burden off of him but I have to take the brunt of his harsh words and feel like my feelings don’t matter. He’s said other remarks too when he was going through the worst of the chemo before and I chalked it up to the side effects of chemo, since when eventually I would try to say something, he wasn’t receptive to how I felt; it was about him having to go through all this and he didn’t want to deal with my issues. That’s why I’m not sure how I should react now.

Am I right to feel this way and should I talk to him about my feelings? Or am I just being selfish and should I just understand that he is the one with cancer, which I’ll never know how he truly feels, and I should work on my own feelings to be more understanding and not burden him with my hurt feelings? Obviously, I want to be a great caregiver, but it is hard to be so selfless all the time. I feel like I’m coming up short and my husband doesn’t deserve that.

I’m sorry for the long rant or if I seem like I’m complaining, but this is still so difficult to traverse and I really have no one else to talk to that can understand what I may be feeling. I appreciate any help or advice that you guys can offer.

jennerrator's picture
jennerrator
Posts: 10
Joined: Apr 2019

for folks that are the partner of us that unfortunately have / had cancer. Everyone is different how they handle things...but one thing I will say is...the one with the cancer should feel blessed and treat the one without it with love and major respect for hanging around!

I am lucky I'm a Type A personallity and since I have been through hell with brain cancer...I want nothing more than to take care of my husbend and go to work everyday til I am no longer on the planet.

I'm sorry you feel the way you do but you need to have him listen to what you are feeling...he's not the only one hurting. I wish you luck!!! Jen

GingerMay's picture
GingerMay
Posts: 134
Joined: Sep 2016

Your feelings are OK and you have every right to them. As the spouse, we go through our own journey and I think it is easy to disregard ourselves. It is impossible to know what they go through, and it is overwhelming for us and often it seems we are invisible. I don't think you are alone in any of this, and many others post here with similar. It sounds like you are doing a great job for your husband. You have said things to your husand which you mention he was unreceptive to. If you feel like the timing might be better at some point, I think you could mention something briefly again if he says hurtful things. It doesn't have to be a confrontation. I bet you have heard this before, but it might help to maintain your own well being if you cut out some time for yourself to do things that give you peace. They could be small things for just a few moments, or large like getting away for lunch with a good book for a few hours. It seems like we learn how to do this on the fly, but I wish there was a handbook. 

k8's picture
k8
Posts: 33
Joined: Oct 2018

as you are dealing with this chapter in your life. My heart goes out to you. You will find the strength to get through this. My husband was diagnosed with colorectal cancer last August. The distance between us was not what I expected. He wanted to go to treatments by himself which I gave him the space then in January this year he had his rectum removed and had a temporary ileostomy and more chemoterapy. He was not a pleasant person to be around and did not share any of his experiences with me. I stayed off the internet and found this site which gave me a better idea of what he was going through. A few weeks ago he had the ileostomy removed and he was hooked back up. For 11 months I felt like a stranger in my own home and alone. We did not speak much during this time. I only spoke up once and this is what I said; you may be the one diagnosed with cancer and all but this affects both of us and all those months when you shut me out by being quiet or not wanting to talk I was still going throught this with you. After seeing how he reacted/acted to this disease I had to ask myself would I want to go through this alone if this had happened to me. My thought would be heck no. I don't understand why someone who is your best friend for life would completely shut down and not want to share. His response to not sharing was he just did not want to complain.

I'm sure it sucks to be you right now but I honestly know how your feeling. The road to recovery is in front of us and we talk all the time now. Don't let your husband do this to you. I should have spoke up sooner but I was not the one with cancer. Still doesn't make it right for a spouse to think their in this by themself.

Your doing a great job as a caregiver. You are not selfless. It's not always easy. Peace of mind is everything. Sometimes just getting out of the house by yourself, going for a walk, anything to take your mind off of whats going on at home during this lousy time. 

You folks are so very young and have your whole lives in front of you. Don't waste any time being angry. Speak up for yourself, tell him how he is making you fell and tell him how you feel. Best of luck to you.

Kate

marylorraine
Posts: 2
Joined: Aug 2019

Hi everyone.  I am new to this site.  I've been looking for some place to get support and be with people who are experiencing similar situations and I would seeme that I may have found it here.  My husband and I were married in Sept 2018 and a few weeks after we returned from our honeymoon he got the cancer diagnosis.  Life brought me to a place I never expected to be and created losses I never expected to have at this point in my life.  These past 18 months since we started planning our wedding last year have been filled with SO much change and upheaval...I won't even get into right now but in addtion to it all we are dealing with his cancer.  On a very positive note his initial round of chemo and radiation went extremely well, his tumor significantly was shrunk and surgery went very well, they said he was technically cancer free!  He does have a temporary ostomy...that's a whole other post!  He is on the end of his 9 chemo infusion tx and then his last surgery.  I pray the second surgery goes better then the first as there ended up being complications due to the ostomy.  But they were able to get everything fixed and running.  I'm a stong independent woman but I have to tell you this has KICKED my butt along with the multi other significant life issues over the past year.  Right now things have died down and I'm mostly having to deal with the cancer issues.  But all this has left me sad, mad, unhappy, and anxious.  I still find joy in the small things as well as the people and other relationships I have in my life.  Mostly I just want my husband back...it feels like this cancer is life...envasion of the body snatchers.  I've barely had a change to be a "Mrs".  Thanks for listening any feedback or similar experiences welcome.

Catholic's picture
Catholic
Posts: 86
Joined: May 2016

I cant imagine getting married right away and then months later a spouse is diagnosed with cancer.  That is
a lot to deal with.

I was married for several years.  After our 3rd child was born, my wife went to live in the basement fulltime. She
rarely left the basement.  I had a 6 year old, a 4 year old and a 1-day old to take care of and somebody had to
pay the bills.  Two years later my wife's sister came to visit and my wife finally went to a clinic where she eventually
was diagnosed with cancer and then came chemotherapy for 11 months.  She had 2 tumors and both tumors significantly
shrunk with chemo.  But her behavior is still lousy.  My youngest is now 6 years old and my wife's bad behavior has
continued for the past 6 years and she still sleeps on the floor downstairs or in the basement.  I dont think my wife's
behavior will ever change for the better.  Its like she is a really bad roommate and not a spouse at all. 

You sound like your at the beginning stages of post-chemotherapy.  In my opinion, behavior/attitude is everything.
If your spouse has a positive attitude and outlook and starts getting off the couch and doing something positive
with their life, then everything will work itself out and you will find peace.  If you find yourself 6 years later (like me)
looking back at a long history of really bad behavior, then your in for a bumpy ride.  The good news or silver lining
is that whatever patience you have now will be expanded beyond comprehension.  You cant argue with someone who
has cancer because they like to yell and scream and act like a child; instead you have to learn to remain calm and
wait for the storm to pass.

I hope this helps. Text anytime.

ufknkidding
Posts: 45
Joined: Aug 2019

It's not easy drinking from a fire hydrant.  All that water coming fast and with intensity, just can't get any at all.  It's been kinda that way for me over the past few weeks after first hearing I had cancer to having to figure out what to do about it then to adjusting to the next phase on this journey. It's equally hard on everyone closest to me, kind of like throwing a rock in a pond, where the area (people) closest to where the rock entered suffer the strongest and most challenging waves. I've told my wife to write me small notes (not long complaints) on paper and put it in a place where I can read it when I decide to read it.  I figure if she writes her challenge, sadness, frustration, or desire to me, just putting it in writing will help her by getting it out.  And if I can read it and think about it, maybe I can understand.  I am sorry caregivers have to endure as many mental challenges as cancer diagnosed or survivors. I hope caregivers never lose hope.  I hope cancer patients and survivors seek professional behavioral health therapy when/if the time comes or the challenges become too great. Quality of life is so important even if it's focusing on today's quality of life and worrying about tomorrow's tomorrow. Thanks to all of you who are providing care, raising children, standing by your loved one and hoping for a brighter tomorrow.

KathyMad's picture
KathyMad
Posts: 2
Joined: Nov 2019

Hi. I'm new to this site but am a cancer survivor. In August, my husband was diagnosed with cancer. They found squamous cells in the lymph nodes in his neck. Knowing that it didn't start in the lymph nodes, he underwent surgery to remove them and biopsy his tonsil tags and a spot on the back of his tongue (it started on the tongue). Since then, only three weeks, really, we have met with the radiologist and dentist. I am still trying to find a speech therapist. He starts radiation towards the end of this month. 

I am trying to keep up with everything; cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc. while still trying to do my own job (University professor) and am difficulty keeping up with all of it. Eventually, something has to give and it seems to be me. Don't get me wrong, he is helping as much as he can and I am trying to let him but I'm already tired. It hasn't been long since his surgery and he hasn't even started radiation yet and I am already tired. I feel like I am letting him down. I have talked to him about my feelings and he is understanding, reassuring me that I am doing a good job. It hasn't helped. When I am alone, my head races to think of what else I can or have to do. I am currently sitting here looking at the pile of papers I have to grade but my head is distracted with thoughts that I didn't mop the floors today or I should call the radiologist because I have questions and my brain won't move on unless the floor is mopped or my questions answered. 

I know I am rambling and what I have written may not make much sense, but what I want to ask is if anyone else has felt like this and if there are any tips to overcome it other than "go to lunch with a friend" (every time I do that, I end up talking about my husband and his illness). 

KathyMad's picture
KathyMad
Posts: 2
Joined: Nov 2019

I posted this in the wrong spot. I am sorry. 

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