Today I did a podcast interview about www.breastcancerforhusbands.com with Stacey Martello of the Fight Pink breast cancer site. (I’ll post when the interview is up on Stacey’s site.) Stacey is a great interviewer and her questions made for an easy interview from my perspective. It wasn’t all a cakewalk though. Probably the most difficult question was “what have I learned as a result of being a breast cancer husband?” That was a hard question not because I couldn’t think of anything but because there are so many things I’ve learned, including many I didn’t expect to learn.
Learning the best ways to support my wife, how I deal with stresses from a health battle, the ups and downs, the pressures of waiting for PET scan results, our health care system, insurance companies… plus all the things that come with supporting and comforting your family while I battled cancer together with my wife. We’ve also been fortunate to be on the receiving end of good news from multiple clear PET scans… we’ve been blessed in many ways.
One of the things I didn’t expect to learn is how both of us have served as a source of strength for others. While I’ve been focused on supporting and caring for my wife, and trying to make time to take care of myself, I didn’t really pay attention to how our experience impacted others around us. As time goes on that impact becomes more and more apparent.
Both my wife and I are very involved in our church community and we have some very close friends. I lead the contemporary worship band at our church, which she also sings with, and we make sure my wife is on the prayer list whenever it's needed, so most people in our community know about our battle against breast cancer. Both our close friends and folks who know us from worship will stop to talk, ask how my wife’s doing, and say something about how our struggle has effected them.
Often the comments are about how we in some way have been a source of strength to them. It could be how we deal with it openly with family and our church community. It may be how we’ve carried on with our lives. It may be the strength of our faith. It may be our positive attitudes and how we chose to live life. I never know what someone might say because their experience is unique to them.
I believe in the idea “you are what you think”… that the mind-body-spiritual connection is just as important, even more important, than any medical treatments. That belief, that faith, is something I think other picks up on pretty strongly. Sure I wonder, have doubts and questions, but I don’t let those overtake my belief in a cancer free outcome. My wife is cancer free today and I know our faith, positive attitude and our beliefs are a huge part of that.
If you are battling cancer, know that one way others care for you is to appreciate how you deal with that battle. That’s one of their ways of being connected to you, by observing the good and bad of the struggle. So, even though you may not set out to strengthen others, that may in fact happen. Just remember that showing your weakness and vulnerability with a health care struggle also connects others with you, so they can bring their strength to you when you need it.
I’m not sure if that’s payback or paying it forward. That’s kind of a chicken-and-egg dilemma. Either way, it’s how people connect with you and vise versa.