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A supporter's perspective on relationships

By John Aubin
Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 2.12.21 PMI’m lucky.
It’s important to remember that. I’m married to the love of my life, and we have a beautiful child together. I love my wife now as much as I did when we were married. How many people can say that, and how many would love to have that? So, really I am a lucky man.
Unfortunately though, it is not all roses and love songs. My wife has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer that spread to her lungs, and has thrown our lives into bouts of fear, stress, anger, sadness, and more fear.
Relationships are mostly about compromise. When you live with a significant other, everything, from what to watch on TV, to whose job it is to take out the garbage, to “I cooked dinner today, so you get to do dishes,” is a compromise. Let’s face it, the only way two grown adults can stand each other is if they each give a little to make their partners life a little easier, and get a little from their partner.
When said partner is diagnosed with a serious illness, the compromise changes significantly. Many of the little shared jobs around the house become your job, and you get a taste for all those little things that your partner did — just to make your life easier — that she is no longer able to do. The relationship is less about “us” and its more about the cancer.
It is really hard as a supporter to watch a loved one go through the effects of chemo, radiation, and surgery. But it is also draining having to be there for them at all times, and there is really no way to vent any of your frustration, because you know that what you are going through is nothing compared to what your partner is dealing with.

This is where the guilt comes in

One week while my wife was in treatment, and not feeling particularly well, I woke up in the morning to find her feeling sick, and I went to work. I spent the day at work feeling like garbage because I went to work and left my sick wife at home. The next day, she felt equally sick, so I called in saying I need to be there for my wife (I cannot thank my employer enough for being so understanding in these situations). Well, I spent the day feeling guilty about not going to work, as I might need to take a day later for an appointment, or treatment, or whatever.
Guilt happens; the trick is to find a way to work with your partner on your relationship, given the brand new set of limitations. When my wife first went into treatment, I had to work a full day, come home, cook dinner, clean up after dinner, give the kid a bath, read stories, clean anything else in the house, and put the child to bed. All these things take up time, and when I’d crawl into bed, my wife would be going stir crazy from spending the day in bed. She was dying to help, but didn’t have the energy, and she would want to chat, but I didn’t have the energy after the chores.

“We found the best compromise ever”

We found the best compromise ever. Anyone, in any walk of life who has tried to put a toddler to sleep knows it is a war. It takes time, which you don’t necessarily have if you are doing all the house chores. My wife was also going stir crazy, eager to help, but not able to. She could however read stories to our daughter, and they could cuddle until our daughter drifted off to sleep. This was a win for all of us. Our child got some bonding time with her mom, in a scary situation; I lost the most time consuming job in my after work chores; and my wife felt like she was accomplishing something, as well. We all felt a little less guilty.
What I am trying to say is, when you are in a relationship with someone who has cancer, the everyday lives are going to change — drastically — but the essence of the relationship doesn’t have to. As a supporter you always feel spread too thin, like your partner has enough to deal with and you don’t want to burden them with your problems, too. But often times, they are feel the same guilt as you do, and they want to find a way to help.
The compromises do change, but they still are still there. All a compromise is, is a way for people in a relationship to help each other. Just talking to my wife about my own fears, she feels validated, and I feel better just getting things off my chest. We both feel less guilt over a ridiculous situation that neither one of us can control.
Read John’s wife, Amy’s, side of the story.

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