In October in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness I will post a daily blog with a reflection about breast cancer. The reflections will stem from something in the play. (All quoted lines are text from the play.)
Day 3: THE ROLE OF THE HUSBAND
This was among the most difficult moments for me, the “breast cancer husband” as it is sometimes called, in the early phases of her diagnosis and treatments.
This issue came into clear focus this past February during a post-show discussion. I was privileged to perform on February 28 at the Carnegie Institute for Science in Washington, DC sponsored by Ralph Nader and the Center for the Study of Responsive Law. As one of the original Nader’s Raiders in the early 70’s I was delighted to welcome many of my former colleagues to a see my new life as playwright and performer of The Actual Dance. After the show during our discussion Ralph asked if I hadn’t considered switching doctors. A logical question except it assumed that this was my choice. And it reflected I suspect clearly what I had communicated in the play about me wanting to find a magician doctor who would fix everything, now!
What the question did however is help me focus on that moment in our experience and what I think is among the most difficult elements of the breast cancer journey: The role of the husband. There will be more to say about this in coming days. For now, I offer my insight that had I attempted to insist on my desire to run from clinic to clinic, doctor to doctor in search of some magic medicine I would likely have damaged our – Susan and my – relationship, and even worse, potentially added a level of stress to it that would have made her recovery more difficult.
In retrospect I am a bit astounded at my restraint. It isn’t my style. Perhaps because of how grim the diagnosis was at the time I deferred. I recall it more as an intuition. It was however a very conscious decision because even today I can remember my internal struggle and urgent desire to do more.
The question I will never be able to answer is this: What if she had died, how would I have felt about not insisting on other or different medical treatment?
STAT OF THE DAY: “Breast cancer is a Couple’s Illness, not a disease of a wife’s breast”
Task of the Day: Be Aware in October of the spouse, check in on the husband, it makes a difference.
RESOURCE OF THE DAY: I loved this little piece on 10 Ways to Be There When Your Wife has Breast Cancer by Perter Flier. There is also a great study about depression in spouses of breast cancer patients.