Sadness instead of joy
Recently I came across some comforting statistics at the National Cancer Institute website. The website reports that as of January 2014, it is estimated that there are 14.5 million cancer survivors in the United States. It is also projected that the number of cancer survivors will increase by 31%, to almost 19 million, by 2024, which represents an increase of more than 4 million survivors in 10 years.
Considering that another website reports that one in three Americans will face a diagnosis of this killer malady at some point in their lives, these statistics are a welcome relief to all human beings. Surprisingly, I came to learn later that survival does not translate to joy and comfort when it comes to some life-threatening experiences.
Battle with a killer
My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer about five years ago. It was a sad episode in our lives and all our family and friends sympathized with our unfortunate situation. Anyway, with my family and friends by her side, she fought the killer disease and after a mastectomy, the disease was gone. I could not believe it and I had to accompany her to subsequent hospital visits just to confirm.
It was the classic paradox when something bad happens to you and you keep asking, why me? And then when the bad thing unexpectedly changes to good, you again ask, why me? After the doctors confirmed that she was free from the cancer, we resumed our “normal” lives, albeit with battle scars in the form of a lost breast. This is when I noticed oddity in my wife.
A different person
Following the battle and victory against this vicious disease, I expected that my wife would leave the predicament strong and more positive than she was before she was diagnosed. However, I started noticing some problems in our sex life. During the treatment period, we slept in separate bedrooms as expected and as advised by the doctors.
However, after my wife was cured, we should have resumed the normal sleeping arrangements but she declined. I decided to give her time thinking that maybe she was a bit tense after the ordeal. Then again I noticed another absurdity; my wife became oversensitive to any small physical anomaly. A small swelling on her chest or a cough or anything would give her an anxiety attack as she claimed that the cancer was back. She was also depressed and ignored all her old friends who had rallied by her side when she was sick.
Then one day I tried to join her in the shower and her reaction was unnerving. My wife was ashamed that she had lost one breast and did not want me to see her naked. That is when I realized that she was facing psychological and emotional challenges, which were even worse than the diagnosis or the physical treatments she had endured.
I immediately consulted a therapist, who first recommended that she should join a cancer survivor group and then he helped us to overcome the challenges that were threatening to reap our home apart. After following the therapist’s instructions we managed to overcome these challenges and get our lives back. But I also learnt a valuable lesson; every ordeal has a dark side that should not be ignored.