Ten days ago the portacath was removed and today I went to the hospital to have the sutures checked. The waiting room was packed, so I found a spot to sit, hoping it wouldn’t take long to see the nurse practitioner. I wasn’t in the chair for more than a few minutes when the man next to me started talking to me about his wife.
He looked worried, no more than that, he seemed anxious. His wife has ovarian cancer that spread to her lungs. He was upset about her diagnosis but it was her attitude that affected him more. In his opinion, she didn’t act like she wanted to get well. She was a smoker and refused to give up cigarettes, even though the cancer was in her lungs. Her excuse was, she smoked since she was twelve so why stop now? I’m thinking, she smoked since she was twelve? What kind of parent lets their kid smoke at that age?
His wife wasn’t keen on the idea of chemotherapy. She didn’t want poison pumped into her body. I understand her feelings but at the same time, I find it interesting she fails to see cigarettes laced with toxic chemicals does the same thing, albeit at a slower rate.
I didn’t say much to the guy. Instead I listened while he expressed his frustration and fear. He looked to be in his forties, so I guessed his wife had to be around the same age. Nobody wants to be a widower at that age. I did advise him to see the hospital social worker and find a cancer patient, family support group for himself. It sounded to me (and I did not tell him this) his wife already made up her mind.
She gave up.
His story isn’t new to me. I’ve talked with at least a handful of people whose sick spouse either refused treatment or only showed up physically for their appointments; meaning they didn’t want to change anything about their lifestyle in order to get well. You can’t force anyone to try to get well. Doctors can administer drugs or perform surgery, but if the patient has mentally checked out, it won’t work.
These patients have the same excuses; “I’ve done this (smoked, ate junk food, drank too much alcohol) all my life. Why change now that I have cancer?” “Its too late anyway.” “I’ve always been this way.”
We tend to forget that cancer affects everyone involved with the patient and coming from a cancer patient’s perspective, the person caring for us can be hit harder emotionally. I focused on getting well and didn’t want to think about “what if” scenarios. My husband and son worried about those things for me.
I can only imagine how hard it is for this guy, but the way I see it, we all have the right to live life on our terms, even if it means living a shorter one. Like Frank Sinatra said, “I did it my way.” Don’t we all like doing things “our way?” We humans can be a stubborn bunch.
What I learned from my cancer trip, was that “my way” nearly killed me. I was willing to change my “tune” and do whatever it took to get well. But that’s me. I can’t force anyone to do anything against their will, nor should I.
Hopefully this man will come to peace with whatever his wife’s outcome is.