Living with a Loved One Who is Battling Cancer

As she tip-toes slowly towards his room she is afraid of what will come today. Will he be in the mood to talk to me? She thinks and quickly removes her hand away from the knob. Ever since the sickness he’s been different – mood swings, coughing, headaches, seizures. She is afraid of when that initial day will come? When the earth will swallow him whole and she will be left with only memories. She takes a step back and the thoughts rush through her mind like the swishing swirling tidal waves that crash beyond in the deep blue sea.

Cancer is the devil,” she continuously tells people who ask the questions she hates to answer. She knows that he can sense her backing off and it only makes her heart ache. This is what it’s like living with a loved one with brain cancer.

Here are some quick facts about brain tumors from The National Brain Tumor Society:

“688,096 Americans are living with brain tumors (550,042 are benign – harmless, 24,790 are malignant – very infectious ). The average survival rate for those who are malignant is only 34.4%. More than 28,000 children (0-14 years of age) are estimated to be living with a brain tumor in the U.S. An estimated 4,630 new cases of childhood and adolescent (15-19 years of age) primary malignant and nonmalignant. The average survival rate for all primary pediatric (0-19 years of age) malignant brain tumors is 73.6%. More than any other cancer, brain tumors can have lasting and life-altering physical, cognitive, and psychological impacts on a patient’s life.”

Rose’s (whose name has been changed) grandmother had gotten the news that her godfather had cancer in late September. Except for Rose the news wasn’t broken to her until weeks after. The last time she saw her godfather he was as healthy as could be, he was happy, and he was just well… himself. Her grandmother and her mom’s boyfriend had driven up to Colorado, where her godfather had lived during the time, and picked him up and drove all the way back. He couldn’t fly so the only way to go and pick him up was by car.

“I remember coming home on the Sunday after he’d come back, ,” Rose said. “I just remember looking at him and I’d seen how much weight he’d dropped and that’s when it hit me. That was it, ya know? I remember thinking to myself, my god he’s gotten so skinny! A couple days after I had a breakdown at school because everything had just hit me. I had to brace myself for the months to come and the internal and external battles my family and I were about to endure….It’s tough though it really is.”

Living with someone, especially a loved one, with cancer is very strenuous. He’s got mood swings that Rose says alternate a lot.

“But it’s the sickness, we all know it, Rose said. “So we try not to take a lot of the mean things he says to heart.”

Think of it like living with someone with split personalities, they just completely change on you at any given time. An article by Cure Today says, “Brain tumors can bring about personality changes in the patient, which puts extra burden on the caregiver, who must cope with unexpected changes in his or her loved one.”

“It’s not really that much of a ‘burden’ though, it’s just very stressful, Rose explained. “It’s hard because sometimes I can look at him and all I see is a totally different person captivated by this horrible sickness….it makes me feel terrible.”

Rose gives so much props to her mother though; she’s working seven days a week and still manages to be the glue that holds their family together. Even on the worse days when the skies are darker than usual and the clouds aren’t raining but their eyes are, she is still there bearing the sun and smiles for all around. Rose likes to think of her mother as a superhero.

“She knows how to handle everything,” Rose said.You can feel at your lowest and like you can’t bear anymore of the struggle and she comes along with the wisest and most inspiring things to say and it makes you feel so much better. You definitely need that in cases like these; it is so rough and I know that rough isn’t even the word, but it just is…and it sucks. For everyone. But you just have to remember to be optimistic and, yeah we all have our days where our minds are clouded in overcast and the days just seem to be getting worse, but you’ve got to remember to smile sometimes. Because life’s a climb, but the views great.”

As she takes a deep breath and reaches for the knob again, the thoughts slip away into the file cabinets that hold the thoughts that spurt through her brain. She remembers the good times that the two shared while she was younger and she smiles.

Cancer is the devil”, she whispers and shuts her eyes. The memories come and go fading away like fog on monday mornings; she opens her eyes and holds the knob firmly, “But we are warriors.”