gdc
Family MembersPatient Stories

My Wife Has Cancer...What Happens Now?

Jack felt obsessive about his role—the need to be by his wife's side around the clock, taking her to every appointment, and refusing the help that their friends and family members offered.
February 2016 Vol 2 No 1
Rose McKay

Jack and Connie were married for 38 years. “We were living the dream,” he says. But the shock of Connie’s diagnosis was like “going 100 miles an hour, only to stop on a dime.”

Jack with Connie

He describes his wife as the most beautiful and intelligent person he had ever known, but she didn’t have the energy to research her disease, so Jack took on that responsibility.

“She would look at me and ask, ‘What do we do next?’” he says. “I learned everything I could about ovarian cancer, so I was the one in the doctor’s office asking all the questions.” When Connie started to experience blood clots, Jack was the one giving her injections of Lovenox (enoxaparin sodium) twice daily. “I remember thinking, ‘I’ve never given someone a shot. How do I do this?’” he said. “So I found a YouTube video and I watched it over a dozen times.…It’s daunting to be responsible for the life of the person you love most in the world.”

Jack admits that he felt obsessive about his role—the need to be by her side around the clock, taking her to every appointment, and refusing the help that their friends and family members offered.

In addition to running the household and making Connie’s appointments, Jack was confronted with managing a side of himself he didn’t know was there: a deeply emotional side.

“I never cried—I was a real man’s man,” he says. “But I cried a few times. Sometimes I’d wait until I was in the shower so nobody could tell.”

When Connie lost her appetite and thirst as a result of her treatment, Jack said their relationship became more like that of a parent and child, insisting that she eat and drink when she didn’t want to. Despite the overwhelming moments of stress, they kept hope alive, even though their definition of hope changed.

“We both knew where this was heading, but we never stopped hoping,” he says. “Three weeks before she passed, we were out buying her spring clothes. Three days before she passed, we were planning a vacation.”

Since Connie passed in September 2014, Jack has spent a lot of time connecting with other men about their caregiving roles and handling the emotions they didn’t know they had. But he also realizes a small blessing from living through this experience.

“I loved her so much,” he said. “I told her every day how much I loved her. But I actually had the chance to show her—that was a gift I realized I had been given.”

Recommended For You
Family Members
We Are All Mehrshad: A Bright Sun
By Mehrshad Fekri
After dealing with cancer in his family, Mehrshad Fekri faced the implications of his family history, and decided to educate men about breast cancer and to refocus his graduate studies on cancer research.
Breast CancerPatient Stories
Public Health Professional Turned Patient: The Lives We Save May Be Our Own
By Sheree Marshall Williams, PhD
Sheree Williams, PhD, is a health scientist with the CDC, but her background in public health did not prepare her for the unique challenges she faced as a black woman diagnosed with breast cancer, highlighting the social determinants of health.
LeukemiaPatient Stories
The Gifts and Challenges of a Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Diagnosis
By Charlie Rogers
For Charlie Rogers, cancer turned out to be a gift of sorts. In addition to forcing him to slow down, it also changed his perspective on life, encouraging him to cherish small victories.
Patient StoriesLymphoma
Silver Linings
By Stacey Roselle
Stacey Roselle looked for the “silver linings” when a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma brought her face-to-face with unexpected reactions to her illness.
Last modified: March 20, 2018

Subscribe to CONQUER: the patient voice magazine

Receive timely cancer news & updates, patient stories, and more.

Country