Cancer In A Relationship

I recently had to be on the road for work. When I am on the road we usually suspend the nightly rotation. That makes it difficult if it is say, Alina’s night when I leave, and then after being gone for three days it would be Vicki’s night, then Val’s night and finally Alina’s night, she having to wait almost a full week.

Joe and Valerie a week after radiation

Joe and Valerie a week after radiation

This time the rotation worked to our advantage, but it did not make leaving any easier.  I left the day Val started her isolation time for her thyroid cancer.  We traded nights so that I could be with Valerie the day before she went in for her treatment. It was extra emotional to leave her. She had not been herself leading up to the treatment. They had taken her off of her thyroid pill which left her emotional, tired, cold and also messed with her assimilation of calcium. As a result, she kept having muscle cramps that were painful. On our way back from New York the last time she cramped just as we were landing. She was belted in and couldn’t move and she begin to hyperventilate. I frantically tried to summon a flight attendant for help but to no avail as we were in landing mode and they were belted in themselves. Just before the plane touched down Valerie passed out.

“Valerie, are you alright?” I tried to wake her, and again pushed the call button.

An attendant came up and I said we needed a paramedic. By the time we pulled up to the gate Valerie had regained consciousness. The paramedics checked her vitals and offered to take her to the hospital if she wanted, but Val was embarrassed at the attention, seemed fine and declined.

The experience left me emotionally fragile though, as the deep fear of losing her surfaced. I felt my male protective instincts kick in and I tried to be extra attentive. Logically I knew her chances for a full recovery were very good, and as far as cancer goes she is fortunate. It certainly has given me more empathy for others with cancer. I felt helpless and fearful, but wanted to be strong and supportive. Sometimes I did not want to articulate my fears because they seemed trivial, but that experience of watching her lose consciousness kept replaying in my mind.  I just wanted to hold Valerie when it was time for me to leave town. The feeling was like if I did not let her go, nothing bad would happen.

While gone I prayed constantly for her. Whenever I could we spent some time on the phone to help her pass the time. I called Alina and Vicki to make sure she had food for her diet prepared. I think they thought it was cute I was so concerned for her but they let me know they had her covered.

When I came home she was three days into her isolation. I had Alina pick me up from the airport. Normally when I come home it is a hard time for us all. The ladies have all missed me and I have missed them all. Our routine is off and I find myself torn because I want to see all of them. It is one of the hardest things for me about living this way. I am conflicted in my heart as I cannot adequately express how much I miss them all. I hug one, then another and then yet another is waiting.

If all three are there at the same time it is not like I can express it to all of them, nor them to me so we suppress that expression until we have some alone time. This homecoming was different though. Alina and I embraced at the airport. We pulled up in the driveway, right outside Val’s window. I came to the glass and she met me there. I put my hand up and she met hers to mine. We laughed at the silliness of it. It seemed like she was in prison. I put my lips to the glass and kissed her smashed lips on the other side of the pane.  I wanted to touch her. She did not look sick and what is a little radiation?  I tried to make myself feel better about the situation because I was used to postponing my expression of affection.  Reluctantly I pulled away and walked inside, feeling tender for her.

I came in and greeted all of my children. It was touching to see Krista, Val’s two year old rocking in the chair with Vicki who was reading books to her. My heart melted with appreciation.  Not once had either Alina or Vicki complained about picking up Valerie’s duties or mine for that matter while I was out of town. It is times like these that I am grateful for our love.

It was Alina’s night, then Vicki’s and finally Valerie’s night on the day she came out of isolation. It should have been just as she had not missed a night with me, because in usual circumstances she would have been that long without seeing me anyway, but that day was especially fulfilling to us. We just sat and held each other. It was as if letting her go had made her better. Sometimes that hardest part about loving someone is letting them go.  But the most rewarding part is trusting that true love is eternal, and when you have it, it never lets go of you.

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11 Responses to Cancer In A Relationship

  1. Crying now. Love to all of you.

  2. karen says:

    Tears in my eyes.

  3. Arleen Cromwell says:

    It is refreshing to read about your sensitivity Joe. Would be good training for most husbands. And Valerie, hope things continue to go well with fighting the cancer. Sounds like things are going well.

    • Vicki says:

      Thank you for your concern, (and kind words about Joe!), she is doing very well. This entire experience has made us more sensitive to the many who have experienced the tragedy of ill health.

  4. Stephania says:

    I don’t think I could even stand the stress of even wanting my ‘night’ during all this and would probably ‘forfeit’ and let Joe have a night off or do whatever he wanted until things had settled a bit, but I suppose that is the ‘nikki-ish’ side of me (give the choice of the three big love characters) . When stuff is on my mind, it’s hard to ‘give’ other than boring practical stuff or just being emotional support but it would just play on my mind too much to be able to separate ‘my night’ from thinking about someone close to me suffering, whether or a child or adult. People are different, some need to retreat when they deal with rough things or are stressed, (even if it is someone else’s ordeal, if you are in it as a family, it affects everyone) – while others need companionship and hate to be alone. Some need and want the company for distraction, some want to just veg and decompress and reflect, while still others will even use an unfortunate event to their advantage (not saying any of you). That said, if I were the sufferer, I prob would not want to be alone if there was sincere support to be had but- of course understanding the radiation thing, would deal with it and protect the others for whatever the time frame was(out here as far west as you can get we prob are already well-radiated anyway from the Japan incident, despite the news assuring us that the isotopes floating around are totally safe and no biggie.)

  5. Stephania says:

    BTW, radiation treatment or not, you look great, Val,. for whatever that is worth going through this no doubt stressful time. I remember some TV show you guys were on years ago- I don’t know if it was Oprah or not, but I know at least one of you was a blonde then- but the brown is nice too. Just know there are a lot of people praying or whatever people want to call it- for you to be well- so I suppose in that sense, it’s love ‘squared’.

  6. Penny says:

    love reading what you guys put on here, Joe i think you are amazing time and time again. And as for all 3 of you women like wise love you gals… reading yrs makes me wish i’d had a better turn out. But love where i’m at now and what we have learned from it and everything up to this point. VAl glad yr looking so good and healthy, god bless you all.

    • Joe says:

      Penny,
      Thank you for your kind words. We have great respect for the way you and your husband handled your situation. Your love and support through this has meant a lot to us.
      God Bless!

  7. Jessica says:

    Very touching, what a wonderful thing to have so much support during illness & suffering.

  8. I actually have read this post several times and each time it touches my heart. Then today while in the care I heard the song “I’m going to love you through it” by Martina McBride and found myself instantly thinking of this post and your love and concern and worry for your wife. The love is so obvious in your family.

    Granted the song is about a woman with breast cancer and her husband saying “I know youre scared and so am I, but I’m going to love you through it”.

    I do not think I will ever hear that song without picturing your hands on opposite sides of the window when you returned home. It is truely heartwarming and touching the love that exists in your family.

  9. Brian E Kamerath says:

    Wow…
    The more I read of your family dynamics the more impressed I am with the 4 of you. Given where I am now- married, active LDS… I’d like to think that if I were called to do so at some future date I could be the kind of husband to multiple women that you have been to your wives Joe. You all are an inspiration… you help me understand my ancestry… you exemplify how people should live and treat one another and are an example I bring up with my friends and neighbors… even my hometeacher this last Sunday as he saw my half read copy of Love Times three on the coffe table.

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