Life when your partner has cancer

This particular post is a long time coming. I haven’t felt prepared to be able to speak to it in an eloquent way that is easy to understand, because none of what I watched Kyle go through or what we went through together during that time was easy. It was difficult, demanding, gut wrenching, physically and mentally painful, and more. Through it all, though, Kyle maintained his Kyle-ness. His wit, his sense of humor, his need for physical challenges, his work ethic, his grace, and his love for life. It was a hell of a thing to watch someone bear, but continue to smile through. Kyle’s story with cancer is not my story to tell, it is only his. I can only relay my experiences as his partner during this phase of his life and how this was a new and unexpected experience for me as well.

When we first found out Hodgkins Lymphoma was a possibility, it was terrifying. I remember he called me crying and I turned around from where I was going and drove straight to his apartment. It was a major shock. Nothing had been confirmed, but that’s what was suspected. We went in for the biopsy and a handful of days later, got the call that the results had come back negative. We drowned in the relief we felt. We had dealt with a major scare and had avoided it. Fast forward a few more weeks and we’re out camping with friends, celebrating good health and the beginning of summer 2017. Another swollen lymph node seemed to have popped up overnight and he just knew. He pulled me aside, crying, and just knew. What can you do when someone you adore more than life itself is having this feeling of intuition that they don’t want to be having? All I could think to do was hug him and say nothing. I felt like silent comfort was the only thing I had to offer that would maybe provide any solace.

A few weeks later and we’re confirmed. Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. A cancer we thought Kyle was off the hook for. Our hearts felt like dumbbells once again, but this time even heavier as we were no longer drowning in relief, but in despair. Chemotherapy it was. As I lived with Kyle through this physical transformation, it took me looking at past photos to notice the toll it had really taken on him. When you see someone every single day, sometimes the little changes go unnoticed until the point that they all add up. He may have looked a little smaller, a little more pale, more fatigue in his eyes..but his spirit never wavered.

There were times when I would sit with him during his chemo sessions and he would talk about what we should do after. I remember always looking at him with this dumbfounded look on my face wondering how he would have the energy to go rock climb or get lunch or walk the dog. This same conversation happened after almost every single round of chemo, despite the physical toll as the sessions continued on. I would do my best to indulge him, but at the same time, reminding him not to push it.

As a partner, it was the hardest thing being that person who constantly “reminded” them they were sick. Reminded them that they probably shouldn’t push themselves as hard they normally would. That was probably one of the most difficult parts about living with your partner when they have cancer. You want to always be a source of positivity and light, but when you sort of become a caretaker, that’s not always possible. You want what’s best for them without stifling them.

Another aspect of being the partner is having so many people ask you how he is doing on a daily basis. This all came from such a caring place, of course, but time after time, it got so daunting and anxiety-inducing because those people didn’t want to bother Kyle with the inundation of questions. Which again, is understandable and respectful, but it became totally consuming when Kyle and I were just trying to go about our lives as best we could. At the end of the day, I so sincerely appreciate each and every person who checked in with us because it meant people cared and during a time like this, that’s all you can ask for. Support. Kindness. Respect.

I was, and still am, fortunate enough to be working at a job where my boss was 110% understanding and let me take every other Friday off to work from the hospital so I could attend Kyle’s chemo sessions. I can’t imagine being in a relationship with someone and not being able to go with them to something like that. Not having a flexible enough job or an understanding enough supervisor. That is unimaginable to me and I’m not totally sure how I would have handled it. If you know me, you know I can be a very forward person because I consider myself to be fiercely loyal to those that I love and I’m afraid some of that would have come out had I not been able to be there in support. That sounds dramatic when I type it out, but it’s the honest to God truth.

There is so much I could write about this topic and the experience I personally had, but as mentioned before, this really is Kyle’s story to tell. I could not be more proud of how he handled the entire situation and the strength and resilience he has as a human being. I genuinely hope anyone reading this is lucky enough to know someone like Kyle. They bring the light into this life that helps the rest of us to flourish, regardless of what they might be experiencing.

Until next time,

xoxo, H

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