Cancer - Courage and Love
Everyday we hear of people dealing with incredible sadness and loss and we wonder; how do they do it? Where do they find the courage the strength? We may even ask ourselves how we would cope under the circumstances. Sadly, we only become aware of the answer, when tragedy visits us and our own lives are thrown into turmoil.
When some one we love is diagnosed with a terminal cancer, life as we knew it changes forever. Suddenly we enter a new world, a world filled with helplessness, despair and fear of the unknown. We no longer walk aimlessly around shopping Malls; we walk the Hospital corridors and sit in chemotherapy waiting rooms and are shocked by the number of people afflicted by cancer. We can not help but wonder if one day we too may be a patient and we fear for our own mortality.
Sitting in a Chemotherapy ward is an experience not to be forgotten. Cancer has no respect for gender, age or wealth. There are people from every race, color and creed; rich, middle class and poor; and none of this makes the slightest difference. They are all united in their suffering, fellow human beings on the same sad journey.
One can not bear witness to the incredible courage of those who have cancer, without being deeply affected. My husband's courage in the face of his terminal mesothelioma cancer held me in awe and I decided to do everything within my power to help him.
I learned about the stages and symptoms of his disease; the pain he would experience and ways to bring it under control, so that I could work with his doctors, to achieve for him, the best possible quality of life for what ever time he was granted. It was incredibly hard to wake each day with the knowledge that my husband was dying; my anticipatory grief often overwhelmed me but somehow I managed to carry on. One day a lady said to me, "You are such a strong woman." and I wondered what had made her say that. I didn't feel strong, I felt like I was breaking.
I was relentless in my determination to ease Brian's burden and as my continued efforts to ease his pain, resulted in his improved quality of life, I lost my sense of helplessness and gained strength. There were many times however when the weight of my grief over came me and I would close my eyes and ask for the strength to carry on. At these times, I did not think of this as praying, but I have come to realize that I was, and that my prayers were answered.
Despite a prognosis of three to nine months, my husband survived for two years and was not bed bound until three short days prior to his death. My journey beside him as he traveled to the end of his life, has taught me many things, above all the true meaning of love and the strength of the human spirit.
Deep within ourselves there is strength and courage to sustain us in times of personal tragedy. I have come to realize that during my husband's illness, I was indeed strong. I may have staggered with the burden of my grief but I did manage to help my husband achieve a quality of life few thought possible considering the nature of his disease. And, thanks to the expertise and dedication of the Palliative Care Team, I was able to fulfill my promise to him that he would not die in hospital. His death at home was as loving, sharing and peaceful as anyone could wish for.
I have witnessed courage; that of my husband as he battled his disease and of my own as I stood beside him, determined to improve the quality of his life. The knowledge that I was successful in this has brought me much peace. My husband's illness and death have wounded me deeply yet I have emerged far stronger than ever before and gone on to achieve things I never thought possible.
My experience has taught me not to take life for granted and to live each day with thanks for the wonderful gift that it is. I have witnessed death; my awareness of the fragility of life, despite the strongest of wills strengthens my determination to grasp everything life offers me, with both hands.
Lorraine Kember is the author of "Lean on Me: Cancer through a Carer's Eyes", a powerfully moving and inspirational true story about her husband's courageous battle with mesothelioma and her emotional journey as she cares for him. This touching book includes helpful information on topics such as: cancer pain management, symptom control, and coping with grief. Diary excerpts and poems Lorraine penned along the way are interspersed throughout this book and further depict the depth of their love for each other, the sense of helplessness she experienced on his diagnosis, and her growing strength as she comes to realize that there is much she can do to improve the quality of his life. This book has been highly recommended by the Cancer Council, as well as numerous other organizations and doctors. To read more about this book or order it online, please visit her website http://www.cancerthroughacarerseyes.jkwh.com
Lorraine had sent us complimentary copies of her book, "Lean on Me: Cancer through a Carer's Eyes". Her books were donated to the National Library Board on 16 May 2006 so that cancer patients and their caregivers can borrow them from their nearby library branches in Singapore.