Three months prior to my wife Heather’s diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma, we had just celebrated the birth of our lovely daughter, Lily. When Heather began feeling ill on a regular basis, we took her to be examined by a doctor. After countless exams and tests, I was suddenly catapulted into being a caregiver for a cancer patient – certainly something I had no experience at. Our lives seemed to be turned upside down nearly overnight and everything seemed frantic and chaotic.
When we met with Heather’s doctor, he filled us in on treatment options for Heather. We could go to a local medical center that was reputable but had little experience in treating mesothelioma, or we could go to a local university hospital. Our third option was to take Heather to Boston to see Dr. David Sugarbaker, a specialist in the treatment of mesothelioma. We chose to go to Boston due to Dr. Sugarbaker’s extensive experience in treating patients who had diagnoses similar to Heather’s.
Over the next two months, our lives were hectic and seemingly very up in the air. I was still trying to adjust to being a caregiver for Heather while also trying to keep my job so we could pay the bills. Heather went through surgery, radiation treatments and chemotherapy treatments as time progressed. There were many times when it was unclear whether she would survive the cancer or not. A few times, I completely gave into anxiety, fear and exhaustion and I sank to the kitchen floor and cried. I was always careful to never let my wife see me in my weakest moments.
It has been seven years since Heather first received her mesothelioma diagnosis. Miraculously, she has beat the disease and is now in the process of returning back to normal life. I went on to go back to school and I even spoke at my class graduation. I know the strength and courage I had to muster during Heather’s illness gave me more resolve and more conviction that I can accomplish difficult things in my life. Heather and Lily were there to cheer me on as I spoke at my college graduation, and that was the greatest reward of all.