Watching your Partner with Cancer

My husband had cancer and went though 9 weeks of chemotherapy and I am going to shed some light on what this truly looks like.

This post is not to get sympathy it is to inform. When we got the news we were devastated but all the little things that came with it were such a surprise and I wondered why they were never talked about.

The diagnosis

In September 2017, my husband complained of a sore testicle, we joked as to the reason but after a couple of days of it not subsiding he went to emerge. They did an exam and said they thought it wasn't anything but would send him for an ultrasound. The next day he went for the ultrasound and following that the doctor said he was sure it was just an infection, gave him some antibiotics, but thought he best see a urologist in case. A few days later he saw the urologist and was told although it can't be confirmed until it is biopsied it was 99% likely that it was cancer and they would need to remove that testicle.


I hadn't gone with him for the appointment as my husband is a private man, so he called me following and then we met up as I was at work. When I got in the car we both broke down into tears. We went to Tim Hortons to chat and I still remember the moment we broke the sadness with laughter as he told me they asked him if he wanted prosthetic. Now that may not seem funny to you but me knowing my husband it was a funny thought to have been there when they asked. I was glad we could still laugh together despite the situation.

Surgery

In October 2017, he had surgery to remove the cancerous testicle. The surgery was just a day surgery and went well, however we didn't receive much information following it other then that we would have an appointment with the cancer centre once the results of the biopsy were back. We had no idea if more was required after the surgery or what any of it meant.


After waiting on pins and needles we received an appointment for the cancer centre in December.


At the appointment we were told they confirmed it was cancer, however with testicular cancer they do not do any other form of treatment after surgery unless it reoccurs. He was placed on a surveillance schedule to extend for the next 5 years.

The Return

September 2018, my husband received a call following his one of his surveillance appointments that there were some markers in his blood work and wanted him to go for a CT scan the next week.


Following the scan he was called to inform him that he had another tumour and that they need us to attend an appointment at the cancer centre which was within a week of the scan on a Thursday. At the appointment they showed us the CT scan (which was actually really interesting) which showed us the 2.5 inch tumour that had formed in his abdomen. They then informed us that he would need to start a fairly intense chemotherapy for 9 weeks and they would like to start it on Monday.

Chemotherapy, Being a Caregiver

So the Monday my husband started his 9 weeks of chemotherapy which included 3 hrs or IV chemotherapy drugs every day on weeks 1, 4 and 7 and one day of 4hrs of IV chemotherapy on weeks 2, 3, 5, 6, 8 and 9. The first day I went with him and it was a lot of waiting and seemed relatively easy. He felt ok following and so I went back to work the next day and he took himself.


By the Thursday things had change, he could not do much but sleep and he struggled with extreme nausea despite the medication they pre-emptively gave to combat that. It was so bad that on Friday I had to take him in for his treatment because he couldn't drive. It took him 10 min to be able to overcome the nausea to get out of the car. I ensured he told the nurse about it and they provided additional medication that was in fact an anti-psychotic medication that has a side effect that it treated nausea. The medication helped but it also made him almost loose time because he was so out of it.


That weekend his arm where he was receiving the IV swelled up, after going to emerge they found that his arm was infected and had to start IV antibiotics due to his reduce immune system. They then decided to put in a pick line.


The next week he started to struggle to climb more than a couple stairs without being out of breath. When he went in that week for his treatment he informed the doctor. They did a chest x-ray and found that the chemotherapy had caused a side effect of blood cots in both his lungs. He was send home with few days of injectable blood thinners and then pills following that. My husband is not the best with needles so I ended up having to inject him with the blood thinners (I am not a medical professional or in the medical field at all).


Once the blood thinners took affect he started being able to breath easier. However his pick line would get clogged on a regular bases and he would spend hours in emerge getting it flushed.


Following week 4 they found that his white blood cells were not returning at a rate they should so he was prescribed a medication to remedy this side effect. This medication was an injectable as well and required a daily injection for 10 days following the full week of treatment. Which once again I was in charge of completing the injection for my husband.


Aside from the above for the 9 weeks I watched my husband, my rock, the person who always made me feel secure be completely down and out. He slept a minimum of 20hrs a day and when he wasn't asleep he wasn't doing much.


That may not sound bad however our girls at the time were 2 and 5 years old and they were not able to cuddle with him because his sweat could contain the chemotherapy drugs. At that age the only solace they could offer each other was an embrace and they were unable to do that it was heartbreak. I tried to be there for both sides but I know it wasn't always what they needed.


He had to use the downstairs bathroom so that if there was any spray (which could contain the chemotherapy), our girls and I would not come in contact with it. We also had to wash his clothes separately and twice to ensure to remove the chemotherapy that may be in them from sweat.


I at the time was still working full time, being a mom to our girls and trying to support my husband whenever he needed. It was exhausting but we did make it through and he now has finished 3 years of his 10 years of surveillance required following the second tumour. In fact we all weathered the storm in the best way we could and we worked as a team to get to the other side together. One thing we did end up incorporating into that time was a family nap time on weekends. My youngest still needed a mid-day nap, my husband was already napping most of the time and I was exhausted so my 5 year old was gracious and would agree to also lay down so we could all rest. Even at 5 years old she saw how she could help.


The purpose of this information was to shed a light on the little things that cancer causes to a family that make things more difficult on top of the general treatment. The emotional toll it takes on the whole family as well as the physical toll on the person with cancer.