Cancer Survival vs. Family Responsibilities
I've been living with bladder cancer for well over a year now. Just like all other sufferers, I would like nothing more than for my cancer to go away and leave me alone forever. This, however, is not what cancer is known for, so it requires a lot of additional things for this to happen, which is where living with cancer can become very complicated. This is my experience of 'Cancer Survival vs Family Responsibilities'.
I've heard other sufferers mention feeling like a burden or not supported and understood by their family members, and it's something that I never thought would ever be mentioned by me. It's not that I feel like a burden, unsupported or misunderstood, but even my family, who are very loving, supportive, and until recently, very understanding, can make you feel like you're alone with this disease. The problem with living with cancer that is not in remission is that even on my best days, there is always a feeling that stays with me letting me know that it may be good today, but you are not free from potential doom! Outside I can look and sound completely in control, but inside I hide the feelings that my situation brings and wait for them to pass so not to put a downer on others.
Your family after awhile of living with you and cancer can start forgetting that you are a sufferer, particularly if, like me, you try your best to keep a positive outlook on things. I've had a few heavy demands put on me just recently by my immediate family that I feel is beyond what I should be doing, but I was reluctant to use my cancer because I didn't want them to think it was an excuse. What my family are looking for is an equal approach from all, including me. So it seems of late that unless I have tubes coming out of me or I'm receiving direct treatment, I am no different than them in what life brings to us all on a daily basis.
The mental pressure
In a way, I understand them completely, but living with cancer as I have done for over a year, it's not the physical side of me that needs the support and help. It's the mental pressure I go through every single day. Yes, I need to go to work like everybody else; I need to be a supportive husband, father and grandfather like everybody else, but all the time while I'm trying to keep up with my duties, I'm thinking of what I must be doing each day to keep my cancer from returning as it did after 6 months of intensive treatment post-diagnosis...so I have a dilemma!
Victim of my own positivity
All I want to do each day is drink my required amount of water and eat the correct and necessary amount of food and at the right times of the day. I want to rest my body when I feel tired and enjoy myself at the times when I'm able to do so. Unfortunately, my responsibilities that existed prior to diagnosis, which were plenty, still exist today, and even with all the love and will in the world, family and friends can still demand the same from you, in spite of your condition. I feel at times that I am a victim of my own positivity, which is what I demanded from everybody close to me upon learning that I had bladder cancer, because I wanted to use this positive energy to help me heal.
My outlook has changed
The problem with this approach, however, is that there is a price to pay, which I'm finding out right now. Gone are the days when I heard phrases that warmed my heart like, "Don't worry about work or money, we will support you; take as much time as you need to get better". They have been replaced by, "Well, we need you to start pulling your weight and doing your bit". What's lost on my wife and kids is that I can never truly return back to where I've come from. My outlook on the important things in life have changed and will never be the same again. I'm aware that I am the biggest provider of income into the family pot, but surviving this cancer is now at the top of my agenda. Unfortunately, life for my family who are not blighted by this disease goes on, and they also have needs that want to be met.
At times, you need to be selfish
I'm hoping my next visit to see if my bladder is clear of cancer is successful. Not because that's what all cancer sufferers want to hear, but because it will negate the demands that have been put on me recently. However, if the news is not a positive outcome, then changes to my approach with my family will have to take place. I was told early in my journey by a cancer survivor of multiple years that, at times, you need to be selfish in order to survive this disease...I will be keeping this in mind!