man touching his bladder while on the phone with his wife

What Do I Tell My Wife?

Last updated: August 2019

I’ve never been good at lying to my beautiful wife Sharon. Looking back, I recognize that changed a little with the diagnosis of bladder cancer. There were times during that ordeal when I was less forthcoming with her than would have been previously possible. There were a couple of primary reasons for that change.

I would convince myself by clinging to the positive

The first reason was the thought of the pain I would see in those lovely green eyes at what I had to say. That made it easier to not say it. I’d convince myself that I wasn’t “not telling,” her. I’d just wait until I was sure or could get more information. That sort of segues into the second reason I could more easily paint a false picture. I would actually convince myself, at least for the duration of the lie, that I believed what I was saying. I would grasp at and overplay any positive while trivializing any negative.

The news wasn't good

My doctor was out of the office the week following the Transurethral Biopsy. The following weekend was a three-day holiday, and I’d hoped to enjoy it without dreading the news to come the following Tuesday. I called the clinic that Friday and asked for the results. A lady said she would check, then put me on hold. Several minutes later she came back on the line and told me I’d have to speak to the doctor. I was pretty sure that meant bad news. Surely, she would alleviate unnecessary fear on my part if the news had been good. If I still had doubts, she quickly dispelled them when she moved my next appointment up two days. I already had an appointment scheduled for the following Thursday. She was insistent on moving it up to the first day they would be open. Whatever they found apparently needed urgent attention.

I knew I had cancer

After that call, I knew I had cancer. There was no doubt in my mind. What I told Sharon was that I didn’t know anything and that I’d managed to move my appointment moved up to Tuesday. That was technically correct. I had been given no details of the biopsy, and the appointment had been moved up. I didn’t tell Sharon I’d requested that, I just sort of implied it.

She was cutting me some slack

I can still see the look on Sharon’s face. There was at least a hint of skepticism. Thinking about it now, there may have been a third reason for the change in my ability to tell less than the complete truth. Mrs. Sharon may have been cutting me some slack. I don’t think she was pushing back as hard as she previously would have. Maybe she didn’t want to stress me with the push-back, or maybe she was as willing to accept the spin as I was.

I wanted to go to my appointment alone

The following Tuesday, my fears were confirmed. I’d worked hard to talk Sharon out of going with me for this appointment. Fortunately, outside forces at her work helped me with this. The real reason I didn’t want her there was because I was pretty sure what I was going to be told. I thought very hard about where I wanted to be when she got the news. We had an hour-and-a-half drive home from the doctor’s office in Shreveport. The thought of that long drive, just the two of us, immediately after getting the news I was expecting, was terrifying. That was why I worked so hard to get her to not go.

She insisted that I call her right after the appointment and before I started home. I’d made up my mind that if the news was very bad, I’d wait until I got home. The news was bad. I had cancer, it was aggressive, and it would not respond to chemotherapy or radiation. My only hope was to remove my bladder and hope the disease had not spread to other tissue.

I made her promise not to worry

I went ahead had made the call, though I put so much spin on it that it should have caused a temporal distortion. I told her I wasn’t going to need chemo or radiation, and that they would surgically remove a tumor they’d found. I assured her there was a very good chance that in a few months, I’d be back to almost normal. That last part was true. If the cancer hadn’t spread, then I would be almost back to normal. I begged off further explanation claiming to be tired, and that it was a bit complicated. I promised her I would explain everything when I got home. I made her promise to not worry, then headed for home.

I tried to sound nonchalant

When I got home, I explained about the neo-bladder replacement. I tried to sound nonchalant, like it was no big deal. She did ask what would happen if it had escaped my bladder. I told her the doctor said we explore other options if that were the case. What he actually said was that we’d talk about what comes next. I was pretty sure that meant a hospice and getting my affairs in order, but I left her with the impression there were other treatments.

Did I do her a disservice?

Looking back, I can see those distortions (lies) were for my benefit as much as hers. I had accepted my condition intellectually, but not emotionally. Sharing my deepest fears with Sharon would have forced me emotionally face them myself. Also, looking back, I wonder if I did her a disservice. She loves me as much as I love her. She has been my source of strength as much as I’ve been hers. If I had opened up to her, shared those fears, she could have helped me cope with them. Instead I suppressed them, which created its own insidious stress. I didn’t give her the opportunity to support me the way I know she wanted to. My decision had been based on my weakness, not hers.

I got lucky

Fortunately, my optimist portrayal turned out to be largely true. That doesn’t make it any less a lie. It was what I lucked into, not what I reasonably expected. Not only did I survive the disease, but our relationship survived the deception. Things have changed now. If a similar situation were to arise again, I don’t think I could pull off the deception. I don’t think I’d try.

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