The male perspective of a cancer diagnosis
The male perspective of a cancer diagnosis
I was totally oblivious to the seriousness of my situation when I had a call from the hospital to come and see a specialist for a check-up. Admittedly I had been unwell for a long period prior to this, but I was informed that my issues were caused by swelling tonsils that needed to be removed quickly. Once this was done I would be able to sleep better and my body would start sorting itself out.
With my tonsils and adenoids removed, I could breathe, smell, and sleep better, so after a week I had returned to work! My wife was shocked when I told her about the call, but I thought that the NHS was doing a wonderful job. Although I did feel it might be overkill, for a routine tonsil operation!
On the day itself, my wife said that she would like to come with me. Like a typical male, I said “no need,” but she insisted. When we arrived at the waiting room, I was treated like a VIP, I kept saying, “this is really good service, I don’t know why people complain!” I was then greeted by a very smart gentleman who introduced himself as a Senior Consultant. I was even more impressed!
He checked my throat, said everything was healing well, and then asked me how I was feeling. I said “much better thank you.” It was then he told me that after the operation, they felt the need to do a biopsy on my tonsils and discovered that I had stage 4 Mantle Cell Lymphoma. I needed him to tell me in basic terms what that was, and he explained it was incurable cancer. I asked what stage 4 meant. He replied, “there is no stage 5.”
My wife was crying and told me she knew that the phone call meant trouble; her sixth sense had told her to come to the appointment with me. I was blissfully innocent of my situation. I am not a very emotional person, and although immediate support was offered, I declined, and we made our way back to the tube.
My prognosis was poor, and if my chemo didn’t work, I might not live for more than 6 months. Even with treatment it was not known how long I would have. Nothing can prepare you for an event like that. But my thoughts had immediately turned to work. I wanted to know how long everything was going to take, so I could make plans. I was worried about money, bills etc, and how my boys were going to get on. Who was going to do all the man stuff?
Once the dust had settled, my wife asked why I was worrying about work, when I may not live much longer. This made sense, but all those things felt like they were in my DNA. Work is what we do! We provide for our families. My mind was zooming now. What would I become, if I couldn’t do the ‘man things’ in the family? Even if I lived for a bit, what would be my worth, if I couldn’t work, or earn any money?
Not only did I have to deal with my treatment, and the constant uncertainty of things, I was dealing with my emotions, and watching many things I enjoyed, get taken from me. I knew that I had to find a way of keeping my physical issues from my mental turmoil. Which in honesty was tough!
By a miracle, and the skills of my medical team, I am here, 6 years later. I still cannot get used to the fact that I am unable to work, and with the constant battering that my body has had, I even struggle physically to do basic DIY jobs around the house. My boys are now adults, but we have managed to make a new life.
It may be that I am a dinosaur, but I miss being a bread winner, and there are times when I feel I am not fulfilling my male roles, and feel guilty. Is this just a man thing?
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Hi Chris,I'm not a man but I can identify to some extent with what you've said here because I had always had the breadwinner role for myself and my daughter. The one thing I wanted, above all else, was to be able to return to work after I'd been through everything that needed to be done in terms of the cancer I had. I was off work for five months, during which time my job was held open for me and my employer was extremely supportive, as were all my colleagues. It turned out I had early stage womb cancer and I went back to work on a phased return, though it took much longer than the seven weeks allowed before I was anywhere near up to par. Work was my normality and I didn't want to have to let that go. xx
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