Mid-Life Adults and Cancer

Don woke up to the sound of his two young children playing together downstairs in the kitchen. Their voices drowned out that of his wife’s, Karen’s, but he knew she was with them. Although he felt bad that pain from his stomach cancer made him unable to do the things he used to with his kids, he and his wife had figured out things he could do. He knew that in a few more minutes, both children would be in the room waiting for their special good-bye from Dad. When they returned from school, their first stop would be his room, to show him any papers from school. These were activities he could do, tired or not.

During the day, Don practiced the rhythmic breathing he had learned to do in the hospital. Not quite meditation, but something like it he was told. The slow breathing made him feel that every minute alive was precious.

The phone rang and he rolled over in bed to grab it. “Hello?”

“Hey, buddy. How are you today?”

It was Robbie. He had met Robbie at a support group for cancer patients sponsored by the hospital. After the eight session group, he and several of the members continued to check in with each other, usually every few days. He liked making the calls as much as receiving them. He had persuaded Karen to try a support group for partners of spouses with cancer and now she, too, wouldn’t miss a week.

These were such simple lessons about friendship and support, but without his experience with cancer, he and Karen might never have realized that community makes the unbearable bearable.

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