This is the final instalment of my husband Pete’s amazing blog about his perspective during my cancer diagnosis. Again, thank you for all the amazing feedback. It is so lovely to know how well received it has been and how it may be helping other partners through what is always a hard and challenging time.
While clearly some hard and sad times, it really has not been a totally negative experience for me. As a couple we are exceptionally strong. I always loved Sam a lot (to this day Sam saying yes was the best sale I ever did… and probably the most over promised) but the way she handled breast cancer (for a third time) made me realise how much of an amazing and strong person she is (oh and the new bigger tits are great!) As a family we are stronger than ever. It sometimes takes an event to make you realise why you exist, why you work. This did that. For sure. Unexpectedly it also helped me understand what I don’t care about. What’s not important. The ‘stresses’ I had that I could simply let go of. I was surprised how many there were.
I certainly don’t fear more lumps. I certainly don’t look into the future with fear. How could I do so for something that made my marriage even stronger. How could I with a wife who is 3 – 0 up versus cancer.
I am not about to turn this into ‘Pedro’s guide to handling hard events’. I am not in any way qualified to. However, as its my second time I will critique myself. Round Two had seen me crumble. I had boozed too much to ‘cope’. I had been physically present but emotionally absent. I had needed to escape and used day long drinking sessions to do so. This time I didn’t. I was emotionally more supportive. I realised I couldn’t fix anything but I could support Sam by not trying to. I could help normality prevail. I could keep it together. I could be there for Lottie.
Less than 0.00000000000001% of our wedding day was planned by me and the actual day was more about family, friends and the forthcoming honeymoon. Certainly the ‘in sickness and in health’ part is low down my list of things I remember, but it’s become to be so very true. I genuinely love every day of life. I am proud to be part of Team Sam and see everything we have been through as part of a long and important journey. Recently we celebrated five years of marriage and while that has included two breast cancer occurrences, it has been great. We have had way more ups than downs. Way more good days than bad days.
Oh and the tax man fined me. One of the things he picked up and fined me over was a five hundred pound cash donation the year before it was declared but not accompanied by a valid receipt. The donation was at an auction Sam had set up to raise money for Breast Cancer UK when she did the Moonwalk in 2012 (three weeks before diagnosis No.2) Oh the irony. Lucky for me I simply don’t care about things like this anymore.
Following on from my hubby Pete’s first blog last week, here is the second instalment. For anyone who hasn’t yet read the first, please feel free to scroll down below this one and you will find Part 1! We have had such a fantastic response to this addition to SamSpace and I am so unbelievably proud that Pete has been brave enough to write this (and let me share it with everyone!) The third and last part will be posted next Thursday but please forward to anyone you may think will find it helpful. It is so important that the men, partners and support networks, in these situations, are given their own support and solidarity. Enjoy.
‘It’s cancer’ is hard enough when you are sitting next to a loved one. It really is. It puts a halt to everything. Being thousands of miles away was testing to say the least. It was about 9am New York time and the first flight I could get home was 7pm. To this day I don’t know what I did for the 10 hours. There was whisky and a conversation with Noel Gallagher in the BA lounge – I remember that bit but the rest is a blur. We have been lucky. We have phenomenal friends and family supporting us. I don’t have time to mention them all, but that day, while I was helping myself to scotch and trying to find out who Sally was and what she was waiting for, Sam’s dad (affectionately named ‘pops’ since grandkids arrived) was my stand in. He had accompanied Sam to the appointment. He was so calm and supportive that day. I always want all the facts. ALL of them. Was Mr. Kissin smiling? Was he nervous? Will the next appointment be Monday or Tuesday? When is the operation? As the person processing the news it’s impossible to have all the answers and Sam passed the phone to Pops who handled my interrogation with great calmness and understanding. I will always have great respect for him for that. I sometimes forget that he is discussing his darling first born daughter and is as distraught as me. Another man who would, I am sure, outrank me should ‘ze germans’ come again.
‘It’s simple – we are going to spend three days doing tests so that in five days we can tell you if its spread all over her body’. Oh great! Flipping awesome. This will be an easy five days. I doubt we will worry much at all……! Lucky for me Sam had a schedule and ‘worry time’, predictably, wasn’t in it. Moving from hospital to hospital / test to test. The biggest disagreement I remember (and I am sure my mind is just selecting the good parts!) was that Sam, who is always suspicious of her diet for causing cancer – which is strange as there are members of yet to be discovered Amazonian tribes who eat more fast food / unhealthy food than Sam – wouldn’t consider a Big Mac in between appointments!
The next few days, while we waited for results, were a blur; Whisky induced sleep. An understanding (new) boss. Support from friends and family. Food, my god, food. Sam and her friends cook in the face of adversity. I honestly believe that, five months on, we have donated meals still in the freezer. I had to start asking guests not to bring food as it was blocking access to the kitchen (when Sam came out of hospital it changed to chocolate biscuits – literally hundreds of packets donated by guests). Lottie was in heaven!
The very personal and hard decision to ‘carry one as normal’ is one of those ‘easier said than done’ calls you make. We discussed it, and with hindsight, knew it was the best thing to do. You feel guilt throughout, but, you carry on – yes Mr. Churchill, we will keep buggering on. Calling the Mount Alvernia hospital to see if Sam had awoken from her double mastectomy ten mins before addressing a thousand bankers at the Natural History Museum will always be a strange memory from this bizarre and foggy few days of my life. Spending the days trying to work at a new job and helping Lottie have her normal life while mummy fixed her ‘ouch’ (again heavily supported by family and friends) was not easy. Then nights sat next to Sam’s hospital bed. Yet, strangely (and only when writing this blog did I realise this) I look back with fond memories.
Sam would sleep while I would watch soap operas and eat the endless supply of Maltesa’s. Daily she got stronger. One day she even asked me to bring in Mac Donald’s! Clearly, she still blames the drugs!
The excess baggage that Sam had with her when leaving the hospital. Who needs two wheelchairs to leave a hospital?!
Having Sam home brought its own set of sleepless nights (well sleeping on a sofa after a days work is never going to be the best nights sleep) but I honestly felt Team Reynolds had fought back again and though the waiting and being away had proved challenging, I knew we had over come another one of life’s boulders by finding a way around it rather than chipping away at it.
Over the next three weeks I want to post three blogs written by my darling hubby Pete. He wasn’t around when I had BC the first time, but he has been around for the last two diagnosis and from a man, and a partners point of view, I thought it really important that he had a chance to express his thoughts and feelings. I was so chuffed when he offered to write something. My most recent blog for Beauty Despite Cancer was about the importance of the support network around us during illness, so what better way to compliment this by my own husbands story.
The first part is below. Enjoy!
Christmas had been fantastic. Lottie was three and now old enough to enjoy it. I was on gardening leave. Sam was on awesome form. As a family we love Christmas. We really do. Power cuts meant that we had ended up hosting Christmas day for twelve people with only a few hours’ notice. This, a day after hosting seventy people for Christmas Eve drinks in the dark at our home, Street Farm.
A weeks sailing and relaxing in Antigua was the perfect end to a perfect festive break. Sam, Lottie and I were (and still are!) a fantastically close and happy little family.
Sitting in the airport sharing an apple juice with Lottie I expected to return to England with a bump…. cold and rainy, a delayed garden project, a new job and a tax investigation were all on my ‘to do list’ for my arrival. Less than ten days later that list would all seem so damn unimportant.
They always say that you remember exactly what you are doing when big events happen. I agree with this and can remember exactly where I was when, for example, when Princess Diana died, where I was and who I was with when England won the Rugby world cup, the exact beer I had before asking Sam to marry me. This is no different. Four days into my new job I was on my first contract negotiation with a European Bank (that I won’t mention but remember clearly and will never forget). I would like to think that this part of my job is something people would recognise as a strength and I was, no doubt, looking to show how talented the new boss was. I missed a call from Sam. Then another. Then a ‘call me ASAP’ text. OK it’s time to mute my line and see what’s up – I’m going to be pissed if it’s a ‘can you pick up some milk at Waterloo’ call.
It wasn’t. It was the earth shattering, gut wrenching and all too familiar – ‘they found a lump call’. They think it could be cancerous. Oh bollocks!
It’s always been a family joke how my grandmother was more senior than my grandfather in the Second World War. Captain Marjory Reynolds was always calm, organised and matter of fact. Lieutenant Mike Reynolds was more gung-ho, wanted to go ‘over the top’ three days before any one asked and went on to win the Military Cross for bravery behind enemy lines as part of the Long Range Desert Patrol – a regiment that was to become the SAS. While I doubt I would have had the level of bravery he had I have always found Sam and I similar. In the face of a challenge she is very matter of fact. She looks at the facts. She makes a plan. ‘It’s nothing until it’s something’ must have been mentioned three hundred times. I however fall into action mode and want to fix things. That afternoon. I want to get Mr. Kissing (the surgeon who is now firmly ‘Mark’ and a family friend) that afternoon and demand action. NOTHING he is doing right now is important. NOTHING. I have to be doing something. We need to go over the top NOW!
I remember (a few days later) leaving an appointment with Sam. Mr Kissin had asked her to book a scan (don’t ask me the type, there are simply too many to list) on the Monday so he could see her on Monday afternoon. The exceptionally nice lady on reception (who had the misfortune of having to book the scans that day) mentioned that the next slot was on the following Wednesday and I nearly killed her. I don’t know who was more embarrassed – Sam or the lady (or maybe me now). I put this down to my ‘action mode’. Something I have come to realise I do when I have nothing else to offer. I am out of control. I can’t fix anything.
Back to the day – Sam brings back normality. She is matter of fact. It nothing until it’s something’. Next week we will know. Tomorrow we have dinner with friends – yay, how exciting. Life is normal until then. Cancel next week’s New York trip? Why? You assume something is wrong?
We make a plan. I agree with everything and promise to get home ASAP. My life freezes. While trying to pretend I care about payment terms, cancelation periods and liability my mind goes on a destructive journey (I kind of think some people have to do this to kick off the positive thinking). I am going to have to take Lottie to her first day of school on her own. Who the HELL is going to explain periods to her – I basically don’t know what they are! What age can she start wearing make-up? Shit Sam, I need you to beat this once again. For Lottie’s sake!
It’s not humanly possible for me to wait when I am nervous. Waiting for a train wouldn’t work so I hailed a black cab and headed home. I remember smiling as I remember doing exactly the same when Sam went into labour to have Lottie – and also the second time Sam was diagnosed (although not so happy at that memory). Whatever happened I felt we were a strong team.
The second instalment, ‘The Following Days’, will be published same day next week!……….
Over the course of all my cancer experiences I kept a diary. These are the blogs I have written from the thoughts and feelings I recorded there. xx