How Does One Hang On to Optimism and Joy?

Advanced breast cancer brings minimal blessings, but I found them when I searched for them. I'm speaking for myself here; your experience will differ because cancer and its care have many variations.

Connecting to gratitude despite challenges

Sometimes, it was all too easy to get bogged down in sadness, fear, and the downright hard work of being my wife's caregiver. How could I possibly muster up any gratitude for anything? Not only did cancer rob my beloved of her life, but it also sucked my soul dry. How does one hang on to optimism and joy when dealing with a monster like advanced breast cancer?

Advanced breast cancer was like battling the Hydra

Lynette and I spent 5 years battling the Hydra in its swamp. Just as we sliced off 1 of its heads, 2 more grew back in its place. The fight seemed impossible, and I guess it was, actually. We can't all be Hercules and Daedalus. Lynette and I certainly put our all into it, and we gave it a good beating, but in the end, cancer won. We weren't alone in this fight, however. Many people helped and supported us.

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Look for the helpers

The biggest lesson I learned through it all was to "look for the helpers," as Mister Rogers famously said. Blessed with a huge circle of friends, people stepped up to the plate when we needed them. Whether it was through Meal Train, Go Fund Me, gift cards, and even bottles of wine delivered to our door, our greatest blessing was our friends.

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Our incredible healthcare team

We also had an amazing team of doctors, nurses, and techs who did their very best to care for my wife. We never had a bad experience with them.

From the day she received her breast cancer diagnosis, they pulled for us, showing kindness and compassion every step of the way while putting their education, experience, and professionalism entirely at our disposal. I can't say enough praise about them and our local medical and cancer centers.

Support from estranged family

Estranged family members that we hadn't seen in years came around, too, which was a big deal, because for 20 years, they had a massive problem with our being a same-sex couple.

My wife's kids also showed up for her as much as they could since they're scattered all over North America. And although her family hasn't communicated with me since her passing a year and a half ago, I'm still thankful to them for all they did for her when she needed them most.

The lasting mark of advanced breast cancer

Now that I'm no longer a caregiver and learning how to live without Lynette, our friends remain. They help me in numerous ways that can't be repaid. If my posts sometimes sound harsh, you need to know that my gratitude for my support system is immense. I can't imagine going through the past 7 years as a caregiver without the love and support of our friends.

I hope you're surrounded by people who love you. Sometimes, it's the only lifeline we have.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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