When my husband, Vince, a research physicist was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, we were instantly yanked out of our ordered, information driven, meaningful lives into pure chaos – no logic, minimal information, total disorientation.
Thirteen months after his diagnosis, we had experienced two bone marrow transplants, early retirement, divestiture of 80k of our possessions, and a move to Madison to be close to our son and to a primary researcher on Vince’s clinical trial. Vince’s cancer turned our world inside out. He was a famous researcher at the top of his career. I let a lucrative management consulting business go in addition to University teaching to focus on keeping Vince alive. Remission happened. Life resumed. Vince put down physics, took up watercolor painting, and became the Italian Workman’s Club historian and steward of his Italian culture and heritage. He learned Italian, and was assembling the paperwork to become a dual citizen.
We found Gilda’s club amidst the anger, depression, and grief of Vince’s cancer reappearing. The support groups enabled us to leave the rage at the club and go home and simply love each other. They saved our lives – they enabled us to remember how to live our lives while we were so focused on trying to save Vince’s life. Our participation in the various services and programs provided by Gilda’s enriched our living.
One event stands out as life changing for our family. Vince’s cancer was throwing off amyloids, rogue proteins, that were lodging in his heart. He had to keep careful track of his weight several times a day and monitor his food intake to manage the fluid that would collect around his heart. Son Dave, who had spent every day since our move to Madison walking his Dad and working on his strength, was furious as he believed his Dad was not taking the management regimen seriously enough. Daughter, Lara had been living and working overseas for the past thirteen years. From her great distance, she could only decide that the cardiologist was simply not doing his job and was furious. Two of the support group leaders at Gilda’s went out of their way to provide time, space and facilitation during their Christmas vacation for a family meeting that enabled our family to express their feelings openly and honestly to each other. Both Dave and Lara could articulate, and deposit, their anger. I got to break down and cry for the first time since Vince was diagnosed five years earlier. I will never forget that day. Gilda’s saved our family life.
Vince died two and a half months after that family meeting. In the midst of our awful grief, we could still look at each other and say, “no regrets”. It has been nine years. I am moving through life. My heart is still broken. I miss him every minute of every hour of every day.
Dealing with cancer in your family? Learn more about how to get started with your free membership at Gilda’s Club. Click here for next steps.