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Co-Survivor 2 (And Counting)

Recently, I attended a Susan G. Komen luncheon with my wife, Nayna. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you will know that she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, and underwent a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. She continues Tamoxifen treatment. The good news is that all test have shown her to be cancer free!

At the luncheon, my wife wore a name tag with her name and "Survivor 2." Other people in the room had name tags with "Survivor" and a number but some had "Co-Survivor" and a number. The event had started earlier in the morning and I only attended the luncheon. As a result, I did not get a name tag. But I learned that I was a "Co-Survivor 2." I am a Co-Survivor for 2 years of my wife's breast cancer.

Being diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer was a life altering experience for my wife. It was for me too.

My wife has told me several times that I have become a better person because of the experience. I always told her "no no," but actually, I have to agree with her. I have become a better person.

Cancer really stops you in your tracks. We all have to worry about business, finances, school, etc. But with cancer you have to suddenly worry about living. My family had to deal with the real thought of losing my wife. I have always tried hard at work and to save money. Don't get me wrong, money is a very good thing to have. It helps to be able to afford medical treatment -- which can be very expensive, even with insurance. But we often hear about rich celebrities or politicians who suffer and die from cancer and other diseases. It is not a matter of money. These people have access to and can afford the best medical treatment in the world. But with cancer, there is a big unknown. You can only seek the best treatment possible and hope for the best.

Hope and pray. I don't think I ever really appreciated prayer until my wife's cancer. I prayed a lot. Worried, studied, prayed, and worked out. Our family and friends offered their prayers. But even strangers, when they saw my wife with no hair and wearing a scarf or hat, would come up and pray for her. It was amazing.

And it helped.

I discussed with my wife how I seemed to be a better person as a result of her cancer. She always tells people how I was always there for her and tried my best to help her through the grueling, frightening, and confusing medical process. To me, that is what any spouse would do (although I learned that some spouses cannot handle it and even leave their loved one when the diagnosis is made). Trying my best was nothing special. My wife would have done more for me.

But as a result of the process I did change. I have become more patient, perhaps because cancer puts things in a different perspective. Things that seemed big before cancer don't seem quite as big now. I have also become more sympathetic for people who are suffering from illnesses or diseases, such as cancer.

I have written this before and it may sound strange. My second son bought a Toyota Tacoma. It was a great truck. Suddenly, we noticed lots of Tacomas on the road. They seemed to be everywhere. Because our son had one, we noticed them.

After my wife was diagnosed with cancer, we suddenly noticed other women with breast cancer in particular, and people with cancer in general. It was like seeing Tacomas on the road. Of course, the people were always there, we just didn't notice or perhaps did not want to notice. But with my wife's cancer, we discovered many people who had suffered from breast cancer and others who were currently under treatment.

I have to say that I think we did not want to think about cancer because we were afraid that thinking about it would make it happen. Ignoring cancer, to the extent possible, was our superstitious way of warding it off. You can't ignore it when it is in your own family, and of course, you shouldn't ignore it anyway.

I can't tell you how much I suffered for my wife, while at the same time trying to be strong for my children, mother, and extended family. Like I said, I worried all the time, then I tried to research all the time (while worrying), while also keeping up with work. In desperation, I turned to working out more as a way to escape. When I could not take worrying or researching any more, I would lift weights, ride a stationary bike, walk on a treadmill, all while still teaching and practicing Karate. Thank goodness for my sons who exercised me. Otherwise, I think I would have stressed myself to death. And thank goodness for our extended family and friends who all pitched in to help and just be there for us.

So as a result of seeing what my wife went through, and what I went through trying to help her, as well as what our family and friends went through, I am much more sympathetic when I hear that someone or their loved one is ill or suffering from a disease. I can feel for them, not just intellectually acknowledge their situation.

I feel bad that it took something like my wife's breast cancer to make me a better person. That is why I have taken so long to write about it. I feel that we should always try our best and work on our character. But I have to say that life tests us and in the process we learn and change. I am better because of something that happened to my wife.

I am a Co-Survivor 2. I hope to see that number grow larger and larger. And I hope the same for all Survivors and other Co-Survivors.

And for the husbands, boyfriends, sons, and fathers out there, when I have gone to breast cancer events with my wife, there are too few men! Breast cancer does not only affect women. Men can get it too. But for those of us with wives, mothers, daughters, loved ones and friends with breast cancer, we have to be there for them.

Men should not feel awkward going to a breast cancer event. Take it from me, Survivors, Co-Survivors, and the great people who work in organizations such as the Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the American Cancer Society, are the nicest people you could meet. You don't catch breast cancer by going to these events, you catch humanity.

For everyone who has asked, my wife is doing great! And I'm not as stressed out anymore, but still work out. I just got a Total Gym 1700, but that's another topic.

And for anyone out there with cancer or any other disease or illness, my prayers are with you.


Charles C. Goodin