Sharing Life with a Brain Tumor
For eight years, I lived with a malignant brain tumor. I shared my life and my marriage with the cancer.
The thing is: I didn’t have a brain tumor.
My late husband, Jim, was the one with the cancer. He was diagnosed with a Grade IV, Glioblastoma, GBM for short.
I shared him with the brain tumor
Our relationship, our life together, consisted of Jim, me, and the GBM. We were a threesome.
For years, the brain tumor defined our life decisions. Where we lived, how we lived, whether or not we had children, our career choices, they were all shaped by the cancer.
Even after Jim went into remission, it was still there, looming in the background.
Over the years, Jim experienced many side effects. Some were irreversible. The damage to his mind and body served as a constant reminder of the power the GBM had over him.
He also had regular MRIs, to catch the cancer early, if it ever came back. With each appointment, the GBM reminded me that it could return at anytime. And, if it wanted to, it could take Jim away. Forever.
The possibility haunted me.
I learned to live with this reality
I loved my husband. He was alive, and here with me. That’s all that mattered. I was grateful for every day I had with him. And I would make the most of it for as long as possible.
I was also determined to fight the GBM with everything I had. I would not let it take Jim away. Not without a fight. Helping him beat the cancer was the major priority in my life for eight years.
Ultimately, the cancer won. Jim passed away three years ago.
But, the one thing it was never able to touch was the love we shared. In fact, our love grew stronger as we lived with and fought against the cancer.
In the end, it was untouchable
It was our love that gave me the strength to be with Jim every step of the way, in the last months of his life. No matter how painful it was for me.
It was our love that sustained me as I watched the person I had shared twelve years of my life with take his last breath and leave this world.
It was our love that comforted Jim, surrounded him, and embraced him. His remaining time on this earth was filled with love and peace.
Three years after Jim’s death, I still feel the love we shared. It was a beautiful gift that enriched and deepened my life in ways that I never imagined. I am the person I am today because of that experience.
Our love will always be a part of me. In my heart.
And in that way, the GBM lost the fight.
Sharing a cancer journey with someone you love changes you. You’re not the same person ever again after going through an experience like that.
My perspective on the cancer journey is not that of a survivor. I’ve never had a terminal illness. I’ve never been seriously sick.
I’ve never had to face my own mortality. Or deal with the debilitating side effects of something as terrible as a malignant brain tumor.
My story, my perspective, is that of a cancer caregiver. I was the spouse of someone who had a brain tumor.
It was my job to help Jim fight the GBM. Help him live with it, and then help him die.
I was the one who lost my life partner to cancer; the one who was left behind when it was all over.
That is my experience, my perspective, and the story I share.
* Photo credit: Image from Flickr by Purple Sherbet Photography