ASK COLETTE: “He Has Cancer, She’s Resentful”
Here, how to cope with a loved one’s illness – and ask for help without the guilt.
My husband has cancer and I can’t believe I am admitting to this in public, but I am so angry and resentful. I am scared all of the time, not that I will lose him, but that I will lose me. Please hear me out. I resent having to look after him – it’s exhausting and I feel so guilty. I take him to the doctor and chemo. I make his meals, and even bathe him. We can afford help but he doesn’t like the nurses. He insists I do everything myself. I am so overwhelmed and to top it off I have gained 30 pounds and I can’t lose it no matter what I do. I want to scream. Thankfully, he is getting better, but he still needs my help. Meanwhile I am getting worse. I love him but I want my life back. Am I selfish? What do I do? – Overwhelmed and Ashamed
Dear Overwhelmed and Ashamed,
You poor thing. You need a giant hug. Ouch. I get it. When my mother had cancer I went through a lot of the same feelings. Cancer is scary and very inconvenient. Our security is threatened, survival issues get triggered. The one you expect to be there for you now needs you all the time. You’re faced with the potential of everything changing, and you are powerless. Loss looms every time you open your eyes. You may not even be aware of these individual feelings, you just feel pulled in so many different directions, unsure of where your sense of safety lies. It’s all one big messy sludge of emotions.
Let’s start off by hearing AND believing – it’s NORMAL to be angry and feel guilty and be in denial about how you feel and how you think you should feel … it’s all part of the grieving process. That grieving process is about YOU! You don’t have enough help for your husband or YOURSELF!
Surrender to the fact you can’t do this by yourself … it’s okay to admit this. From where I sit, looks like you need a nurse for him and a nurse for you! Even if your husband won’t admit to needing a support system for himself, that doesn’t mean you don’t need or deserve your own.
And those dreaded pounds that make us feel lousy about ourselves, ON TOP of everything else! Yikes! I’m here to tell you it’s not about the cookies! Not all of it anyway!) Emotional eating plays a part but so does stress! When we have constant stress in our lives cortisol runs through our bodies making visceral fat. This is a primitive stress response since our bodies are built to protect us from the threat of a T-Rex and it doesn’t know the difference between exhaustion, fear and resentments. Your body doesn’t distinguish between your husband’s care and the nasty dinosaur wanting to eat you. Don’t add self-loathing to your list of ailments right now. Your extra pounds are not permanent and your health WILL get better, when you make it a priority.
Take some action, today. Reach out to his doctor’s office and see if they have a caregiver’s support group. Ask his family members and yours for some time off, even if it’s a couple of hours to go for a walk, run errands, take a nap or meet a friend for coffee. Get a nurse. He may not like it but you can’t afford not to get one—even if you just split the time. Explain to him that the nurse is for you and your needs and he may see it differently. Self-care is crucial now. Breathe … screaming is good, too. Get out of the house. See a movie. Get a massage! These are not one-time suggestions. Schedule them every week!
Good luck and good you!
Love always and forever,
The Invision Project
If you have a question you would like to ask Colette, write to her at [email protected]. All published questions and answers will be anonymous – we honor and protect your privacy. (Please, Colette respectfully asks that you do not request a reading as the anticipated response to your question.)