When I first read the magazine article about the online pub I had set up for fellow members of widowed and young, I was really pleased with the overall article, but a couple of phrases made me cringe. Lines like "the doctor told us, gravely" were the language of the freelance writer, and not something I would ever say. I understood it was right for the audience, but here I want to smash through some of the cliches and be more honest about my experience.
When the surgeon told us that they had found cancer, they weren't particularly grave about it. They were serious, for sure, but positive. They talked about action. They would be pursuing a curative pathway, it would be aggressive but they were aiming for him to make a full recovery. In September 2017 when we heard the diagnosis, there was absolutely no thought in our mind that the outcome would be anything other than recovery.
It took a few days to share the news with loved ones. We needed a bit of time to sit with it ourselves, and then my first demonstration of love in our new world was to take on the responsibility to make the calls. From the kitchen I called, in turn, each of the family and friends that Chris wanted to tell in person, broke the news, then went into the living room, handed the phone to him where he had a chat about the weather, the football or work - anything except the diagnosis.
My next step was to set up a facebook group: Chris Updates - Friends and Family, just over a week after we saw the surgeon. In my mind this was going to be the record of our victory, our story of his diagnosis, treatment and recovery that we could celebrate in the future. The posts were very carefully drafted by the two of us, to strike the right tone of this being serious but surmountable, with just the right amount of sarcasm and humour. This approach was a pattern that we followed throughout his illness, and I sometimes wonder whether it was a form of denial and who exactly we were trying to protect?
"I thought this was the quickest way to share updates following Chris’ recent diagnosis - calling you all is too hard and takes too long!!
Hoping that it will be a channel for good news and a full recovery soon!"
"At the moment we know very little, but we know the medical team are positive and telling us that they are looking for a treatment plan to beat this."
See, no "doctors told us gravely" to see here!