A dear friend of ours lost his wife, also our dear friend, last year. She battled cancer, bravely, but ultimately lost the battle. She left behind, a relatively young, husband and young son. Her husband, I will call David (not his real name) was by her side every step of the way. He worked, took care of the home, their son and supported her with love and comforted her in every way he possibly could.
I’d visit often, bringing foods rich in antioxidants and/or known cancer killing ingredients and to give my love and support in any way needed. It was on these visits I would see the love and support David gave so selflessly in his movements and in his eyes. But I saw something else…a very worn out and broken man, another victim or casualty of the disease.
David would never have thought of himself as a casualty of the situation. But I did and still do. Yes, he is not the one who’s health was under attack by the despicable disease. But he felt helpless when he couldn’t help her with her pain, so he felt pain of a broken and powerless heart. He took care of her in ways no one wants to be faced with, physically, emotionally and with love. And while he wasn’t facing the possible end of his life, he was having to face the fear that he might (there was still hope that she would win the fight) be losing his wife, partner and best friend. How could he not be another casualty? Being a victim and/or casualty doesn’t just apply to the one with the disease, but these labels, in my opinion, should be used for all involved. While the one fighting the disease, in this case ended up passing away. David died a different death. The death of the family and life he had built up until that point.
I write this in the hopes that perhaps when people look at the spouse, partner, caregiver, family, etc of a person with a terminal illness, that they can see that they too have suffered. That the person with the illness is not the only casualty. That there are others who have suffered and who, at the end of the day, need to be commended for their efforts and love. But most importantly they need to be supported by their community, friends and family. In spite of old ideas and/or beliefs, the other casualties of illness, need to be allowed to grieve and/or make decisions for themselves that they feel are right…without judgement.