Tuesday, September 7, 2010

It Can Happen to Anybody...

Last week the news broke about Michael Douglas having throat cancer. He went on the David Letterman Show to share the fact that he is in a battle with the cancer dragon.

I don't usually buy People Magazine or any of the tabloid papers but I went to the store specifically to pick up the Sept. 13th issue of People. Featured on the front was Michael Douglas and inside was his story. As I read the interview that they did with him it was eerily familiar. A sore throat, a tumor at the base of his tongue, a biopsy, a stage 4 diagnosis, and the treatment...chemo and radiation. The only thing different was that Tim had surgery before beginning his chemo and radiation.

All I could think of when I read this story was that Michael Douglas and his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, don't know what they are in for. Doctors can tell you their version of what will take place but I can tell you that you just cannot imagine the impact on your life when cancer and the treatment to rid you of it, collide.

That said, I will admit that I was shocked when I read that Catherine Zeta-Jones said she could not stand the thought of watching her husband undergoing chemotherapy and radiation and losing his strength as he battles the disease.

"I know maybe I should be stronger, but emotionally I just don't want to see that," she said.

What??? SHE could not stand to see him lose his strength? SHE doesn't want to see that?
When I read that I could not think of a more selfish attitude to have. I know that for me, I would have been no other place than at Tim's side through the whole cancer experience. I have been to every doctor's appointment with him, every test, every treatment, every procedure. There were times that I felt criticized by some who didn't understand "why" I would go to great lengths to be there at every turn and some would ask, "Do you HAVE to be there for every appointment?" It doesn't matter to me what they thought. To me it speaks volumes about the love that we share -- that I would be there no matter what and that he would want me there. Tim and I are in this thing together and that is where every day of this journey has found us -- together.

Something that I have struggled with throughout Tim's cancer diagnosis and treatment is that as devastating as head and neck cancer is that there is not a lot of awareness about it.

I will admit that at times I felt resentful that it seems that breast cancer gets all the attention with pink ribbons, license plates, t-shirts, fund raisers and walk-a-thons, while head and neck cancer is barely recognized. Perhaps it is because it is seen as a preventable cancer to some degree although Tim is proof positive that lifestyle is not always the cause. Maybe the world sees throat/tongue cancer as a thing that you get because you choose to smoke or drink and therefore they are less sympathetic. I don't know the reasons but I would plead with people to remember that not everyone with cancer has it as a result of their lifestyle. It can happen to anybody.

In the People Magazine article it said that Catherine Zeta Jones was hit hard by the reality of his diagnosis. She said, "The one thing that struck me first is, "This doesn't happen to Michael Douglas."

Tim is not a celebrity but I remember thinking the same thing about Tim -- this doesn't happen to a healthy 51 year old, father of 6 who doesn't drink or smoke.

I am certainly not happy that Michael Douglas has throat cancer but it has crossed my mind that perhaps now that a celebrity has this ugly cancer that perhaps it will bring more attention to it because the reality is that it can happen to anybody.

I wish for Michael Douglas the same wonderful results that we have seen, the return to a full life with cancer being an ever distancing memory.


Dotti said...

Very well said and put, how dare she? That is not the kind of love I would wish for Michael Douglas, the son of the Ragman, born in Amsterdam NY.

The Hicks of Kentucky said...

Loretta I am right there with ya! I would have NEVER left my husband's side. I would have beeen at every appt! I would have been more of a reck not with him and being there to support him then if I was away trying to avoid seeing him sick.

I really look up to you and your family for the strength and faith you all had/have. You're an amazing wife and mother! And you're definitely one of my favorite people!

Don and Robin Cooper said...

I agree, you are one of my favorite people too! I wish Michael Douglas success with all his treatments. Tim is blessed to have a loving wife who was/is there every step of the way.

ionamin-W8FW8 said...

Loretta, for those of us who have been through it, we know that as hard as it is to helplessly watch your husband lose strength as a result of the treatments, there is no other place to be than at every appointment, treatment, procedure, offering support and love. Well said! I love the way you write.
--Diane J.