Something made me think, last night, about how different this entire cancer experience would have been had it happened twelve months ago.
A year ago I was living in England with my mother who was, and still is, suffering from both Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia while sustaining a very long distance relationship with my fiancee in Florida. A year ago the process had been started for assessments to be made of Mum which would, ultimately, lead to her being placed in full-time residential care. I was working at a job which I didn’t find particularly satisfying, which, in winter, meant leaving the house before dawn and returning after dark. The pay was poor (though in line with other companies) and I did the job basically because it was undemanding, as I had little energy left to do anything after long sequences of broken nights and energy sapping arguments with Mum, who was clearly slipping into the other world of dementia.
Had the cancer been identified at that point in my life then I would have found myself having to deal with it in a very different way to the way I can now. Now, I can rely upon my wife, had I been living with Mum then she, my mum, would have been relying on me and there would have been no way of getting her to understand and remember anything about the cancer. Perhaps the situation would have speeded up the reporting and evaluation process needed for Mum to go into care but these things seem to have a life-cycle all of their own, and I can’t say that I have any belief that things would have progressed more quickly on that front.
From what I understand, the treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is pretty standard, which, I presume, means I would have been prescribed the same course of drugs and infusions in the UK as in the US. One of the instructions which goes with that treatment is that I shouldn’t mix with groups of people, e.g. in a theatre, as the chemotherapy drugs will suppress my immune system. So, it’s very doubtful that I would have been able to continue working, particularly as my journey to work involved a peak time commuter train in both directions as well as a tram ride. Then there would have been the difficulties of working with groups of people, shift rotations of staff and an appreciable number of visitors to the site as well. It seems pretty obvious that I would have had to leave the job as being, physically, not capable of doing it. This would have left me without an income. Mum going into full time care would have left me without a home, so I would have had neither home nor job. Not a great prospect!
I am sure my daughters would have given me all the support, both physically and emotionally, which they could, but they each have their own lives to lead and family commitments to meet, as well as working themselves.
Instead of all the above problems I’m being looked after by my wife who is the one who goes to work and is making no real demands upon me other than that I put my energies into recovering as quickly as I can.
The only downside is that in the UK my treatment would have been free under the NHS, whereas here, in the US, we have to pay for every visit and every treatment.
It may seem strange to say it, but, I think I am a very lucky man for a number of reasons:
- I have Hodgkin’s Lymphoma which, statistically, is unlikely to kill me;
- I have a home and the love of a really good woman;
- I have the love and support of my daughters;
- I have the support of friends;
- My wife’s job includes health care which minimises the costs borne by us though they are still substantial.