One lump or two? Learning to live with cancer

STEVEN GAUGE is having to make adjustments, and hopes that you can help

pink ribbon cancerSo it turns out that Mrs Gauge has breast cancer. Not only does she have to put up with the huge inconvenience and embarrassment of being married to me, but she will, it seems, now have to endure months of being poked, prodded and pumped full of toxic chemicals before being surgically re-organised, nuked and then settled on to a 10-year programme of hormonal augmentation. Naturally, she is taking all this in her stride and the medical profession are, so far, making very positive and re-assuring noises.

A few things become apparent very quickly when you get this sort of news:

  1. The NHS keeps all their best doctors and nurses hidden away in Oncology departments. If you were an advertising creative type writing an “if Carling ran hospitals” advert, you would struggle to come up with anything close to the extraordinary kindness, professionalism and intellectual brilliance of the medical types who appear when you get a diagnosis like this.
  2. People are, without exception, utterly lovely and always seem to know the right thing to say and do when they hear the news. Our friends, family, work colleagues, neighbours, random strangers and even my fellow rugby club members have been wonderfully kind and considerate with genuine and generous offers of help that have left us all feeling hugely supported and immensely grateful.
  3. Cancer rather trumps everything. The great pleasure that had previously be derived from whingeing about a slight dose of athlete’s foot or a mysterious, possibly alcohol-related, knee injury is now denied to the spouse of someone with cancer.

Mrs Gauge has so far had one dose of chemotherapy, which involved sitting in a comfy chair while a completely delightful nurse (think Shreddie-knitting Nana with a degree in pharmacology) gently eased three different coloured tubes of chemicals into the veins on the back of her hand. It was quite hard to take this seriously, because at the same time Mrs Gauge was wearing a bright pink neoprene head cap designed to freeze her follicles and stop her from going bald.

Thanks to the thousands of people who have done sponsored runs in illuminated bras through the night, the back-up and research for breast cancer is phenomenal. A cocktail of anti-emetic drugs has so far kept the side effects down to something not much worse than a five-day hangover.

Being a modern, liberal couple Mrs Gauge and I have always had a strict 50:50 split of the domestic tasks. Essentially, I make the mess and Mrs Gauge clears it up. Now, on the days when the chemo-hangover has confined her to the sofa, it turns out that there is quite a lot more to do. It seems only fair though after the last few years when rugby and its associated hop and barley-based rehydration supplements have left me incapacitated for much of the weekend. Living with someone with cancer so far seems to be a bit like living with someone like me.

So all in all, it’s not too bad so far, but we are, I suspect, in for a long haul.

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1 Response to One lump or two? Learning to live with cancer

  1. Yes – thats the way to deal with it – a little humour and gentleness – and to live in Croydon and use the Marsden.

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