"His Cancer Is Ruining Our Marriage"

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His Turn

"I am such an idiot!" said Jeff, 35. "I knew I should have seen another doctor when the first guy I consulted kept brushing off my questions about cancer. I had a gut feeling that something was really wrong but I wanted to believe that he was right, that I was being an alarmist. When the biopsy came back positive I thought I was going to black out. Since then I've been in mental free fall.

"Amy pressures me relentlessly to calm down and stop second-guessing my doctors. If only I had challenged them more, we could have caught the cancer earlier! And if I hadn't pressed for a biopsy, I'd still be in horrific pain with no clear answers. Besides, I earn my living by analyzing and questioning -- I'm incapable of doing anything else. Instead of fighting me, Amy should be supportive. For all she knows I could be one keystroke away from a critical piece of information. Her anxiety makes me feel worse, not better. Yes, I know I retreat into a shell, but I can't help it. I need to handle this my way. It's not like before, when Amy almost left me because she thought I was ignoring her. Marriage counseling helped us through all that. This is different. I'm sick, and I'm afraid.

"She's right about my attachment to work, though. Right now it's the only thing that keeps me sane. It's when I'm away from work that the problems start to overwhelm me. Sometimes I feel as if I'm drowning. I get that same sense of the world closing in that I felt when I first heard the diagnosis, and it's hard to stay hopeful. Amy has to understand that and back off. I know I'm surly and argumentative, but I'm furious! Why me? Why now? Why didn't my doctor figure this out months ago -- and why didn't I push him harder or find another doctor? I was so stupid! My type of cancer has a high recurrence rate, even with the surgery and radiation. The doctors tell me that every person is different, that they don't know what my prognosis is, that they have to wait and see. Well, I tell them I'm still young and otherwise healthy and have no intention of becoming a statistic. I am determined to survive this disease.

"That's on my good days. Unfortunately, I have a lot of bad ones, too. I don't want to scare Amy, but there are nights when I lie awake terrified I'll die or become so sick that I'll be a burden to her. Maybe this time she really will leave me -- and I wouldn't blame her.

"Even if I recover, our marriage could be ruined, anyway. I could end up impotent, incapable of having sex with my own wife! She had her heart set on getting pregnant in the next year or so. Now who knows? That dream is probably shot, too.

"I love Amy. She's too young to have her life ruined because of me."

Continued on page 3:  The Counselor's Turn


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