Living with metastatic breast cancer: a partner's perspective | PERSONAL STORY

When I first met Kim in 2002 she was three-quarters of the way through her treatment for early breast cancer. She had little or no support through her initial diagnosis and treatment – a period I believe that even at her young age of 27 stiffened her resolve and set her apart from anyone that I have ever met before.

Treatment finished and time marched on, and in January 2006 we decided to get married. Life was good – I had a great job and we were both really happy. Cancer was well and truly out of our lives.

We decided to try and have a baby, but unfortunately had many challenges, experiencing both a miscarriage and an ectopic pregnancy. We had almost given up when in August 2006 Kim got pregnant, and in May 2007 our little daughter was born. Now our lives were really going along swimmingly with not a care in the world. Things couldn’t have been better.

In May 2012 Kim had been unwell for a few days with an infection that was becoming increasingly serious. She was eventually raced to hospital, ending up in the ICU ward. So began the worst 72-hour period of my life, with cancer at the back of my mind, and doctors and nurses testing Kim for every known disease and illness imaginable.

The next day I got the call that I had been dreading. I was told that Kim had metastatic breast cancer in the liver. I turned around and went straight back to hospital to get the full diagnosis. This meeting was the most confronting discussion I had ever had, as I tried to make sense of the news Kim had multiple tumours in her liver and was to commence immediate treatment.

We decided that one way we would deal with this news was to have a party and get all of our friends to come to our place to tell them that we were going to attack this cancer with all our combined might. The party worked for us. I think it reinforced for both of us that we were not alone and that friends and family were there for us.

Kim started chemotherapy and Herceptin treatment, which took a heavy toll on her. Despite the side effects it didn’t deter her from fulfilling her much loved role of mum and wife with immense strength and character.

Fast forward to 2016 and Kim is still kicking cancer’s butt and her resolve is as strong as ever. The support that she has around her is equally as strong as it was when she was first diagnosed with metastatic disease. I am trying now to make sense of what the impact has been on me.

As Kim’s partner I know it has taken its toll on me. Right through this journey I’ve been on with Kim I never thought that I may have needed some support too. I always thought that being a typical guy I had the attitude of ‘all will be right’, but nothing could be further from the truth.

I gave up work for a long time to be carer to Kim and our daughter. I probably ignored my own health and wellbeing, to the detriment of our family unit. Kim’s health is stable and she is living as near to a normal life as possible, if there is such a thing when you are living with incurable cancer. My aims for the future are to get back into a role in logistics, save some money and take my family on our first overseas trip together.

The lessons I have learnt from a carer’s perspective are to look after yourself, see your GP regularly, and get your life as close to normality as possible. Don’t ignore the warning signs and get the support you need both mentally and physically to help you live your life with your family to the fullest. In essence, don’t be too blokey!

Finally, I’m very pleased to have connected with BCNA and have recently started to use the telephone counselling program. I recommend this for other partners who may not have thought about accessing counselling in the past. Give it a try. There is nothing to lose and a lot to gain.

David, VIC

David with Kim and their daughter
David with Kim and their daughter

Issue 76
Spring 2016