Tug of Work

Since Dave started the clinical trial in December, work has become an issue.  With the commute to Baltimore and feeling generally lousy, he missed quite a bit.  Luckily the two week winter break occurred so his absence was felt a little less.  Yes, there was tumor growth which ended the trial but prior to that was the Sirspheres treatment which radiated many of the previous tumors.  So, tumor wise, I don’t think we are much ahead of where we were, if at all.  That is not to discount the battle that Dave’s body has been through in the meantime.  I know he is tired.

We have come to a crossroads.  How is the rest of the school year going to look?  I am pushing Dave to set a reasonable schedule for himself (x days a week, x hours a day) and stick to it.  That way everyone knows when to expect him, decisions can be made, support can be given and he once again feels like an integral part of the team.  If you have a reason to climb out of bed in the morning, you will.

We met 5 couples at the Hopkins retreat over two years ago.  3 of the patients have since died.  We suspect the 4th one might have too since no one has heard from him and he wasn’t doing too well when we met him.  That leaves Dave and D.  D is the guy who has been living with stage IV colon cancer for over ten years.  He has been told on several occasions that “this is it”.  And he has proved them wrong every time.  D still works full time, referees baseball and basketball on the weekends and enjoys time with his family.  He has a supportive wife who kicks his butt when he thinks he might want to give up the fight.  I believe this is a combination that has led to his longevity.  Out of the 4 other people we met, 3 had stopped working entirely, 3 were clearly depressed and resigned to their fate, and 1 had a partner who was unable to support him because she was depressed.  I don’t ever want to think ” I wish I had said….” or “I wish I had done….”  The time to act is now.

I printed out a checklist from NIMH that I found in an article about depression and cancer.  Dave and I went over the list together and identified which might apply to him.  We are going to have an open and honest talk with his doctor at the next visit about this.  Usually Dave presents a very optimistic “everything is fine” face to the world.  I’ve asked him to let that guard down so we can do whatever we need to get him back on his feet.  It has been suggested to me by quite a few people that I contact his doctor myself and give him my perspective.  I completely understand this idea but find that I can’t do it.  To go behind Dave’s back just doesn’t feel right at this moment.  That’s not to say that I have totally ruled it out in the future though.

I have asked Dave how he would spend his time if he wasn’t at work.  How would be engage his mind?  What would he find value and purpose in doing?  I asked him if the tables were turned what advise would he give to me (or his sister or his brother).  I wish I could crawl inside his head for just a few minutes to figure out what all was going on in there.  It is a struggle to know how hard to push.  Am I being selfish?  Am I pushing him when he shouldn’t be pushed?

His response to missing work is generally, “I called work and everything is fine.”  I don’t know if this makes him feel like they don’t need him there or if he feels let off the hook as far as going.  I wish when he called/texted/emailed to say he might be in later that instead of saying “Don’t push yourself.  Everything is fine.”  That someone would say “Great.  See you at 10.”  or “Great.  There are some things that we need to talk to you about.”  Being valued and vital is important to all of us.  (I totally understand why people say what they do.  I would have done the exact same thing before now.)

I don’t know what is going to happen.  I know that it makes me anxious.  I can’t let my mind wander too far because the possibilities seem overwhelming.  I’ll let you know.



(Except for the second to last one, Dave identified with everything else on this list to some degree or another.)

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

  • Ongoing sad, anxious, or empty feelings
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
  • Feeling irritable or restless
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once enjoyable, including sex
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, a condition called insomnia, or sleeping all the time
  • Overeating or loss of appetite
  • Thoughts of death and suicide or suicide attempts
  • Ongoing aches and pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease with treatment.