The doctors came across the cancer tumour in his lungs by chance. My husband has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and we had taken him into hospital because of that. It was a moment of utter disbelief and total shock. We were told there was absolutely nothing that could be done, that we should go home, put everything in order and basically just wait.
Our minds were in turmoil, trying to come to terms with the news. I began to feel desperate for someone to talk to. Our families live quite some distance from us and I didn’t want to burden them. I didn’t feel I could speak to my husband as it only upset us both. So I bottled things up. My husband had nurtured and supported me throughout our marriage and, all of a sudden, our roles had changed.
It was as if my prayers were answered when I read in the local newspaper about an organisation offering places in group therapy for people affected by cancer.
Attending my first group session, I met five complete strangers, but, as the weeks went on, I went home knowing that I was no longer having to cope on my own. As the weeks progressed our friendships grew and we all felt confident enough to open up and discuss things that we could not talk about with anyone else. We found most of us were feeling/thinking similarly. We all felt we were being selfish in wanting to talk about how the cancer was affecting us, as carers. What is going to happen to me? How do I cope? It sounds selfish even now, but that’s what I needed and I got reassurance from the group and the counsellors that it was OK to think of myself. I was scared – what would life be like without him? I wanted someone to help me through this, to wrap their arms around me and tell me it was going to be all right.
Our two counsellors were absolutely amazing: they were patient, understanding and had an ability to know what to discuss and how to get us to express our fears and concerns and put them into perspective.
Up until week nine of the sessions, I’d joined in all the discussions, but my reason for being there had never felt real. I hadn’t accepted my husband’s diagnosis and the ultimate consequences of it. That week we participated in a mindfulness session. Almost immediately I felt my whole body relax in a way I’d never felt before. I didn’t want it to end; I wanted to stay in this happy, carefree place forever. As the therapist brought us out of it, all my pent-up emotions came out too. It was the first time I’d cried, and it was then that the reality of what was happening and why I was there hit home. And all of a sudden, it all made sense. I knew what I needed to do; my mind was no longer full of cotton wool. Everything I’d learned from the weeks of counselling and discussion clicked into place. This was my turning point.
The course went on for 12 weeks and in that time we laughed a lot, cried a lot, spoke honestly and reached our personal targets. For me, that was to be able to talk about the situation without getting emotional and to feel confident that I would be able to see this thing through to the bitter end, and beyond. We are all still strong friends, still supporting each other and there for each other when things get tough.
If I hadn’t accessed the group, I really don’t know what sort of state I would be in now. It’s changed me completely. People say that I am more confident; my husband says he knows now that I will be OK when he has gone. I think he is proud of me. I now say how I feel and I think I am more open, more caring, less critical and more honest – all because of the counselling.
Sarah (not her real name) was a client with We Hear You (WHY), a charity in Somerset that provides free professional counselling to anyone who has been affected by cancer or any other life-threatening condition. Sarah attended WHY’s first group course. For more information, visit www.wehearyou.org.uk, call 01373 455255 or email firstname.lastname@example.org