A new future? Husband diagnosed with Stage 4 anal cancer

Posted by incognito @sbsurfside, Sep 24, 2018

I am a caregiver to my 72 year old husband. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 anal cancer, metasticized to the liver. He has been fastidious about his health, diet and exercise for many years, so this diagnosis has been shocking. Although he had concerns about bleeding hemmoroids, multiple doctors missed it, and several belittled his concerns. Eventually, a colonoscopy, followed by a PET scan revealed the diagnosis about 7 weeks ago. Since then, we have been to a local cancer center, MD Anderson and Mayo. While MD Anderson said it is not “curable”, Mayo tells us that this is a marathon – not a sprint, and provides hope with a variety of strategies. I struggle between despair and anger. I feel like I stepped into somebody elses nightmare, only to learn that it’s mine. I’m sad for my husband, for the loss of our future plans and the life ahead of us. My husband has a great attitude – better than mine. His faith is growing stronger in God, and I’m trying to find that too. I just can’t help but struggle between wanting to be hopeful (as I know that will only help) – and recognizing the dire condition that he has. I work fulltime and have two 2 pets at home. I’m managing all of his appointments and trying to keep life “normal”. I’m exhausted. I know that I will likely get to a stronger place to manage, but right now — just not seeing it. I’m generally a very resillient woman (age 59), but this is a test I wish I didn’t have to take. I know there must be MANY of you out there who have – or are – struggling to maintain a positive attitude. Your suggestions are welcome.

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Hello @sbsurfside I am sorry to read of your husband's new healthcare journey. It is nice to e-meet you and I am glad you found Mayo Connect! I am Scott and I was my wife's primary caregiver during her battle with brain cancer. I found Connect when I was feeling many of the same feelings you relate — being overwhelmed, fluctuating between hope and hopelessness, and trying to keep a few too many plates in the air all the time in the new role of caregiver.

As you read though many of the threads here on the Caregiving group I think you find that your feelings are something that many caregivers struggle with!

I also agree with you that caregiving 'is a test I wish I didn't have to take.' Well said! I don't think any caregiver, especially those of us who are or were spousal caregivers wanted to be in that role. There is so much we wish were different for our loved one and ourselves. Plus I agree that cancer is a true nightmare of a disease!

One suggestion I might offer is a lesson I learned. There is no way caregiving is not going to be a rollercoaster, so accept that there will be uphill slogs, unexpected twist and turns, and some truly crummy downhill drops. I expected my caregiving journey to be much more linear than it was. Once I came to accept the ups and downs being expected, I was able to manage my emotions better. I still had my troubles, but I came to accept that it was going to be impossible to keep a positive mental attitude all the time. I took to keeping an old feather pillow on our sofa and many late nights found me on that couch, pummeling that pillow to rid myself of some of the fears and frustrations of the day.

As I like to say "Caregivers cannot be superheroes. Wonder Woman and Superman only exist in the comics!"

My wife had her neuro-oncology work all done at Mayo and her main doctor there also told us to expect a marathon. It is an apt description no matter how long our loved one fights the disease. I wish I had more suggestions, but I am guessing many of our fellow caregivers here will pipe up with their owns tips and tricks to keeping the best attitude possible.

Again, great to find you here on Connect and I hope you will continue here with your questions and a periodic update whenever the time permits!

Strength, courage, and peace!


Scott: Thank you for your note. You certainly speak from experience as do many here, and I can appreciate the journeys. THere are truly no easy answers but it's helpful sometimes even to put thoughts in writing, and that is helpful, too. Peace and blessings to all….


Scott: Thank you for your note. You certainly speak from experience as do many here, and I can appreciate the journeys. THere are truly no easy answers but it's helpful sometimes even to put thoughts in writing, and that is helpful, too. Peace and blessings to all….

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Peace and blessings to you, as well, @sbsurfside I agree about putting thoughts to paper! I find writing is still great therapy for me!
I look forward to more of your thoughts here on Connect!

Continued strength, courage, and peace to you and your husband!


@sbsurfside I, too, am beginning the process of long term caregiver for my husband of 43 years. I feel your pain of loss of what was and what could have been. My hubby is 71 with congestive heart failure, chronic kidney disease just to name a few. His health is deteriorating quickly and all the things we had planned to do after retirement are not going to happen. I am 63 and disabled. It is a daily struggle to take care of me but I try not to let on how bad I really am. Hubby still works every day, it is the only thing that will get him up and moving and keep him alive for now. I know that when he does retire he will not live long. While I still have the mental and physical abilities to get things in order I am doing it. My thoughts and prayers go out to you during this most difficult time.


Hi @sbsurfside, I wanted to check in with you and see how you are doing. I realize that working and caregiving doesn't leave much time. If you have a moment, it would be great to hear from you. We're thinking about you and your husband.

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