When my husband was initially diagnosed, I knew that brain cancer survival rates were low and that there was no cure. The worst case was that he would die in six months and the best case was that he would survive for five years. Perhaps in that timeframe some advances would be made in the treatment of brain cancer so that his lifetime could be further extended.
When I discussed the facts with my parents and close friends they were very concerned. They looked at me with pain, fear and gravity in their eyes. I was six months pregnant and had a baby to bring into the world, a 14 month old toddler to nurture and now a terminally ill husband to care for.
I understood their concern and I told them,
“I get it. This is a serious life changing event. I know the odds. But I don’t have time to cry or sit with my emotions right now. I have too much to do and my family to look after. This is far from ideal. But I am strong and I know I can do this. I will still live a rich life, whatever the outcome. I need your help. Thank you for being here.”
My priority was caring for my husband and my son so I placed all my fears and emotions into what I would come to think of as a Parking Lot. When I worked in the corporate world we used the term “Parking Lot” to keep meetings on track for the purpose for which they had been arranged. If any meeting attendees raised issues that distracted everyone from the topic at hand then we recorded the items in a Parking Lot document to be reviewed at a later date.
When I set up my Parking Lot of emotions and fears on the first day that Mick was diagnosed I did not realise how full it would become. There were so many moments that I added year after year. It was only a year or two after Mick died that I had the energy to start going back into that Parking Lot and start sitting with and honouring each moment and all the emotions that I had put off feeling at the time. I shared some of the moments with my counsellor or journalled about some of them.
And it was only then – when the children were in care or out of earshot – that I could contact one of my close friends or family who had offered emotional support all those years ago and say “Gee – that moment was tough wasn’t it?”
Now 8 years later after that first diagnosis – I think I can say that the parking lot is pretty much empty again. However I am sure that there will be some triggers that will cause some moments and emotions to come back to mind. And that is ok – I have some tools now to support me and more space and time.