A husband’s story

Andy Koehn


 Today I am truly honored to share with you a male voice on this blog, and what a voice!  Andy Koehn and I have been getting to know each other via Twitter for the past few months and his quirky, funny, and unique take on life was instantly appealing.  

Andy is open and honest about his struggles raising his kids, and dealing with their grief and his own following the death of his wife, Laura, from breast cancer. He shares much of this on his website, Thirty Seconds, which I encourage you all to check out.          

I know that Andy has put a lot of thought and care into writing this post, which is reflected in the heart-felt message he has for all of you who will read his words today.  

What can I say to an audience of breast cancer survivors as a man who lost his wife to this disease?  I’ve started and stopped this post countless times because there is almost too much to say…but really…there is little to say that you haven’t already heard or thought about or experienced already.  Really this is going to be a jumble of thoughts from a guy who can normally string together a pretty compelling argument…but the subject matter brings up a jumble of emotions and so I’ll ask you to bear with me.         

I am stumbling because I want to be deep…or wise…or something like that.  I’m not any of those things so I’ll just say what I want to say:         

This cancer fight…this battle…this bullshit that you’re going through…well…it is hard on us(your partners) too.            

I feel almost stupid saying this because you’re the ones that have to face all the physical trauma’s that come with cancer treatments…not to mention the intense emotional strain.  Still…there is an indescribable helplessness that walks with us as we walk with you.  It sleeps with us…lives with us…pushes us against the wall and whispers, “She has cancer…and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it.”  It’s cruel…and emasculating…and I hated it.  (Still do…)          

It is that helplessness that messes with us…your partners…the ones who promised to take care of you.  Maybe it was worse for me because I’m a guy…I can’t say if that’s true for everyone…but it’s definitely how I felt.  I wanted to do something…anything…to take the sickness from her and make it all better.  I wanted her to be able to exist without the fear that lived in our house with me and my family.  He/she/it came out of nowhere and raped her…and all I could do was watch and beg the universe to make it stop because she didn’t do anything to deserve the hand she was dealt.  It killed me.  It really did.         

Yet here I am…possibly offending the sensibilities of a whole bunch of people because a beautiful woman half a world away was kind enough to ask me to share my thoughts on this subject.  I’m sorry if I offend…but I don’t want to soften any of the emotions that materialized when I became a cancer husband.         

If there is any point to this entry it is this: Your most ardent fan…supporter…the  one who loves you most…he/she wants to take your pain and fear away…but can’t…and so he or she suffers along with you.  It is different to be sure…not worse than yours…but it is suffering just the same.         

We want you to be free from your attacker so you can breathe easy again.  We long for those days when we would sit together and talk about mundane issues that used to seem so important.  Like you…we want to wave a magic wand and make it all go away because we love you.  Of course we can’t…and so we hurt.         

Please know that I admire the strength you exhibit and you deserve to be proud of yourselves because you are an inspiration.  I know what real inspiration looks like and it’s not a world class athlete making a goal line stand…or a talk show host passing judgment on our society.  Unfortunately there is inspiration all around us in our everyday lives but often we’re afraid to look at it.  To me inspiration is a woman wrapped in a bandana…defiantly standing in the produce aisle at the grocery store…picking out strawberries for tonight’s dessert…trying desperately to ignore the downcast eyes of the other shoppers.  You ARE brave…I see it…and it sucks that you are an unwitting inspiration to people like me.  It sucks for all of us who are part of the cancer club…because none of us deserve it.  But here you are…and here I am…so what more is there to say?  Please…continue to rock on…