Fighting cancer can be such a long road. Being a caregiver for a spouse with cancer requires stamina we are rarely prepared for. There are so many ups and downs.
One week your husband is doing fine and feeling better. The next week, something comes up, and you’re back in the hospital getting more tests and more drugs. You have to play so many roles: nurse, spouse, parent, and provider. You are making financial decisions and keeping your household running, perhaps also holding down a job.
The ups and downs of cancer can take such an emotional toll–so much so that you may find yourself thinking thoughts like:
“My husband has cancer, and I want to leave.”
“My husband has cancer, and I don’t want to do this anymore.”
“My husband has cancer, and I want a divorce.”
Immediately you feel terrible for thinking that way. You end up stuck in a loop of thinking negative thoughts and then feeling bad for even thinking them. You feel caught in your own misery at the situation life has handed you.
I want you to know, first and foremost, you are not alone. And you are not a terrible person for thinking those thoughts. It’s hard to know what to do when you want to give up–and sometimes, it feels like leaving is the only way out of your feelings.
If your husband has cancer, and you feel like you want to leave, take a deep breath and continue reading for my best advice for you right now.
“My Husband Has Cancer, and I Want to Leave”
I’m not here to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. But, when thoughts like, “My husband has cancer, and I want a divorce,” go through your mind, you’re not alone. Being your spouse’s caregiver can be difficult and exhausting. There were times during my husband’s cancer journey when I simply didn’t want to do it anymore.
When There Are No Desirable Options
Dealing with my husband’s cancer was a long journey. He was getting treatment overseas at a clinic in Vienna, Austria when complications from his cancer arose, and he ended up in the hospital having emergency surgery. He had been in the hospital for 10 days and was just beginning to regain the strength to stand and move independently when he developed another complication.
It felt like one more setback, and as I left the hospital that evening, I felt so defeated. It felt like there was no end in sight or desirable options ahead of us. In my misery, all I kept thinking was, “I don’t want to do this anymore!”
I felt terrible for even thinking it, but I couldn’t stop. I was stuck in a loop of my own misery and self-pity.
You Don’t Have to Change How You Feel
As I walked to the subway, I recalled my coach training: negative emotions are part of life. I reminded myself that it’s OK to have negative thoughts. I don’t need to judge myself for it. I just have to take responsibility for it.
Here is what I mean by taking responsibility for my thoughts and emotions. Often, we feel like our thoughts and feelings are just a result of what happens to us. But if that were true, everyone would have the same reaction to the same event. Clearly, we don’t. So while it’s often not a conscious choice, how we think and feel about something is still a choice, and we can always decide differently.
At that time, I didn’t want to feel any different. I wanted to wallow in my misery for a while. It was hard, and I was tired! But I also knew that when I take ownership of my feelings, I also get to decide how long I want to feel that way. That puts me in control of my emotions instead of them being in control of me.
Own Your Negative Emotions
When you are stuck in a negative thought loop, thinking thoughts like, “My husband has cancer, and I want to leave,” and then feeling terrible about it, the quickest way out is to recognize your negative thinking and take responsibility for it. Taking ownership of the fact that you are choosing to think and feel this way right now actually frees you from the self-pity spiral.
This in and of itself can be a huge relief. When we judge ourselves for our negative thinking, we automatically add more pain to what we are already feeling. This just keeps us stuck. You can let that judgment go by reminding yourself that this is just a thought I’m having right now and nothing to feel guilty about. That will free you from the negative guilt spiral. You can continue feeling bad without also feeling guilty.
Access Your Inner Wisdom
When you’re thinking thoughts like, “my husband has cancer, and I want a divorce,” it may just be a result of the stress and exhaustion you feel. It doesn’t mean this thought isn’t valid for you. It just means you want to slow yourself down a bit and recognize that in all relationships, whether or not cancer is a part, leaving can feel like the easiest way to escape difficult emotions.
Once you own your thoughts and the emotions they create, it allows you to move past the victim mentality and actually access your inner wisdom. By that, I mean you can start asking yourself: Why am I thinking this way?
Perhaps you need to…
- Build your caregiver support system and learn how to ask for help
- Work with a caregiver coach to help build your inner resilience
- Find tips for avoiding caregiver burnout so you can continue to show up for yourself and your spouse
- See a therapist to help you overcome deep feelings of hopelessness during this time
Taking ownership of your negative emotions will shorten your negative thought loop. The sooner you recognize you are in control of your thoughts and feelings and that you don’t have to judge yourself for them, you will be freed from them controlling you. This enables you to think about why you’re feeling and thinking this way.
Ready to Stop Your Negative Thought Loop for Good?
The next time you find yourself in a loop of negativity, self-pity, and guilt, just own it. Remember that you don’t have to change how you feel; you just have to take responsibility for it without judgment. This one simple act will free you from the loop so you can move forward with more calm and curiosity.
While you’re on this cancer journey with your spouse, negative thoughts will come. There’s no way around it and no reason to try to avoid it. It comes with the territory of being a cancer caregiver.
As a life coach for you when your partner has cancer, I offer coaching services to teach you how to build your inner resilience and strength. If you don’t know what to do when you want to give up, take one simple step today: schedule a free coaching consultation, and let’s talk about your options.