Someone I Love Has Breast Cancer (Part 2)
We can only assume that even good men struggle with their commitment of ‘for better or for worse’, especially when they get the news that their wives have breast cancer. For Redza, former flourishing videographer and documentarist for History Channel Asia, everything was worth giving up for his wife.
What was the first thing that crossed your mind when you found out that Fara had breast cancer?
“There were a lot of questions. What would happen to her? What would happen to me? What would happen to my work, our finances, and so on and so forth. It was very hard for me to focus and accept that she had cancer. I knew about cancer, obviously, but not in-depth. I don’t know emotions, sensitivities … so when I found out, we had discussed about what to do, and about hospital issues. At the time, we were at a very bad spot financially. We didn’t have a lot of options. On top of that, as I did not understand the disease and the character of breast cancer victims, I became very defensive and was in denial. When she told me she was in pain, I had often asked her to 'relax lah', not knowing how to deal with it.”
What were initial trips to the hospital like?
“She came home from the hospital one time crying, she was so scared of what the doctor had just told her about the multiple processes which involved cutting and such, and I was confounded. She had not wanted to go for chemotherapy, because it had seemed so daunting. I tried to convinced her to go, and that was the source of our many fights. Out of rage, I remember telling her, ‘everybody dies, so just go to the hospital’. But in the end, I listened to her, asked her what she wanted to do – which was other alternatives in the beginning, such as traditional herbal medicine. That went on for two years, where I let her do whatever she wanted. After many failures, I put my foot down and decided it was time for us to go to the hospital.”
How did you cope all this while?
“I browsed a lot of books and the Internet – not about treatments initially, but about the behaviour of cancer patients so that I know how to cope better. I can’t tell her about treatments as I am not qualified. The only thing I knew was to give her moral and emotional support and protect her from things that could potentially hurt and influence her – especially from people around us. They try to help and advise but that might just do more damage than good. I didn’t want her to be frustrated and demoralised. I became her shield. People want to help, yes, they have good intentions but they don’t know her the way I do. I also think Fara is a fighter – one day at a time – that makes me strong. If my wife wasn’t fighting back, I would probably have given up earlier as well.”
“There were a lot of questions. What would happen to her? What would happen to me? What would happen to my work, our finances, and so on and so forth. It was very hard for me to focus and accept that she had cancer."
Where do you channel your stress to?
“I read books on war! I bought about 10 books about them. Just to take my mind off and disconnect for a while. I read about these people who suffer – more than I do – and it made me hopeful and gave me strength, strangely. Obviously, there are times when I feel down, especially where finances are concerned, but you have to work it out.”
Have you ever told her how frightened you are?
“Never. I always try to make plans for both of us – as if nothing is happening – we plan dates, we go to beaches like Cherating every week. Get out of from the crowd. As husbands, I feel like it is our duty to take our wives’ minds off the severity of the problem, and be their anchors. If I’m worried, everything will get worse. Even if it’s pipedreams of having holiday homes, we talk about all these little things.”
What has changed the most in your life?
“My career has been put on hold for the past two years. When she first got cancer, my career was taking off – the momentum was very good. I had good stories, and whenever I pitched to the channels, it was always accepted and broadcasted. I had assignments everywhere. Not many people have that chance in the documentary industry here in Malaysia. But when she got cancer, I had to put everything on hold as I wasn’t ready to lose my wife. I was ready to lose my job, but not my wife. If I lose my job, I can still write stories. But if I lose my wife, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I would be losing my everything, as she has been my companion for a long time.”
"As husbands, I feel like it is our duty to take our wives’ minds off the severity of the problem, and be their anchors."
What is your biggest takeaway from this experience?
“I believe that being with my wife everyday will make her heal faster, rather than leaving her, chasing tonnes of money to send your wife to the hospital. Sure, it does help, but I’ve got to be with her every day and everywhere. At the same time, nothing should change in a relationship between you and your wife. She once told me that she didn’t want me to treat her like I would a sick person, and I tried my best.”
Do you have any advice for husbands going through the same thing?
“If you want to run, what is the reason? If you’re running because she won’t have breasts, or that you do not want to be responsible – why is that? To me, she is what really should matter. We have so much fun being together that even the sex life doesn’t matter anymore. Also, get as many information about cancer patient’s behaviour. Doctors will talk about treatments and such, but you’re the one who’s going to face your loved ones day in and day out.”
This marks the end of Part 2 of our breast cancer awareness series. You may read part 1 here:
Someone I Love Has Breast Cancer (Part 1)
Stay tuned to read Part 3.
Photos: Shaffiq Farhan
Art Direction & Styling: Syahlia Albina Sari