Thursday, February 25, 2016

If only I had a doula when I had cancer...by Laura Fortner



If only I had a doula when I had cancer

There are a few things that define who I am.  Mother.  Wife.  Doula.  Cancer survivor.  I had incredible doulas beside me providing support and information when I gave birth to my boys in Dallas and Seattle.  I look back on having cancer and wish that same support was available for that transformative and paralyzing time in my life. 

I needed another hand to hold, a non-judgmental, compassionate hand that sat with me and would rub my poor, sweet husbands back and wipe his forehead from the stinging sweat of stress. I wanted someone to sit next to me in the cold, foreign OR and tell me what was happening around me.  What was that strange smell? What are they hooking me up to now? I needed someone to promise me I would wake up even if they knew they couldn’t keep that promise. I ached for a medical jargon interpreter.  I often found myself wishing we had asked more questions or wanting to call my Oncologist at 3 am for clarification. 

 I did not know it at the time but so much was kept inside for fear that I may burden my loved ones. I craved someone to be my pillar.  I wanted to lean on that pillar and not fear that the weight of my troubles would eventually cause them to fall.  I know that is not realistic with family members or friends.  They love you and are invested in your well being.  They hurt when you hurt, cry when you cry, and are deeply, emotionally tied to the outcome.  Doulas are not.  I unknowingly hungered for that unprejudiced support. 

 My husband was emotionally and physically drained.  It would have been a weight lifted off his broad but broken shoulders if someone else was there to walk the halls with me, help me out of bed and get me in the shower.  We had amazing friends staying with us, but there was so much to be done to keep the house running that physical support could not be their only focus.  He needed comfort and relief.  He needed someone to tell him “This is normal.  Your anger is justified and real. I acknowledge it.” “The pain your wife is in will get better.  It is temporary.”   

It was a glaring hole in our lives that I could not fill for him.  When I look back on our struggle, I see how clearly a doula would have suited our ever changing needs.   I am incredibly thankful to be starting my third year cancer free.  I realize the value of support today more than ever in my life but I find myself wondering…….If I only had a doula when I had cancer.


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