“It’s Hard to Keep My Emotions in Check.”

15 03 2011

Don teaching Theo how to ride a bike, September 13, 2010. Photo by Amy Rauch Neilson.

I often tell people that I think my husband Don’s role in standing by my side during my illness is every bit as hard, if not harder, than mine.

As the parents of a young child, we don’t get a lot of “alone” time. So, when Theo spent the night at his cousins’ house a few weeks back, Don and I slept in, then went out to breakfast. Just the two of us.

That’s where I had a chance to ask him how he is doing. How he’s really doing.

“Do you really want to hear this?” he said, giving me one last opportunity to change my mind.

“Yes, I do,” I said. And I meant it. So much so that I retrieved a notebook and a pen from the bottom of my purse so I could take down what he was saying. I wasn’t sure I would be able to absorb something so emotional in one sitting. I needed to write it down.

I set down my fork, which had been clanking against my plate, scraping up the last bits of Western omelette, and listened.

“My emotions run the gamut,” he began. “It’s hard to keep them in check. My patience is really thin right now.

“All it takes is a song, like Sara McLachlan’s “Hold On,” and I lose it. What the song’s lyrics mean to me is that she is losing her significant other.

“Or something someone says. It could be as simple as a reference to the future – like a trip, or retirement with their spouse – and I feel like ripping their head off. I can feel myself going from Zero to Sixty in about half a second.

“Sometimes, I picture Theo and I splashing in the hotel pool where we’re staying because you’re on book tour. Then, a moment later, I go down that dreaded path in my mind of what my life, our life, would be like without you. And I think to myself, ‘How am I ever going to teach Theo the things he needs to know, the things that only his Mom can teach him?’

“You have a love of learning and this whole encyclopedia of oddball knowledge in that brain of yours – like all of the facts about frogs and toads you’ve picked up since Theo found that first toad in our back yard. You’re a quick study.

“I also spend a lot of time thinking about ways to keep your mind busy. Your blog; your book. I want to keep your mind from going dark, to keep you moving forward, for you to keep your happy spirit. It’s hard to be in this place where I want to lift you up when all I want to do is scream.

“When I’m in a dark spot, I think of the five years since Theo was born and ways to keep you in his mind forever. I want Theo to know not just that you loved him every single day of his life, but how much and how intensely.

“I do believe you’re going to get better because I can’t allow myself to think anything else. I’m not God, and I’m not a doctor. What I do know is that I can’t raise Theo without you. I just can’t. And no one can take your place. Ever.”

Copyright 2011, Don Neilson with Amy Rauch Neilson

This post also appeared on The Pink Fund web site, where I blog every Monday, yesterday. Please visit The Pink Fund for more of my posts.




20 responses

15 03 2011
Terry Loumakis

I think I truly understand how Don feels. Being helpless is a lonely feeling that requires help and none is available. Amy, you are one of the bravest people I have known. Hang in there!

15 03 2011

That took courage for both you and Don to share this part of your lives. It is so hard to share the part of the truth that is unbearably painful. It is a testament to your abiding love for each other and Theo. You both are amazing parents and he is blessed.

15 03 2011

And that’s why we love Don. And you. And Theo.

15 03 2011

When you asked Don that question, I’m sure you knew, if he was going to be honest, what he was about to say. Bravery and courage come to mind as you BOTH are struggling with your feelings which are there but not voiced as you support one another with love. Theo is the luckiest of boys to have two such wonderful parents and examples of true love and support. Thank you for sharing such an intimate part of your lives.

15 03 2011
Linda Stanislawski

I’m in tears, and continuing to pray for all three of you. Long life one day at a time.

15 03 2011
Amy Youngblood

Surgery, chemo, radiation—-no problem we do what we have to do, but to be able to ask the question and then hold on to a pen long enough to actually put your husband’s words to paper? I’m not sure I could do it. Raw courage.

15 03 2011
Elizabeth DeWaard

I have cried many tears over this situation, but Don’s comments left me sobbing. We all are confident that you will beat this, but know how difficult the journey is.
All my love–Betsy

15 03 2011

and more tears. well said, Don.

15 03 2011
Carrie, Jim, Logan and Mara

You make me cry every time. Don is right; you are so important in our lives. You are the glue of the Neilson family. You will beat this and I will be coming to visit you on your book tour. Why? Because you’re AMY!

15 03 2011

This is awesome. I am a stranger to you, signed up for your blog because a friend asked me to, but I am a friend of a breast cancer survivor…and have felt some of these same things that Don has said during her “rough” years. For him to express them and allow you to share them…priceless.

15 03 2011

Thank you for sharing this with us. It is often hard to be the caregiver, and it was a gift that you let Don share his real emotions with you – and you with him. What a wonderful bond you have!

15 03 2011
Jon Green

I’ve asked Don the same question at least 10 times since this recent diagnosis, but received a much different answer. I got the ” We’re doing the best we can right now, just taking one day at a time” answer. I know this answer, because it’s one I, and I’m sure many others have used in the past. The difference with Don is that you can see the love, concern, and hope in his eyes that everything will be ok. That same Love, Concern, and Hope that is shared by everyone that knows you will be helps pull you through this.

We love You, Don and Theo with all of our hearts.

15 03 2011
Debbie Loumakis

Beautifully touching, Raw honesty, Heartfelt sincerity, Deepest pain and Amazing LOVE! I hope Don continues to express his feelings, thoughts and emotions. I know being the spouse/caregiver/family member is a hard place to be as do you since you have been on both sides of this coin! You guys make a great team! Keep talking, Keep loving.

15 03 2011

Lucky for Don he won’t have to go through that stuff cause you will pull through this!!

15 03 2011
Nicole Rollet

My heart hurts for you Amy, Don, and for Theo. I cannot imagine being in your position. I think that his being able to tell you how he was feeling and you even being able to ask him says so much of your character and love for each other. It brought tears to my eyes. You are in my prayers and God is in control, take comfort in knowing that. Love you all –

16 03 2011
Steve Cinnamon

Don and Amy,
Thanks for sharing such a heartfelt story.
You guys are Awesome!
I wish tears were the cure for cancer.

GODSPEED to you all!

17 03 2011

All I can say is I am crying too. Don, well spoken…”no one can take your place Ever” Wow! so that’s what true love really looks like. Amy you are so blessed and loved! Awesome!!!! I will continue to pray for both of you and little Theo.

17 03 2011
Danielle Gossett

That was so emotionally touching. It brought tears to my eyes. I can only imagine how hard it must be for the both of you. You and Don have an amazing love, and an amazing family. Theo is very blessed to have parents like you both. I will continue to keep the three of you in my prayers.

17 03 2011

that was soo heartfelt…..(tears)
Know that you r going to get through this, i know you will. You are in my heart and prayers daily.
God Bless…Rania (the only one that will draw ur blood lol)

17 03 2011
Amy Rauch Neilson

Rock on, bracelet girl!

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