The Ultimate Change Up

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By Lyndie Charnock

Mike Charnock of Houston was treated for high blood pressure and enlarged lymph nodes before doctors found the real cause. On July 26, 2010, at age 35, he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, which had spread to his brain.

With brain surgery under his belt and a strong treatment plan, Mike is defying the odds every day. His wife, Lyndie, shares her experiences as a caregiver to encourage others that complete faith and a good attitude may help them do the same.

"A new position of responsibility will usually show a man to be a far stronger creature than was supposed."
-- William James

Over the weekend, Saturday to be exact, I woke up with a 101.1 fever. I was sick to my stomach and could not keep anything down.

My husband, Mike, came to the rescue by running me a hot bath, making me soup and never leaving my side until my fever broke.

I remember thinking, "What is happening? I do not have time to be sick."

Even though Mike is doing well, I am his caregiver. I need to be taking care of him.  

At that moment, I realized how much things have changed in our relationship.

Mike was the "bread winner" of our family before his diagnosis. He was the one to take care of things. He was the handy-man, mechanic and man-of-the-house.

Although I don't see him as any less a man in our marriage, I do know things have changed.

New role, same hero

Mike and I try to remain equals at all times, but with his cancer journey, I have picked up a lot of his load.

I have never known the strengths that have now been instilled in me. I now work a full-time job and take care of Mike at the same time. Since July 2010, we've also had a number of gracious donations and help from family and friends.

I know it's taken a toll on Mike's masculinity. I think he feels, at times, by his not working a full 8-10 hour day, that he is somehow not the man of our household.  

For me, I see him as the most courageous man I know. What he is going though at this moment and experiencing with cancer, he is and always will be my hero and the only man in my life.

Mike is in my every thought throughout the day. I wonder if he's taken his medication, if he's pushing himself beyond his capabilities and if he's eating properly.

I know Mike has similar thoughts because, for a little time, it was out of his control. He was focusing on getting better. He had to relinquish the "control" of it all and allow me to do it.

Mental and physical strength
As the quote says above, a new position surely will shine the light on strengths that you had no idea you had.

To this day, I still have not cried much about Mike's disease. At first I thought it was because I was in complete denial, but then I learned that my faith has instilled this great amount of strength in me. Strength, not only being strong and tough for my husband, but also being strong and tough for myself.  

Mike is now on this new journey and his new responsibly is to battle this cancer. No matter what kind of a "man's man" you are, cancer takes a toll on you mentally.

Mike's mental strength is beyond soaring, and I believe it's one of the keys to his healing success.

Today, Mike remains on the road to healing thanks to our faith, the support of family and friends and the fabulous facilities of MD Anderson.

We may have both gained new strengths and responsibilities, but with these new roles we maintain a strong mental state, which, believe me, is not always easy, but it's a huge part of our ability to fight each day.

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