Dr Doug Potter shares how he viewed his wife during her battle against breast cancer.
When I was five, my mother told me ‘girls are made from sugar and spice and all things nice’. It seemed like a reasonable answer as I was quite innocent at the time.
The next year, my sister and I were playing outside with the neighbourhood children. With us being kids, we were separated into two groups: shirts and skins. Shirts for girls and bare-chested for boys.
My sister, then five, didn’t understand why she had to be in a shirt. My mom sat us both down and explained there would be changes. Our first thoughts were, “No way!” Then I realised my sister would one day turn into ‘my mother’.
Forward to 1970, an Australian-born female singer hits the music scene, Helen Reddy. My mother loved her songs, singing the words “Oh yes, I am wise, But it’s wisdom born of pain, Yes, I’ve paid the price, But look how much I gained, If I have to, I can do anything, I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman.”
She seemed passionate about the song as she danced around the kitchen but it would take me 40 years to know its true meaning.
It was now 2014; my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. I went with her to see the oncologist and surgeon. A mastectomy was needed. Her first thought was she’ll do whatever it takes to stay alive.
During treatment, however, she thought it unfair that God gives the parts that make you a woman, only to take them back.
I realised, from the look in her eyes, that she thought that is how others will see her…not as a woman, but in her I saw more. I saw a teacher, nurturer and referee. I saw someone that could live on zero sleep to be with her daughters.
I saw pain, strength and sacrifice.
I saw a woman.
It didn’t matter to me if she was bald, had a mastectomy, or what would be taken from her next because I saw a beautiful woman. One that could smile through the rain and smile through the pain. I saw the woman I married and not her surgeries.
I think that’s the reason you see couples in their eighties, still smiling at each other and holding hands because she still sees her athlete from university and he sees his cheerleader with blond flowing-hair. I loved her more, not taking for granted that any day might be her last.
Not once did she think that she wouldn’t survive, even with Stage 3 breast cancer and sepsis. I, on the other hand, as a doctor knew the odds and cherished every day of her treatment, as every day she was with me – it was a treasurable blessing.
We counted the days until she heard the words ‘you are cancer free’. I then knew this beautiful woman and I would spend the rest of our lives together. It made me realise, what a blessing life truly is. I then thought back to that song my mom used to sing, “I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman.”
I believe there is a warrior gene in all women, to push ahead and persevere. If it were up to men to have babies, we would have been extinct long ago. I believe in each woman is strength, compassion, love and don’t forget sugar, spice and all things nice.
MEET OUR EXPERT – Dr Doug Potter
Dr Doug Potter is a doctor of Naturopathy, and has a PhD in Behavioral Science. He is the team leader of the first Fatigue Centre in Africa. His goal is to be the kind of person his dog thinks he is.