If only I had a doula when I had cancer


Written by Adam Edwards. The diagnosis came quickly, the surgery even quicker, but the hardest part of my fight with cancer was the time in recovery. I was a twenty year old man, healthy, active, and I had just become a father three months prior to my diagnosis. My visit to the doctor wasn't even of a serious nature - I only went because I was suffering from a miserable bout of mono, caught from a rather giving drinking fountain. I guess that was something I could be thankful for, as the doctor noticed something I hadn't, a second Adam's apple (yeah, I know, it's funny) growing from my throat. Turns out, it was stage 2 thyroid cancer.

Time was of the essence, we had to act fast.

Within a month, I had one giant surgery to remove my thyroid and the lymph nodes on my right side, leaving me with two massive smiling scars on my throat. I was given a cocktail of medication meant to drive out any remaining cancerous cells with a chaser of radioactive iodine to light up anything else during my scans.

I was exhausted - all I wanted was a nap.

The radiation made it so that I had to be isolated in a special section of the hospital, in a private room, with a bright red line made out of duct tape on the floor to let people know how close they could get to me. I had a television with basic cable, a lovely view of the river outside, and aside from the thoughts in my head, I was all alone. I was visited by doctors and nurses at scheduled times, my family visited a few times when they could, and one friend stopped by when he could slip away from his job in the hospital.

I wish I would have had someone there to remind me to drink more water, to get me McDonalds or really, anything else so I didn't have to eat the bland hospital food. I wish I had someone there to talk to, some sort of human interaction other than the television. I made jokes to myself and caught myself laughing out loud, and then feeling even more alone for not having someone there to share the joke with.

When I finally got home, I ate anti-nausea pills like they were candy while awake, and slept most of the days away. My mother checked in on me from time to time, but she couldn't afford to take a lot of time from work. My friends rarely came over, not that I would've been much good for company, but I'd spent so long already without human connection that it would've been nice to have a five minute conversation about anything other than the cancer and following treatments that had essentially ravished the state of my body.

If I'd had a doula when I had cancer, there would've been someone there to talk to, to support me through this unexpected and (let's be honest) scary time in my life, and to reassure me that I wasn't alone. They could've joked with me, made sure that I actually ate - even if I might have thrown it up later - and helped me walk outside to get some fresh air and sunshine on my face. My doula wouldn't have to be magical, they could've just been there for me when nobody else could be, and tell me that everything was going to be alright - that I wasn't going to die anytime soon, or at least that I wasn't going to be sick forever.

Doulas aren't just for women and families for pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. They're for life. They're for death. They're for education and support and to provide care without judgment, because sometimes we have to make unpopular choices to survive that not everyone likes. Basically, doulas just kick ass at providing the type of support that PEOPLE need, whatever that may be.