Professional actor Michael J. Fox stated that “family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” For caregivers, this statement rings true.
When a person is diagnosed with colorectal cancer, his or her whole family is affected. From understanding the details of diagnosis to preparing for an uncertain outcome, life becomes complicated faster than anticipated.
Caring for someone through a chronic illness requires patience, persistence, hope, and commitment. Jaione Axpe, wife of stage IV cancer patient, Scott Wilson, knows this firsthand.
Jaione and Scott’s long-distance romance lead to Jaione moving from Spain to be with Scott in the UK. Their love continued and they were married with two children over time. In 2015 they moved to the United States for a career move, and from there everything moved quickly.
Scott was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer in August of 2016. Learning of the severe diagnosis was not easy.
“I wasn’t expecting that outcome. It was the worst I’ve felt—ever,” she said. “We moved to the United States only a year before and we just started to settle. We left our life behind, our friends, and family. You’re thinking, oh my god, what’s going to happen? The kids are young, I’m young, and Scott is young. You go to that place when you’re completely alone. You have a moment like, if anything happened to Scott, what will I do?”
The realization of what could happen to Scott, to her marriage, and to their children’s future was daunting. Being reactive was never an option. Jaione committed to keeping life for her husband and children as normal as possible. “When we agreed to tell the kids it was a tough moment. They were only 11 and 15. They were familiar and knew the severity of diagnosis but we were trying to explain it and give it a positive outcome. At the time you think, “how you are you going to make them feel okay?” You forget about yourself.”
Keeping a level of intimacy around the diagnosis was a constructive way Jaione was able to care for her family while remaining positive. “We weren’t secretive, but we kept things personal. Very few people knew about it. We didn’t share via social media and didn’t really tell anyone. I remember telling a couple of old friends and sharing what was going on. Everyone was in the same state of shock as we were.”
Jaione made it her mission to support Scott every step of the way, never missing a doctor’s appointment or scheduled, six-hour chemo treatment. “Since his diagnosis, we became inseparable. I wake up thinking a year has passed and he’s here. There’s obviously days when you get a bit down but they’re less and less. Now we are making plans, planning holidays, and making our lives as normal as possible.”
Having the experience as a caregiver to a stage-IV cancer patient gave new light and appreciation for Jaione. “The amount of time spent going to doctor’s appointments, treatments, and operations—that’s a heavy toll for a caregiver. But I do feel that some people are alone and I think that’s one of the worst things to be alone during that time. I’m willing to go with someone to chemo if they need it. Some people don’t have anybody.”
Jaione remains optimistic for Scott’s health and for her family. “It’s frustrating not having control over it. You have to be positive but very realistic. I’m feeling really good at the minute!”
If you are a caregiver or would like to connect with a caregiver who knows what you are going through, reach out to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. To learn more about programs that can help you along your path, reach out to Nancy Butterfield, Director of Patient & Family Support with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance.