What men do when cancer calls
THIS is a difficult story.
Hard to write, and hard to read, exposing as it does the raw frailty in us all.
It is about three men whose wives survived breast cancer this past year, one for the second cruel time.
It is a story about vulnerability, anger, sadness, shock, depression and financial ruin.
But it is also a story about perseverance, hope, the value of accepting help, and how the simple act of drawing your loved ones closer than ever, can be life's most magnificent rescue.
CRAIG Jones is in the middle of road crew duties in Dayboro when I call.
A construction concerto of clash-bang echoes intermittently in the background as he starts talking, sharing things he has never told anyone before.
He and wife Megan had just moved to the Sunshine Coast from Brisbane five years ago to start a new life, when her first diagnosis came in.
Mr Jones had just had ankle surgery and had taken 18 months off work. He couldn't walk.
The couple had three children under the age of three.
"It was a real bad time," he said.
"Megan had to quit work. We had no income, because the government wouldn't help us because we had money in the bank.
"It was really tough.
"(Before) life was looking really good. We had saved $80,000 in the bank and we were starting a new life.
"So it really floored us. It wiped us out mentally and financially as well."
Mrs Jones was diagnosed with breast cancer again - despite having had a double mastectomy - last October.
"To get the diagnosis this time around...," he said, before the sentence trailed off. "I can't even describe it. It's hard to talk about...I've never spoken about it.
"The hardest side about being a guy is you can't talk to other men about your problems, because they don't want to know about it; it makes them uncomfortable and they feel obligated to you somehow.
"So there's no one to speak to about it.
"And I can't talk to Megan about it, because it's just loading her up even further. My problems are insignificant compared to hers."
Mr Jones believed he had depression, although it was never diagnosed.
"I wanted to take care of my family, but there was a total feeling of absolute helplessness. There is absolutely nothing you can do to help the situation.
"That was the hardest for me to deal with. You know, I can pick up a tool and I can fix things...
"One of my worst thoughts was that I wanted to get cancer as well, so I could understand the pain.
"I was at the point where I couldn't work. I would go to work, but I was useless. I couldn't focus on anything; your mind is in a thousand different places every day.
"And as a man you don't go and see counsellors, you just bottle it up and try and deal with it.
"Before all this happened, I was the most happy-go-lucky bloke. But now I have anger issues and I wake up every day, and I either have a good day or a bad day. I just hope it's better than the last day.
"So I don't know if I'm dealing with it or not."
As hard as it may be, communication, he said, was the key.
"Talk about it as much as you can with whoever you can. My mistake was that I kept it all in my head, and I think that made it more difficult than it should have been.
"Now Megan and I make a point to sit down and spend half an hour with each other every day, just to talk."