First, let me say how profoundly rattled I was when you shared this diagnosis. I'm sending healing thoughts and extended strength to you, your wife and children.
I've had more things happen to me, physically, and just when I think I'm over the big hurdle, another one slams me. My mother, who was very religious, used to always say, "Why is all of this happening to you?" My response was simply; "Why not me?"
Since I was a little girl, I always looked at people who had an easy or "charmed" life - at least from the outside, and wondered why my life was so hard.
I've come to this realization and I don't say this is true for you or anyone else, but it works for me: I think each of us experiences suffering at some point in our lives. Some get it in the beginning; some in mid-life and others when they're older. Some get more than their share and some go through life relatively smoothly and then get slammed at the end of their elder years. There is no rhyme or reason for it; it's just the Universe evening things out for everyone.
But why your wife? Why now? She has children who need her understanding, her compassion and her love. Yes, that is all true. Her husband needs his life partner with him, as well. How can this be happening and in such a stark and out-of-the-blue way, smashing everything you've known about how your lives would unfold and when?
It is our reminder that nothing is promised; nothing is guaranteed; life is random and we need to cherish everything about our lives, no matter how seemingly menial, or for those things we take for granted. It doesn't change what is happening in real time, but I know that we all come to this life with a purpose, meeting those along the way whom we are meant to help or who are meant to help us. All is predetermined and we are all playing roles in this life.
I've spent many years working in Oncology and founded the first non-profit in the world - helping family members of those with the BRCA I and II genetic mutations determine if they, too, carry the gene. I have witnessed every imaginable reaction to a cancer diagnosis from acceptance, to violent outbursts to the philosophical outlook on the diagnosis given. I have seen family who were supportive and family who avoided those stricken as though they had the plague.
This is what I know: There will always be time for grieving and tears. Now is the time to have long talks; Ask everything you can imagine and encourage the children if they are old enough to do the same.
Ask the tough questions, the funny questions, the curious questions and the meaningful questions. You'll learn more about your wife than you ever imagined, and give her the opportunity to reminisce and share stories with you that will take her out of the now for a time and allow her to just talk about it all.
Laugh as much as you can when you are with her, and I know that is a BIG ASK. You'll be of most help to her by finding whatever small way you can to divert her thoughts and attention for even a moment in time. Do the simple things; picnics, car rides, day trips. This will help divert your thought a little bit. Yes, it is always lurking in the back of your mind, but the simplest things that take your attention away for a few moments will become welcome relief.
And finally, allow for the anger and confusion that comes with such a diagnosis as this and be prepared for it to hit out-of-the-blue when you are least expecting it. It's the elephant in the room.
Spend one-on-one time with each child, supporting them. They may or may not want to engage about their mom's diagnosis, but if they know that dad is always there for them, it will help.
I wish I had the magic bullet for this diagnosis and how to navigate it but I don't. It's different and unique for everyone. Make every day full of memories that will last a lifetime. Blessings to you and your family, Dan.