The Impact of Cancer on Spouses
No matter what stage of the marriage you’re in, a cancer diagnosis can rock your world to the core. When my wife and I first found out that she had breast cancer, the whole experience was very surreal.
We were at a point in our lives where we had overcome the usual hurdles of marriage and considered ourselves to be one of the few who had managed to stay together and continue loving each other. The idea that we might not be growing old together was too overwhelming.
Our world had turned upside down, but the truth is that there wasn’t much time to think about it. My wife’s treatment started within a month of the diagnosis, and there was so much else to do that all we could do was focus on the present. Small everyday victories became the cornerstone of her recovery.
Getting through treatment
One of the first things I did was look into flexible work options for the three months of upcoming chemo. I was fortunate enough that my employer let me work from home, and my coworkers understood my situation and gave me more flexibility with projects.
She went through weekly infusions that left her feeling sick and nauseated the entire time. The neuropathy meant that she had trouble doing routine tasks, as the pain would become unbearable sometimes.
After her treatment, we decided to opt for a double mastectomy without reconstruction. The decision was difficult, but reconstruction would mean another surgery and a longer recovery period.
Advice for partners
Everyone’s cancer journey is different. Here are some things that I found worked for us:
- Be a team. Talk to each other and make your decisions together. Being a teammate and focusing on what ‘we’ could do, instead of ‘you’ can make all the difference.
- Organize and support. My wife also went through a phase of chemo brain and had trouble concentrating and remembering things. Stay on top of medications, be proactive at doctor’s appointments, note down information, and bring up symptoms that your partner may have experienced earlier.
- Provide emotional support. Listening, encouragement, and showing love are crucial for recovery. Stay strong and steady because you’re the rock that your spouse will be counting on.
- Don’t be afraid to get help. Reaching out to friends and family members is essential because so many shared responsibilities now fall on you. Staying organized is the key. For instance, I made sure I had a reliable family member at home on the days that I had to go in for work.
- Take care of yourself. You can’t take care of someone if you’re sick yourself. Be sure to focus on your own physical and mental health during this time too.
- Learning from others that have been on this path before maybe helpful. Check out the Breast Cancer Husband that comes packed with medical information, practical tips, psychological insight, and coping strategies for men looking to support their wives through this difficult time.
Keeping track of the support and help you get from friends and family members can be a challenge for patients and caregivers—and that’s exactly where My CareCrew comes in. This free health app for cancer patients and caregivers streamlines help offers from friends and family while also allowing the patient to ask for help or support. Users can schedule, update, and keep track of requests to ensure that the patient and their family have support exactly when they need it most.
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