Advice for couples from cancer caregivers and survivors

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hand holding heart shaped rock Cancerwise.JPGCT scans and chemotherapy sessions don't exactly make great dates. Coping with cancer treatment can be hard on couples, as it introduces new obstacles and challenges.

We talked to some of our patients and caregivers about what helped them grow closer to their partners during treatment. Here's their advice:

Communication is key.
"Cancer causes a variety of emotions for couples. In most ways, it brings you closer together and makes your relationship stronger. In other ways, it feels like you're a million miles apart, as you are both dealing with your own set of emotions.

Communication is key. As a caregiver, you will never fully understand what it's like to be on the other side and vice versa. Always talk about your emotions and try to understand each other. Also, make time for one another as a couple. Steve and I have date nights, weekend getaways, etc. But even just quiet time at home is great, too."  
--Jennifer Martin, melanoma caregiver

Take care of yourselves.
"The most important thing my wife and I could do for each other was take care of ourselves. We were newly engaged when I entered a clinical trial in 2012. We had to keep pursuing what we loved to do, the interests that made us who we were. We had to adjust our lens a little bit since we were so far away from home and a normal life.

We became more verbal about our appreciation for each other and filled the gaps with laughter. At the end of every week, we'd go on a date (usually dinner), and we'd talk about life outside of what we were going through. The most important thing we did was maintain the connection that got us through each and every day."
--Justin Ozuna, chronic myeloid leukemia survivor

Create a support system.

"Having a support system for myself was a big factor. When my husband Steve was very sick and weak, I was able to bounce the stress of this off my sisters. If not for them, I'm not sure how I would have handled it. I also tried to keep busy.  I spent a lot of time in front of my  sewing machine.  It was a great distraction when I needed it, keeping my mind busy and productive."
 --Becky Remetta, non-Hodgkin lymphoma caregiver

Be there on the good days and the bad days.
"Dealing with cancer is rough, not just on the patient, but the spouse as well. It may even be harder on the spouse. He or she sees the daily struggle and pain and suffers without the aid of medical miracles.

Melanie and I rely heavily upon our ability to be understanding and compassionate. I help her whenever I am strong enough. She knows I will have good days and bad days and is willing to overlook things I may say in frustration. She also has bad days, I understand that. I comfort and love her through them. Together, we are strong.
--Harley Hudson, chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patient

1 Comment

I was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma on 8/11.
I was riding bikes with my sister and had a nasty fall due to a seizure. Broke my hip, a rib and had a concussion. When they xrayed my head they found a very large mass in my left temporal lobe and a almost total uncal herniation.
Boy, God is good! After a emergent crainiotomy, I started chemo and had total brain radiation. Then at Moffitt Cancer Center I started a clinical trial. (all for stage 4 melanoma)
That was 3 years ago. I am still NED.
My only issues at this time is trying to get all my hair back :). I also am working on improving my cognitive function and memory deficits.
My faith, family and friends have been wonderful in providing the support I need in taking this one day at a time. I can't do what I used to do. I was a critical care nurse and educator. I loved that work and miss it very much!
But you know, life is still good and has new promises for tomorrow.
So if you are facing something similar, don't fear, and don't give up. God is right there next to you, holding you,

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