Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Family Matters: Spouses and Partners

"I was very scared when my husband was diagnosed with cancer.  He had always taken care of me and we did everything together. I was afraid I simply wouldn't  be strong enough to help him through his treatment. I was so afraid that he might not recover, and I was also afraid to talk with him about my fears because I didn't want to upset him."  

Your husband, wife, or partner may feel just as scared by cancer as you do. You both may feel anxious, helpless, or afraid. You may find it hard to be taken care of by someone you love.

People react to cancer in different ways. Some cannot accept that cancer is a serious illness. Others try too hard to be "perfect" caregivers. And some people refuse to talk about cancer. For most people, thinking about the future is scary.

It helps if you and the people close to you can talk about your fears and concerns. You may want to meet with a counselor who can help both of you talk about these feelings.

Sharing Information

Including your spouse or partner in treatment decisions is important. You can meet with your doctor together and learn about your type of cancer. You might want to find out about common symptoms, treatment choices, and their side effects. This information will help both of you plan for the future.

Your spouse or partner will also need to know how to help take care of your body and your feelings. And, even though it's not easy, both of you should think about the future and make plans in case you don't survive your cancer. You may find it helpful to meet with a financial planner or a lawyer.

Staying Close

Everyone needs to feel needed and loved. You may have always been the "strong one" in your family, but now is the time to let your spouse or partner help you. This can be as simple as letting the other person fluff your pillow, bring you a cool drink, or read to you.

Feeling sexually close to your partner is also important. You may not be interested in sex when you're in treatment because you feel tired, sick to your stomach, or in pain. But when your treatment is over, you may feel like having sex again. Until then, you and your spouse or partner may need to find new ways to show that you care about each other. This can include touching, holding, hugging, and cuddling.

Time Away

Your spouse or partner needs to keep a sense of balance in his or her life. He or she needs time to take care of personal chores and errands. Your partner will also need time to sort through his or her own feelings about cancer. And most importantly, everyone needs time to rest. If you don't want to be alone when your loved one is away, think about getting respite care or asking a friend to stay with you. 

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