This past season, I really enjoyed the TV show Parenthood, because it tackled the today’s topic, 5 tips for iLoveStrong Couples need to help battle Cancer together.
In a recent article in the New York Times, Dr. Shapiro, the author of a new book, “And in Health: A Guide for Couples Facing Cancer Together.” gave advice that can help prevent the diagnosis from damaging one’s most important relationship.
He wrote, “Cancer, is like a tremor that rattles our walls and finds the fault lines that already existed. If we’re not careful, it reaches into our relationships and drags out these subtle differences and magnifies them.”
For most marriages, certain things go unsaid, like certain needs that aren’t being met by the other partner, or accommodating your partner out of fear or conflict. Couples don’t deal with these issues immediately because they feel that there will always be a day to talk about them.
When the Big “C” (cancer) comes or any serious illness for that matter can only exacerbate this issue. Dr. Shapiro, who had cancer himself, stated, “Withholding my feelings was a big mistake. “By not being honest with my wife,” he said, “you can create a wedge in the relationship at a time when you both need understanding and support.”
Cancer can cause people to lose their bearings and to push away those they love and most need to help them through the challenges of treatment. if this is you, here are 5 tips that can strengthen your marriage as you fight cancer together.
- Teamwork Is Essential – When a spouse is faced with the challenge of a potentially fatal diagnosis like cancer, he/she will often have difficulty remembering everything doctors tell them and correctly interpreting the information. Couples should see doctors as a team, with one assigned to take notes and both able to ask questions, misunderstandings about diagnoses and treatment options are less likely.If doctors fail to adequately address the patient’s concerns, the couple should decide which partner will speak up. And when both members of a couple are educated about side effects, they are less likely to panic when a symptom develops.
- Talk and Touch – A mastectomy affects a woman’s sexuality. A woman may feel less attractive or desirable after the operation. She may be unwilling or extremely anxious and self-conscious about her partner seeing her naked. This affects her libido. The sex drive in mastectomy patients decreases immediately after the operation as does the amount of sex she has. As the husband, it’s important that whenever and however you can, express and show your love and concern in words, actions and touch. When faced with cancer, Dr. Shapiro’s wife needed him to say, repeatedly, that he loved her. “And she wanted me to take the trash down to the street on time without being reminded,” he added. “A soft nonsexual touch on the arm or shoulder can be a soothing balm when we feel vulnerable,” Dr. Shapiro wrote.
- Mistakes are learning opportunities Couples must rely more than ever on patience and tolerance. “Cancer requires a whole new set of skills at a time when most of us are depleted, distracted and scared,” he wrote. Each person should go easy on the partner when “rookie mistakes” occur, like forgetting appointments, losing things or locking the keys in the car.When people are anxious, they may deflect their feelings to their partner. For example, when couples are waiting for the results of treatment, rather than take out their anxiety on spouses, themselves or anyone else, Dr. Shapiro suggests, “Do exercise, go for walks, see a movie, talk to friends and distract yourself.”
- Mind reading is not an option Patients often expect their partners to know how they are feeling and what they may want, then resent it when unexpressed needs are not met.A patient’s ability and energy to perform tasks may change from one day to the next. Patients may feel unsupported if their partners expect them to function normally when they feel awful, or they may resent having jobs taken from them when they feel well. It’s better to ask than to assume. Both should “talk about what needs to be done today and who’s going to do it,” Dr. Shapiro advised. He encourages spouses to repeatedly check in with each other about various tasks.
- Prepare for the Unknown No one can ever predict if cancer will go into remission, or will take a turn for the worse.In Dr. Shapiro’s book, he urges couples to have a conversation about end-of-life care, making clear their wishes in case a spouse later faces decisions about life support.“Advanced directives are a lasting gift” for those you love, Dr. Shapiro said. One woman he interviewed lost her chance to spend the last months with her husband in the way she wanted because the doctors pursued treatment even as he was dying.
In the end these 5 tips will strengthen your marriage during your battle with cancer? If you are a person that has battled a serious illness what are some things you suggest that can help you are your spouse become closer?