Friday, June 28, 2013

The other half of having cancer

I have touched upon this before but the other half of having cancer, or any ailment, is the impact on the patient's partner or spouse. Somehow that gets skipped. The spouse sometimes becomes the silent partner without support in a cancer journey.

I know dozens of people with cancer and other ailments - either in person or online - and each handle it differently.

Since we got married eight years ago, I have had five surgeries, numerous procedures, and other medical adventures and been diagnosed with breast cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia as well as degenerating disks, gall stones, and I can't remember everything else.

My husband comes with me on all important doctor appointments - he is allowed to see everything but a pelvic exam and the scale when it shows my weight. (The first has never been an issue and the second he is always told to turn away or close his eyes and the nurses write it down without saying a thing.)

I wanted him at the 'bad' appointments because I wanted support from him and also felt that he should be involved as they were going to have a lot of impact on our lives so he should be able to hear whats going on and ask his own questions.

Even now that my doctor appointments are not dealing with cancer treatment, I still call him immediately after every one to share any news about my health.

When he had his own cancer issues a few years ago, I went with him on all his appointments to hear what the doctor has to say and make sure his questions got answered. I needed to be involved so I could support him as best I could.

But then I have friends who go to all their cancer appointments by themselves and chose not to involve any family members in their treatment. I have friends who drove themselves to all their chemo infusions. I always needed a nap after mine and wasn't sure I could drive myself home.

I know there is a line between sucking up all their time and no one wants to go to as many doctor appointments as I have (a minimum of 50/year - really) but sometimes I think you need the support.

Studies have shown that husbands feel isolated when their wives have breast cancer - they don't get the support they need. A cancer diagnosis is not a one person adventure, it involves the patients family as well.

Doctors are happy to include spouses in medical discussions. I think a spouse who is involved will feel less isolation as they become part of the cancer journey as opposed to a bystander.

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