If your loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, you’re probably experiencing a range of stages of grief. After all, cancer sucks and isn’t fair. And if the grief isn’t enough, the challenges of making decisions about medical care, bills, your home life, etc., will put anyone on the edge of a cliff.
You have so many reasons to feel sad, angry, frustrated and helpless – and I have no single answer to make it all go away. But I can tell you talking about it with your loved one helps so much. Here are my top 4 tips for any partner supporting a woman fighting cancer.
Don’t worry about being strong all the time
The nature of this sucky process is that you will each have your strong, positive, hopeful moments and you will each have your “life sucks, cancer sucks, everything sucks right now” moments. It’s totally natural to have these feelings. I cried when I needed to cry, felt sorry for myself some days and leaned on Martin or my family on the days I didn’t think I could make it another day.
Accept help from family and friends
Human nature tends to make men feel like they always have to have the solution to whatever problem comes up, but that’s not realistic. If researchers haven’t been able to cure cancer yet, then you’re not going to get it done this week, either. Don’t put pressure on yourself. The most important job you have is one of love and support. When family and friends ask how they can help, tell them. Put your energy into embracing their love and support of YOU. Several websites can help you manage the onslaught of questions, phone calls and texts:
- CaringBridge.com gives you a simple way to communicate with loved ones any updates you wish to share. Loved ones receive a password so the information stays private.
- MealTrain.com helps loved ones coordinate meal support without requiring you to lift a finger. The site even recommends placing a cooler outside your door so you don’t have to answer the door every time someone delivers a meal. Loved ones will understand it’s a difficult time and “entertaining” can be exhausting, even for five minutes at the door. Plus you don’t need to be around the germs while going through treatment, so keep guests outside! They will understand! My dear friend Michelle did this for me during treatment, and it helped my family tremendously.
Don’t freak out about the bills – but don’t ignore them, either
Cancer treatment is expensive and complicated. The stack of white paper that will begin to build on your kitchen table or desk will include bills with numbers you never thought you’d see next to your name. Keep everything and consider working with a patient advocate. These days, lots of larger companies offer services to help employees parse through bills and paperwork.
An LA Times profile of patient advocates shared several additional resources:
Take care of yourself
Supporting and caring for someone going through cancer treatment is emotionally and physically exhausting – and you’re not betraying your loved one by admitting that. But it’s all made even tougher if you’re not taking care of yourself. Taking time alone isn’t selfish – it’s restorative. Becoming the healthiest, strongest version of yourself may be the best gift you can give your loved one fighting cancer. Also consider these resources:
- The American Cancer Society has a Cancer Survivors Network that will connect you with people going through so many of the same experiences.
- I’ve written about how much Inspire.com has helped me, and loved ones of cancer survivors can participate, too.
A cancer diagnosis is like the starting line for an emotional marathon. Trust your gut and take care of yourself.