In this article, we will discuss how a married person should help a spouse who has cancer.
|Cancer is one of the most dreaded diseases in the world. It is considered to be a terminal illness, because it can destroy the health and life of a person who is suffering from cancer and if it is left untreated or is discovered at a late stage, it becomes very difficult to cure the disease. In general, there is no permanent cure or treatment for cancer unlike illnesses such as influenza, common cold, cough etc., which become alright within reasonable time. Therefore, it is a terrible disease and if a person is married and his or her spouse is suffering from cancer, it is a very painful and depressing experience. If a person ever has such an experience, there are some things which the healthy spouse can do to look after and help the spouse who is suffering from cancer. These are explained below:
A Person Should Try to Accept the Fact that their Spouse Has Cancer
If the spouse who is suffering from cancer has been diagnosed for the first time, it is very natural to feel totally shocked and helpless. Both the spouses may even feel sad, depressed, angry or scared. But the couple must be strong and accept the fact that one of them is suffering from cancer. In fact, they have to be stronger in such a situation since the suffering spouse has to battle the illness to the extent possible and lead a reasonably normal life.
Learning to Cope With and Manage One's Life and Emotions
After a person is examined and diagnosed with cancer, he or she may experience physical and emotional changes. One of these changes is hair loss, which occurs as a result of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The hair loss can be either total or partial. However, the hair loss which a person experiences in cancer is usually temporary and the hair will start growing again after some time. The spouse who is suffering from cancer also may experience some side effects related to the hair loss as a result of having undergone chemotherapy or radiation therapy to cure or treat the cancer. Some of the other physical changes which the person who is suffering from cancer may experience are weight loss or weight gain, fatigue, anemia, loss of appetite. A patient and his or her spouse may also feel psychologically affected and experience various emotions. For example, if a woman is suffering from cancer, she and her husband may feel sad because she has the disease and they are worried about her chances of recovery. The couple will also feel anxious, depressed, helpless, angry, shocked and uncertain about the wife's health. In such circumstances, it is necessary for the couple to manage their life and emotions. If the couple has children then doing so becomes even more necessary. To do so, the spouse who is suffering from cancer should discuss his or her feelings with the healthy spouse, and should also clearly and carefully explain their condition to their children. The healthy spouse can also talk to the doctor and also help the sick spouse in managing their home. They should also teach and encourage the children to help in managing the household in ways which are proper for their age. This will reduce the burden of the wife and mother and enable her to relax. It will also show her that her family loves her and cares for her.
Dealing With the Feelings of Uncertainty About the Spouse's Health and Condition
When a person is suffering from cancer, he or she and his or her spouse may feel doubtful and uncertain about the condition of the sick spouse. For example, the couple may feel concerned about whether the treatment which the patient is receiving will work or not or they may feel concerned about the chances of recovery of the sick spouse, because the chances of recovery depend on various factors. If the patient is experiencing the later stages of cancer, the chances of recovery are low, and therefore finding a cure is more difficult than in the early stages of the disease. Another factor which has to be considered is the type of cancer the patient is suffering from. In acute forms of cancer, the disease spreads rapidly, while in chronic forms of cancer, it spreads slowly. To deal with such feelings of uncertainty, the spouses should discuss their doubts and uncertainties with each other, their doctor, the medical team and some social worker or counselor. The healthy spouse can help the sick spouse by listening patiently to what he or she wants to say and reassuring him or her that he or she will stand by the sick spouse in all situations and the healthy spouse can also help the sick spouse by discussing the couple's fears, doubts and uncertainties with the hospital staff, the medical team, the doctor, and other professionals.
Maintaining a Positive Attitude and Leading a Normal Life
When one of the spouses is suffering from cancer, it is necessary for the couple to talk to each other. The sick spouse and the healthy spouse should discuss how each of them is feeling. This may help the couple feel secure and reassured. But it is equally or even more important for the spouses to maintain a positive attitude and lead their lives normally and following their usual routine. For example, the healthy spouse can go with the sick spouse for a vacation or holiday to their favorite destination if the sick spouse is healthy enough to travel. Or the couple can watch a lively movie or television show at home if it is not possible them to travel. This will help the couple to get some diversion, and it may make the spouses feel less depressed, especially the spouse who has cancer.
Talking with Family and Friends About Cancer
Many times, spouses hesitate to talk to each other about sad and depressing news and topics such as cancer. So, it is possible that the spouse who is suffering from cancer may avoid discussing how he or she is feeling in terms of health. The spouse who has cancer may be seriously ill but still may prefer to suffer silently so that the healthy spouse and children, if the couple has any children, don't feel sad and depressed. However, this practice of hiding one's illness should not be encouraged. On the contrary, the sick spouse should be encouraged to openly talk about his or her illness to the healthy spouse, children other close relatives or anyone close friends, because it can prove helpful if the sick spouse discusses his or her thoughts and feelings with the healthy spouse. In this situation, the healthy spouse should encourage the sick spouse to talk about his or her illness, how he or she is feeling, even if it causes the couple to feel intense emotions, and should listen patiently and carefully to what the sick spouse wants to say about his or her illness and how he or she is feeling. The spouses can also talk about the treatment options and make certain adjustments in their lifestyle to accommodate the needs of the spouse suffering from cancer. For example, the healthy spouse can help in running the household. However, usually spouses find it difficult to talk about cancer, because it is not a pleasant topic to discuss or talk about and causes intense emotions and when a couple talks about cancer, they also discuss topics and issues which can make them feel sad and depressed. However, the spouses can deal with this problem by communicating their thoughts and feelings to each other honestly and openly. The spouses should listen patiently to each other and try to understand what each one is telling the other person. They should clarify any doubts and avoid interrupting each other as far as possible. The spouse who is suffering from cancer should tell the healthy spouse how he or she is feeling physically and emotionally. This will enable the healthy spouse to support him or her once the healthy spouse understands how the sick spouse is feeling.
Becoming a Caregiver For the Spouse Who Is Suffering From Cancer
A Caregiver is a person who helps a person who is suffering from a terminal illness like cancer by looking after the needs of the patient and supporting him or her both practically and emotionally. Care giving can prove to be a very rewarding experience, but it can also prove to be very stressful and physically and emotionally exhausting for the caregiver. The role of the caregiver can change depending on the circumstances, type of treatment the patient is receiving, stage of the disease and other similar factors. Usually, the spouse of the patient becomes the main caregiver and looks after his or her needs, supports him or her practically and emotionally and take some responsibilities to reduce the burden on the patient. But it is also possible for more than one caregiver to share the responsibility of caring for and helping the patient. This is called shared care giving. In this type of care giving arrangement, each of the family members who are staying in the house can look after the patient by performing a care giving task which each of them can do well. However, usually it is the spouse of the patient who becomes the main caregiver and looks after the sick spouse. Some of the responsibilities of care giving and caregivers are as follows:
1. Giving the terminally ill spouse emotional support.
2. Giving the medications prescribed by the doctor to the ill spouse regularly and on time.
3. Helping the terminally ill spouse to deal with the side effects of the treatments and medications which he or she is taking.
4. The healthy spouse can help the sick spouse by supervising and coordinating appointments with the hospital and at the doctor's clinic and reminding the spouse about the appointments since it is not a good idea for a person who is suffering from cancer to miss any medical appointments. The healthy spouse can also help by talking to the doctor and the medical team and finding out how well is the sick spouse responding to the treatment.
5. The healthy spouse should accompany his or her terminally ill spouse to appointments with the hospital or doctor's clinic whenever or wherever the appointments take place.
6. The healthy spouse can reduce the burden of the terminally ill spouse by helping him or her in running the household and also in preparing the food.
7. If the spouse who is suffering from cancer has been admitted to the hospital for treatment, the healthy spouse and other family members such as the couple's children can stay at the hospital in the room where the terminally ill person is admitted for treatment.
If the healthy spouse, children and other family members do these things, the spouse who has cancer will feel reassured that his or her family loves and cares for him or her.
But the role and responsibilities of a caregiver can change depending on the situation, the stage of cancer the person is experiencing, the type of cancer the spouse is suffering from and the type of treatment a person is receiving. This is because there is no standard definition of care giving, since everyone faces a different situation. Care giving also has some advantages and many people who become caregivers feel happy and fulfilled. The advantages of care giving are as follows: Firstly, The spouse who is suffering from cancer will feel happy and nice because it shows that the caregiver loves them and cares for them and is willing to help the terminally ill spouse and look after him or her to the best of his or her ability. The spouse who is fulfilling the role and responsibilities of being a caregiver will also feel happy that his or her efforts are helping the sick spouse. Secondly, care giving can make a significant and positive difference to the life of the sick spouse and it may improve their health and their quality of life to some extent. Thirdly, by becoming a caregiver for the sick spouse, the healthy spouse and the the sick spouse may develop a stronger bond with each other and this may help the couple to also resolve any differences that they may have. Fourthly, care giving may encourage the spouses to spend more quality time with each other and they won't take each other for granted in such a situation. However, care giving can also prove to be very stressful, tiring and emotionally draining, especially for the caregiver. Hence, the caregiver spouse also needs to take care of his or her health so that he or she can carry out his or her role and responsibilities as a caregiver effectively. He or she can do this by sharing the care giving responsibilities with the couple's children and give them tasks to fulfill according to the ages of the children. This will enable the primary caregiver to take a break from care giving and relax. The caregiver can also hire a nurse to look after the needs of the spouse who has cancer. If the caregiver feels sad, anxious and depressed, he or she can talk to the doctor or a counselor about his or her feelings. The caregiver should also try to eat meals regularly, exercise and take rest.
Showing Love, Warmth and Affection to Each Other
This is a very simple but effective way of helping a spouse who is suffering from cancer. If the couple and their children show each other love and affection this can help the person who is sick feel much better if he or she knows that his or her family loves and cares for him or her, and it may improve the sick person's health. The family members can show love and affection in many ways such as hugging each other. A person needs love and affection even more when he or she is suffering from a disease such as cancer. In such a situation, the family members feel much more emotionally attached to each other than usual due to fear of loss, anxiety, sadness, and depression. This is a very natural thing to happen when one of the members is terminally ill. Hence it is important for the family members to show love and affection to each other in such a situation because this may improve the health of the person who is suffering and make him or her feel better and have a more positive outlook. It may also help the family members of the sick person feel better and reassured if they all show love and affection to each other.
To conclude, it may be said that cancer is a terrible disease since it doesn't allow the person who is suffering from it to enjoy life. In a family, where one of the spouses has cancer, the family may feel sad, helpless, depressed, and scared of the possibility of losing the person who is sick, because there is no permanent treatment or cure for cancer, and it is especially difficult to find a cure if the cancer has been discovered in the later stages. However, in such situations, the healthy spouse can take various measures or steps to help the spouse who has cancer. Some of these measures have been explained and discussed in detail in this article.