Monday, September 20, 2010

Coping with change-facing cancer together

Lessons we've incorporated.
~Entered by Sherry

Facing cancer together.
Although my spouse has cancer, the illness is really happening to both of us. Our life is being disrupted in many (though not all) of the same ways. We are sharing many of same emotions and concerns. We are both challenged to find constructive ways of dealing with the disruptions and threats posed by cancer and with the side effects of medical treatments. It can be tremendously reassuring and comforting to know that the two of us are facing the illness together and that our support and involvement will be steadfast and unwavering regardless of what happens.

Supporting Terence's true feelings.
I've begun to understand that most cancer patients feel pressure to maintain a positive mental attitude, and too often this pressure prevents them from expressing their true feelings. I know Terence sometimes holds back in sharing some of his legitimate concerns because he does not want to disappoint or burden me, or because he thinks that negative emotions might jeopardize healing.  But we make a concentrated effort to encourage one another to  support and validate both sets of his emotions (not only the positive ones).

Confronting sexual issues.
The cancer treatments have affected his sexual function. The chemical castration is caused by prostate cancer treatment (hormone therapy).  The key to dealing with this issue is open communication.  It’s typical for most couples to be reluctant to broach this topic, but we acknowledge these issues and convey our desire to face them together. I also go out of my way to reassure Terence of my love (because of who he is as a person, not because of physical attractiveness or sexual performance), that  my main priority is his survival, and that I continue to desire him!

Discussion is better than assumption.
I can’t assume that I know what Terence is thinking or feeling about the cancer, or that I know what he needs from me.  I might think that he wants me to offer encouragement and hope, when actually he just wants me to  say is  ``I'm with you and we'll face this together no matter what happens.''
The point of this is that I need to remember to talk with him about his emotional reactions and concerns....and to ask what he needs from me. Some of these needs may be concrete or practical: going together to doctor's appointments, becoming educated about his cancer and the treatment options, handling the phone calls from friends and relatives, taking over more household chores. Other needs may be more emotional: being attuned and responsive to what he is feeling encouraging him to confide in me, offering empathy and support during difficult times.

We vowed to love and take care of one another for all the days of our lives, come what may.  At the delivery of a cancer diagnosis, those vows can be really put to the test; one of us is put in the difficult position of providing non-stop care, and the other becomes dependent.  But we are here for each other;  " For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, ‘til death do us part".   We are thinking of re-newing our vows next year!

Making Joint Decisions
For couples who have spent a lifetime sharing the joys and responsibilities of life, it’s difficult when one is put in charge of the other’s care. Most marriages find their own balance, but when one spouse is suddenly less capable, that balance shifts, sometimes making both members of the couple a bit uncomfortable at first.  It has been important for Terence & I to discuss our feelings and continue consulting one another regarding decisions, not only about the illness and treatment options, but also about everyday tasks and the other issues common to daily life. Keeping things as normal as possible can help to keep equality in the relationship, allowing both people to focus on what’s important – utilizing our time together in the best ways possible!

Constant caretaking can be quite exhausting, both physically and mentally, so I like it when I find outside help to manage needs because it frees up my energy for other interaction – tending to needs that can only be met by me.  Dinners are especially burdensome to think about.
Family dance off!

Overall, our main goal is to continue to try to focus our energ toward  nurturing relationships, fulfilling unachieved dreams, and creating an environment of support for one another as well as for those around us!
Weekly bible studies

Thanks everyone for your continued emails, cards, letters, support & gifts.  My cancer friends who have been fighting this for what seems like their life time- tell me that encouragement and support tends to decline after awhile.  Some find that a bit depressing mainly because they (the patients) are left with still facing cancer and it's affects day-in-and -day-out, and it becomes weary.  I can see that.  15 months into our own battle seems like something should be better by now!

Any ways- thanks for your friendship and encouragement. Terence & I both appreciate it!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, that's an awesome post Sherry. You and Terence are really doing well in adjusting and coping with this cancer. I can see how this understanding helps you and Terence to have the strength to fight this~ your energy is put towards each other rather than against each other. I'm really proud of both of you, and wish we could take some of this burden. Praying every day for you and Terence.

    Love You!! Charla