As the partner of someone diagnosed with Cancer often you will feel very helpless, after all it’s something you can’t fix. You are reliant on the oncologists, surgeons, nurses and doctors and your partners body to do the ‘fixing’.
So what can you do to help?
There are still plenty of things you can do, both physically, emotionally and practically. in this blog we will cover the practical and physical things you can do.
Another pair of ears
Firstly one of my most important roles is that of listener, from diagnosis and through treatment there will be many appointments, with lots of information. It’s vital that the patient has support in these appointments as simply another pair of ears will catch significantly more detail and understanding of what was said. Remembering which tablet to take, what they are called, what the side effects are, when they should be taken is much easier when you have two people who are listening. Also understanding the diagnosis and remembering what questions you want to ask are a huge help to the patient.
A hand to hold
It can’t be underestimated the benefit to someone in stressful and scary situations of the touch of a loved one. Holding your partners hand while waiting to go in to an appointment or waiting for a result etc is a small but equally as important act as any of the others. We have both found great strength in this simple act as strength flows from one to another.
The next place you can be of support is simply as a driver. Often the patient may not feel well enough to drive or the stresses of the appointments and treatments may leave them physically or mentally exhausted. Therefore having someone who can drive you to the appointments is really important. Obviously not everyone is able to do that due to work commitments and luckily I have a very understanding boss and a job where I can work from home much of the time, but if you can then great or if not find someone else who can.
There are always lots of things to do or take when you are undergoing treatment for cancer and having someone to check that you are doing the right thing is very helpful. This can be just from checking when your next appointment is to checking you are taking the correct chemotherapy tablets, in this case four eyes are very much better than two.
Now I confess in our relationship I don’t do a huge amount of household chores as a rule. I work in the City of London and have a two hour commute each way to do, so cooking meals, cleaning etc aren’t normally top of my list. I do somethings such as I am the dishwasher loader and emptier and most of the time I cut the grass. However if you have someone to help around the house that can be vital especially on the days your partner is feeling at their lowest. Luckily for us we have my mother in law with us in an annexe so she does the washing and Jo is a very determined person who even on her bad days insists on doing the cooking and generally doing too much. I even had to tell her off the other day when I came home to find she had cut the grass (This was 1 week in to a chemo cycle). But basically you can do or you can get others to help with to save the patients strength is surely a good thing.
Now after a long or stressful day at the hospital, there is often the need to repeat what has happened to loved ones and close family and friends, this can be a bit too much for the patient. So one of my tasks is to repeat the tales of the day to those family members and friends allowing the patient to relax and recover. This can of course be multiple times and its an added stress the patient often could do without.
It is really important to try and keep life as normal as possible, so planning activities, breaks, holidays, meals out, visit with friends etc is vital. I will tell you more about what we do in a future blog, but our motto is live, laugh, love and have fun.
One that Jo has insisted on, ‘make sure there is plenty of fizz in the fridge’
One of the things that Jo has suffered from in her treatment is aches and pains, so the job of masseuse definitely falls in to my category. I should have the softest hands in the UK with the amount of oil and creams I have used to ease her aching muscles and protect her skin from the effects of chemo. A soothing rub or a coating of cream on sensitive skin has a relaxing and calming effect which may assist in sleep, rest and recovery. Other things such as running a bath, buying flowers etc can also relax and improve the spirit of your partner.
As much as I would love to say I did all these things and exactly at the right time and made Jo’s life perfect in every way, unfortunately I can’t, I do some and I try to do my best, but you will never get it right all the time and especially when someone is tired and emotional even the nice things won’t always be ‘right’. However the more you can do the better hopefully things will be.