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Part 6: What About the Spouse?

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It’s often said that the spouse or loved one of a cancer patient has the more difficult time with the diagnosis and following journey. How does this person cope with such an immense, potential loss, while still remaining strong and acting as a caretaker? Source: Science Daily)

When the diagnosis was revealed, “My brain slammed to a stop,” says Maria. “It was like a physical blow to my entire body—I literally fell to the ground. I had a vision of black lungs suffocating Claire. Every circuit in my brain fired off at once and the result was a slam of fear like nothing else I've ever experienced.”

Maria has been seeing a grief counselor since the diagnosis. “I wasn’t functioning in any sense of the word. I stopped going to work; I was weeping away my days. I couldn’t sleep and was having nightmares,” she says.

Her first session with the counselor went for two hours and Maria says she cried the entire time. The counselor gave her several tools to assist her in getting back on her feet, such as “embracing your fear.”
“I continue to remind myself to do that: think of the worst thing that could happen and then imagine what you would do as a result,” explains Maria. “Nobody likes thinking about The Worst Thing, but it focused me on exactly what I could do to help Claire go through the last part of her life.”

Now, as Claire and Maria have learned more about Claire’s cancer, and have entered what appears to be a successful treatment regime, thoughts of death have been pushed off the front porch and into the street. “That has allowed us the luxury of time to give many aspects of our lives a lot of thought, and of course focus our priorities,” says Maria.

“Claire has the highest emotional intelligence and strength of any person I’ve ever met,” she adds. “We have always been close emotionally. As I told the counselor, we’ve been through too much together to bullshit each other. But Claire is really shining in this most difficult time. I could never do this without her help.”

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HERWriter Guide

Anon - Caring for an ailing spouse is very challenging, no matter what the diagnosis. I'm glad to hear that you plan to join a support group, as I think you'll find it valuable. In addition, here are some helpful links that can lead you to resources:


Good luck to you, and to your husband. Pat

May 5, 2010 - 6:02pm
EmpowHER Guest

How about the coping with the difficulty of caring for an aged and ailing spouse whose mind has been impaired from a stroke? I'm 17 years my husband's junior. He will be 80 in October and has poor balance; little tolerance anymore; inability to concentrate on the financial matters or focusing on much of anything. I have ADD, so have difficulty (even with meds) keeping up with all the household responsibility. I am getting some help from gerontoligist who has a company that does all the legwork to find respite situations; check out assisted living etc. which gives me some assistance. There are few resources for people like me in the way of books or articles. I plan to join a support group for people caring for dementia-related loved ones.

April 29, 2010 - 2:10pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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