Getting diagnosed with cancer can be a stressful and challenging time for any patient. The diagnosis can affect not only their mental and emotional well-being but also their relationships. During this time, it is vital for their loved ones to understand and give them all the support they need during the cancer treatment.
For spouses especially, knowing what the cancer treatment entails and what they can do to make it easier for their partner are essential in their healing process.
Knowing the Treatment’s Duration
When a patient undergoes cancer treatment, many changes can happen in their lives. Because of this, their spouses should be aware of the details surrounding the treatment, especially how long the treatment takes.
In general, an entire course of chemotherapy takes between three and six months, depending on the patient’s case. Cancer treatment involves 4-8 chemotherapy cycles with a period of rests in between. To illustrate, if a patient has a 4-week cycle, it means that they may have treatment on the first 3 days, and then nothing on the fourth until 28th day when the cycle continues again.
Taking Care of Your Spouse Undergoing Cancer Treatment
Cancer will affect a patient’s body and mind in a lot of ways. The treatment itself can cause many problems and difficulties for the patient physically and emotionally. Although patients may respond differently to the symptoms and effects of cancer and its treatment, constant support from their partner can make the process easier.
Likewise, giving emotional care is equally important during their healing process. Cancer patients may experience a range of emotions before and during treatment.
Attending to Physical Needs
To help your spouse cope with the physical challenges that may arise, you have to understand the possible physical side effects and how to attend to them:
A lot of cancer patients may experience pain which could lead to depression, anxiety, and restricted mobility. During this time, you should help them seek relief and proper medication if the pain becomes intolerable. Also, it is important that you remain patient and understanding.
When a patient experiences extreme exhaustion during treatment, it is unlikely that sleep or rest can help. As a result, they may feel impatient and emotional. It would be helpful if you could assume responsibility for the physically demanding activities around the house.
Many cancer patients might try to fall asleep only to find out that they have trouble sleeping and staying asleep. If they do get to sleep, they still feel tired. A patient’s insomnia may be the result of constant fear about their cancer, the treatment, and the side effects. If your spouse experiences this problem, you could help them by doing activities that are not too tiring but could help them fall asleep.
- Bowel problems
It is not unusual for cancer patients to have dysfunctional bowel movements that could be painful and inconvenient for them. Constipation and diarrhea could be the effects of medication, poor nutrition, dehydration, or lack of physical activity. To help your spouse, you should encourage them to have a daily water intake of around 1.5 to 2 liters, healthy meals rich with fiber, and gentle exercises such as walking.
- Nausea and vomiting
Cancer and the chemotherapy treatment could cause nausea and vomiting. If not addressed adequately, these symptoms could lead to weight loss and other health concerns. Fortunately, light and mild-tasting foods with proteins and vegetables can relieve nausea.
Providing Emotional Support
The following are the emotional needs that a patient often feels and how their partner could help them cope:
- Anxiety and Fear
Fear and uncertainty are emotions that a lot of cancer patients might experience. Anxiety can stem from worrying about not just their future but of their loved ones. To help ease a patient’s worries, give them your constant assurance and encouragement.
- Depression and Hopelessness
Feeling despair is usual after a cancer diagnosis and throughout the treatment. However, constant emotions of hopelessness and misery could affect everyday life and even lead to thoughts of death and suicide. At this time, it is important for you to create a supportive environment at home.
- Intimacy issues
During treatment, a patient might feel uncomfortable to engage in intimate activities because of the changes in their body. Intimacy does not necessarily mean having intercourse. The partner could initiate expressing love and affection through simple acts such as caressing, holding hands, and spending time together.
- Reduced self-worth
With cancer treatment comes the possibility of losing a sense of dignity. Having no control of their pain and being dependent on doctors, medication, and family members could lead to reduced self-confidence. If this occurs, you can organize activities that enable your spouse to do the things they used to enjoy before cancer. Old hobbies such as gardening, painting, or writing could help empower them again.
Fighting the Cancer Together
Having cancer can be a daunting experience for any patient. But with constant care and proper treatment, the road to recovery can be a smooth one. During this time, it is especially important for the patient to always have support and encouragement from the people closest to them such as their spouse. With open communication, patience, and understanding, no hurdle will be too big for a couple that fights cancer together.