Being there for your loved one

Not sure how to provide your man with the TLC he needs? Take your cue from Marlys Johnson and Marilyn Mullins, whose spouses are both battling the disease.

Health Monitor Staff
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Marlys Johnson

Get the facts you need.
Doing research can be overwhelming for both of you. Make it easier to grasp by seeking the info that’s relevant to your loved one’s situation now. For example, if hormone therapy is controlling the cancer, you may not need to know about chemotherapy for stage IV prostate cancer.

Take off the pressure—with his okay.
Ease his mind by hand-ling the items he usually manages but is currently unable to—like car maintenance, yard care, bill paying. Ask first, though—he may want to continue his regular routine as much as he can.

Anticipate his new needs.
For example, if your loved one is having urinary problems, pick seats close to the exit in a movie theater or let him take the aisle seat on a plane.

Keep the mood light.
Little things—like watching a favorite TV show, enjoying a good meal or spending time with family or friends—can help your loved one stay upbeat during a trying time. Go with his energy though, and don’t force activities when he’s tired or not in the mood to participate.

Help keep things organized.
Create a folder with all the documents related to your loved one’s cancer—lab results, insurance info, etc. Marilyn also keeps two sheets of paper taped to cabinet doors. “One has a list of contact info for all medical personnel that we deal with. This has made emergency moments a little less stressful. The other one is a list of all the medications Marshall takes and what time he takes each one. When I put his day’s pills together in the morning, I use the note as a quick guide.”

“Gary and I make an effort to keep the lines of communication open,” says Marlys. That doesn’t always mean a face-to-face chat. For example, when Gary couldn’t talk about his frustrations over bodily changes, he opened up to Marlys in an email, which eased her fears. “I’d been afraid that he’d lost interest in me.”

Take time for yourself.
“I realized I needed girlfriends,” says Marlys, so she makes time to meet up for tea with friends. “The caregiver needs to take care of herself in order to better care for the patient,” adds Marlys, who is the Survivorship Coordinator at the St. Charles Cancer Center in Bend, OR. Marilyn agrees. Occasionally, she pays for a nurse’s assistant to stay with Marshall, while she has a “girls day.”

November 2014