Cancer touches many lives, directly or indirectly, and unfortunately you may well know a woman who is a loved one and has become a cancer patient, who needs your emotional support as well as the treatment they are receiving.
There are some good support networks you can tap into in this situation, such as SHARE which offers support to patients who are having to contend with breast and ovarian cancers. When it comes to helping her cope and conquer the disease, here is a look at the how you can help and what to say.
Facing stress and fear together
If you are in a situation where your spouse or partner has received a cancer diagnosis, she will undoubtedly be feeling scared and stressed by the prospect of what lies ahead.
No matter how strong your relationship has been up to this point, this sort of scenario sets you on a new path together, and you have to be prepared for the fact that the shadow of cancer can strengthen your bond, but it can also create divisions that would not have been there under normal circumstances.
We all react differently to stressful situations, and something so potentially traumatic and challenging as breast or ovarian cancer for example, is almost inevitably going to have an impact on your relationships and even your outlook on life.
Every couple that is being forced to contend with cancer is going to experience various dilemmas and stressful situations, and it is not helped by the fact that neither your loved one or you, know how to handle the situation you now find yourselves in.
Known stress points
You may take some time to adjust to finding a good way of being able to provide the level of support needed and how to communicate that support in the right way.
There will be new feelings and raw emotions that will come to the surface and with a cancer diagnosis, there will definitely be adjustments to your daily routines and even the roles that you play in running your daily family life.
These are all known stress points and it will help if you have a good handle on how your partner normally displays her emotions, so that you can be prepared to give them the level and type of support that you anticipate they will most likely need in view of the situation.
Creating a caring network
If you are a couple, you may well be used to working as a close-knit team and not calling on others outside of the relationship for any emotional support, but cancer is a game-changer in so many respects, and it is often the case that there will be definite benefits attached to bringing family, friends and others together.
A support network is a positive step and it means that you can all work together towards a common cause, which is to beat the cancer and get back to something resembling a normal life, where possible.
It could be that you can call upon people within this support network for specific help. This could be simple but useful tasks such as running errands, doing some laundry, even having the kids when you both attend the hospital for treatment.
Being able to call upon the physical as well as the emotional support of others during this extremely difficult time, is likely to prove a boost in some way or another and can help reduce the stress being felt to a certain extent.
It’s good to talk
It goes without saying that the specter of cancer hangs over those that are affected by it in some way, but it will help if you can do your best to take her mind off cancer when possible.
You may well have good intentions and appreciate the importance of discussing their cancer diagnosis and related treatment aspects, by this can be incredibly wearing for someone who is already consumed by the disease in virtually every aspect of their life.
Try to talk about other things going on and see if you can swap some funny stories and happy memories. If possible, it might be a big help to take her out of her normal environment, for a day of pampering at a spa for example, which will help take their mind of their cancer for a brief while.
Cancer is very personal to those affected by the disease in some way, but it is a problem where you can at least take some positive steps to try and help her to cope.
About the author: Beth Kling is the Communications Director at SHARE Cancer Support, a non-profit organization founded in 1976 that is dedicated to building a network and community for women affected by breast and ovarian cancer. Image: Paul Falardeau