WHAT DO I DO NOW?
One of the most constructive actions you can take is to get involved in your spouse’s care. Read the general chapters in this book, then concentrate on the chapters that discuss the specific type of treatment that she will have. Learn all you can about the disease and the most current treatment options.
Get to know the patient navigator (sometimes called the nurse navigator) assigned to your spouse. This healthcare professional will be an invaluable companion who will help both of you during treatment and recovery.
Accompany your spouse on visits to the healthcare specialists. Your presence will provide emotional support and a second set of ears.
Bring a list of questions you want answered. Take notes, or use a recorder. If at first you are confused, don’t worry. Colorectal cancer treatment is a complex topic, and no one can grasp all the details on the first pass.
If either of you feel you need a second opinion, don’t hesitate to ask for a referral, or seek one on your own. For something as important as cancer treatment, you should leave no avenue unexplored, and no reputable physician will resent your request.
A diagnosis of cancer is seldom an emergency. You and your partner have several weeks to make important treatment decisions. Don’t let anyone rush you. Above all, remember that the final decisions about treatment will be your partner’s. Being supportive and helpful does not mean taking over completely.
MEETING YOUR OWN NEEDS
Finding Support for You
The combination of emotional stress, your regular work, and added activities around the home can take a toll on you. If you start to feel overwhelmed, make a list of tasks that need to be done daily, such as food preparation. Try to concentrate on activities that really are essential, and put off the unnecessary niceties such as making the beds. Then seek assistance from family or friends whenever you need. A simple request may be all they are waiting for to pitch in.
Fear, anxiety and stress can tire you even more than physical work. Confiding in close friends or family members can help ease the emotional burden you carry. Talking to other partners of colorectal cancer patients and participating in support groups will also help you figure out how to cope. Remember, you can’t afford to exhaust yourself physically or emotionally.
An excellent way to participate in your spouses recovery, give back to the community, and reenergize yourself, all at the same time, is to become involved in survivor activities. Join a patient advocacy group. Give a talk at your local library. Join a 5K walk, or attend a conference.
Suggestions for Friends Who Want to Help
• Stop by and bring a newspaper
• Bring the mail or other materials from the office
• Help redecorate a room
• Organize a getaway weekend for both of you
• Drop by and watch a favorite TV program
• Drive to a chemotherapy session
• Invite the whole family out for a meal