5 Tips For Couples Facing Cancer

This is the love story of Samantha and Kyle; how they met, fell in love and then unexpectedly found out that their path to happy-ever-after was not going to be an easy one.

Like many other people today who are in search of finding the perfect life partner, Samantha and Kyle met online at a Christian dating site in 2013. As they began to get to know each other they found out they had both attended the same church at different times and that they had mutual friends. Their lives had circled around one another but it was the Internet that finally connected them.

Within a short period of time they fell in love and began to dream of a future together. Then Samantha found a lump in her breast.

The Diagnosis

Because she was so young (28) and there was no history of breast cancer in her immediate family Samantha didn’t panic. She had an appointment with her gynecologist coming up and waited until then to talk to a doctor. The doctor did not think it was anything but did send her for a mammogram. After looking at the test results the doctor told her it was probably fibrous tissue and that she should wait six months and then come back to see if there was any change. However, a surgeon suggested that she go ahead and remove it so that she wouldn’t have to worry about it for six months. She took his advice and had the lump removed. The biopsy showed that it was cancer.

The Proposal

In the meantime Kyle had been secretly planning to propose to Samantha. She got the diagnoses on Monday and one of her friends (who Kyle had asked to help with the engagement surprise) called Kyle and asked if he was still going to propose. “I couldn’t think of a better way to show my love for her than to propose,” Kyle says.

Friday of the same week she was diagnosed Kyle asked Samantha out to dinner. He drove her to the restaurant where they had had their first date. While they were gone Samantha’s friend, her parents and younger sister snuck into their house and did some major decorating.

When Samantha saw the box on the table Kyle told her it was a box for their notes to each other. The two like to write notes of love and encouragement to each other. When she opened the box there was a smaller box inside and that’s where the ring was. Samantha says she thinks she said yes but that honestly she was crying so hard she’s not sure she ever answered. Regardless of whether or not she verbalized it, Kyle knew it was a yes and with the help of family and friends, one month later they were married.

Samantha began chemotherapy one week before the wedding and the week after the wedding she lost her hair. Both Kyle and Samantha knew that as they were repeating their wedding vows they were about to experience the “in sickness and in health” part much sooner than most couples.

The Treatment

Samantha did not begin her treatment at The Cancer Treatment Centers of America, but when she went there for a second opinion she was so impressed with them that she decided she had rather go there and Kyle agreed with her. “They had pastoral care for those who had spiritual needs and quality of life care, which helped me with a problem I had because I couldn’t sleep. The people were just so wonderful I met there and the other patients too. I made a lot of good friends there,” says Samantha.

The Future

With treatment behind her and her scans showing no signs of cancer, Samantha and Kyle may look like any other starry-eyed newlyweds but if you look closer and listen to what they have to say about their experience you will see a very strong, faith-filled couple who sincerely want to reach out to others.

Samantha says, “Any couple who face cancer should remember to stand up together. Lean on your support system and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Our faith helped us get through some difficult days.”

Samantha wanted to share more tips from someone who helped her during her treatment.

5 Tips for Couples Facing a Cancer Diagnosis

Tips from Michael Uhl, MA, MDiv, LMFT, mind-body therapist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Midwestern Regional Medical Center:

1. Keep communication open. When in a crisis, you need more communication, not less. Communication does not mean agreement, but rather a mutual understanding. Honesty and transparency are two tools for increasing closeness. Couples are drawn closer together when they understand each other.

2. Keep close. Don’t let cancer keep you from holding hands and going on dates. You can still remain intimate and romantic. Some couples are worried about the side effects of cancer. For example, a caregiver may feel that his wife who recently had a mastectomy is fragile — he is worried about hugging her. But you don’t have to give up hugs. You learn how to hug differently and be intimate differently.

3. Stay normal. Continue to do the things that you loved before cancer. Take time to play and have fun — fishing, going to a movie, playing a board game or even watching a sports game on TV. When a cancer diagnosis comes, it initiates a new chapter in your life. But it doesn’t have to change everything. It doesn’t have to define you.

4. Rely on developed skills: Most couples do not realize that they already have the tools to cope with cancer based on previous crises. Remembering how they overcame difficult situations in the past may help a couple develop coping strategies in the current situation. Think of it this way: we use the same tools on our lawnmower that we do on our cars. However, some of the tools are smaller and we may need to upgrade them if the project is larger. The same is with our communication and coping tools.

5. If needed, speak with a therapist: Speaking with a therapist who is unbiased and has experience with other cancer patients can help couples express their emotions, confirm that the feelings they are experiencing are normal, and help provide useful coping tools. If a couple feels like they are drifting apart or falling apart, that is a good time to seek professional help.”

What is a Mind-Body Therapist?

“My goal as a mind-body therapist is to help people change from suffering with cancer to living with cancer. I help patients, caregivers and families with the distress of cancer. At Cancer Treatment Centers of America, we focus on treating the whole person, not just the cancer. That’s why we offer mind-body therapy, which is a combination of counseling and wellness services.”

Michael Uhl, MA, MDiv, LMFT, is a mind-body therapist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Midwestern Regional Medical Center, and a licensed marriage and family therapist. Uhl began his career after earning a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Wabash College, in Crawfordsville, Indiana. He also has a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy from United States International University in San Diego (now Alliant International University).

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

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