How to Help a Spouse Suffering From Cancer

Dealing with cancer is arguably one of the most challenging health-related issues a person can face. Support is essential to fighting the disease. For many people, the most important support they can receive is from a spouse. However, if you are the spouse providing the support, you may feel as though you are navigating this process blindly. After all, how do you help the person you love most to battle such a disease? Here are some things you can to do to provide your spouse with love, strength, courage and hope as they battle against cancer, according to Andrew W. Kneier, PhD.

Discuss both of your feelings about the disease regularly. Don’t assume that you know what your spouse is feeling and vice versa. Dealing with cancer is a bit of an emotional roller coaster, and your spouse’s feelings about the disease may change from one day to the next. Allow her to talk about what she is going through as much as she needs to; after all, the most important thing you can do for her during this process is listen.

Be supportive of your spouse’s choices, regardless of your own. Your spouse may feel like he needs to make some choices about his health that you may not agree with. However, remember that he is the one fighting the disease on a daily basis, and he knows what he can and cannot handle. You can offer encouragement and hope, and you can spur him to fight on. But sometimes, during the journey with cancer, he may make choices that frighten or enrage you. The best thing you can do in these situations is offer your unconditional support, regardless of how you feel.

Seek outside therapy for yourself. You are dealing with cancer together and at times, it will feel as though you are both sick. Since you cannot foist your feelings upon your spouse, since he is suffering enough, who can you talk to about your fears? Consider seeking outside therapy to work through your feelings. This is a great outlet to voice your anger, grief, frustration and any other feelings regarding your spouse’s battle with cancer.

Don’t shut out friends and family. You may feel as though you want to shut out the rest of the world and care for your spouse alone. However, one of the best ways you can offer support is by allowing other people to help both of you. Friends and family are an additional form of strength for both of you; encourage your spouse to receive visits and allow help anytime it is offered.

Focus on the positive aspects of your lives whenever you are able. It is your job to keep your spouse engaged, as active as possible and encouraged, no matter what. Provide fun and entertainment any time you can, but respect her wishes if she isn’t up to it physically. Be creative. Try new foods, watch movies, plan a trip together, make a scrapbook of your marriage, look through old photo albums—anything to focus on all of the enjoyment has to offer, even as you both fight this terrible disease.