by Oliver Freedman04/12/2018

Supporting your partner doesn't mean you don't need help yourself

When my wife, Ramona, was diagnosed with cancer, our youngest had just turned two years old. It was a shocking and sobering time for us. There are so many things to consider simultaneously, our medical bills seemed to steeply increase with each hour that passed. I had never needed to draw on my workplace for support and it amazed me that before I’d even had a chance to reach out, the proprietor proactively advised that I had the flexibility to work from home when needed. He even increased my weekly salary to assist with immediate household expenses throughout chemotherapy – I appreciated that, I don’t think my employer will ever really know how much.

As Ramona was diagnosed at 33, we had previously opted to decline the option of Trauma Insurance. If you don’t have it, I encourage you to make this a priority. I only say that because it would have made a genuine difference when we needed it most. Today, I certainly have it for myself.

I now have a more sensitive approach when liaising with people going through challenging medical experiences. Prior to my wife’s diagnosis I may have tried to avoid the topic, rationalising that I wouldn’t want to upset anyone. Now I don’t ignore the subject, instead I have a quiet conversation.

I believe it is important to give your full attention to the medical situation-at-hand. Take those extra few minutes to build relationships with your partner’s medical team. If you are asked to attend, do everything in your power to be at those appointments. Accept that you can’t understand it all, you may even say the wrong thing from time-to-time. If that happens, don’t beat yourself up. It’s stressful and new for everyone.

As you are the support person for your partner, the fact is, you will also need assistance. Once my wife’s treatment ended, we were both genuinely shocked to realise that I had put on 20 kilos. That happened over the course of many very late nights, I felt pressure and obviously ate too much. In hindsight, I see now that I should have reached out for more support. That summer, I realised that my health shouldn’t be compromised, so I gave it my full attention. It took a while, but I did succeed in losing that extra weight.

Our relationship was very strong and we needed to weather the storm, so to speak. I did insist on signing up for Cable TV – that really helped Ramona when she just couldn’t sleep. And finally, I am Jewish and try to live a religious life, I decided to incorporate additional actions and prayers into my world on a daily basis. To this day, this still helps to ground me and remind me of what is truly important.

My wife is now 44 and cancer free. You can read her story HERE.