How Love May Help Couples in the Face of Cancer

For Valentine's Day, Cancer Treatment Centers of America® at Midwestern Regional Medical Center offers 10 tips for couples battling cancer

Jan 20, 2016, 10:30 ET from Cancer Treatment Centers of America

ZION, Ill., Jan. 20, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Living with cancer is one of the hardest things a person may face in his or her lifetime. Not only do cancer patients have to battle the disease and the side effects from treatment, cancer can also test relationships. However, according to Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) at Midwestern Regional Medical Center (Midwestern) in suburban Chicago, there is hope for relationships.

Michael Uhl, MA, MDiv, LMFT, mind-body therapist at CTCA® at Midwestern and licensed marriage / family therapist, believes that a relationship can withstand cancer treatment. "There is a great story to tell here. From what I have seen, the vast majority of couples stay together if they are willing to work together," said Uhl. "When you look at a crisis moment in a relationship or marriage, such as cancer, it can be compared to the heat in a welding torch. With the heat, you can either cut a piece of metal apart or bind two pieces together."

To help couples bind together, Uhl offers the following 10 tips:

  1. Keep communication open: Communication may not always mean agreeing, but having a goal of being honest with one another is important.
  2. 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.
  3. Allow room for a "time out": Cancer can cause feelings of anger and depression. Allow your partner to feel their emotions and be comfortable with him / her taking a moment alone. The end goal is to fight the cancer, not one another.
  4. Remain intimate: Intimacy does not necessarily equal sex. In fact, cancer treatment side effects often make sex uncomfortable. Instead, intimacy means spending time together – holding hands, reading together, talking, etc. 
  5. Find time to do the things you love: Take time to play and have fun together – fishing, going to a movie, playing a board game, or even watching a sports game on TV.
  6. Boost your support network: When a significant other is diagnosed with cancer, the caregiver is tasked with extra responsibilities. Don't be afraid to ask friends and family for help, giving your partner a chance to take a break and process his or her emotions.
  7. Find other couples in a similar situation: These couples, often found in support groups, may understand what you are going through. Don't be afraid to seek tips and advice from others, as well as share what you have found works in your own relationship while recognizing that each couple's experience is unique.
  8. Keep each other accountable: Cancer causes stress, and stress compromises the immune system. Remind each other to participate in healthy activities to remain resilient - getting plenty of rest, eating nutritious meals and exercising.
  9. Don't blame each other: Many people blame themselves or their loved ones for getting cancer, including being too stressed out, working too hard, or smoking.  Realize there are many factors that contribute to cancer, not just one.
  10. 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.

By incorporating the above strategies, couples may remain strong and regain hope in the face of cancer. For additional support, CTCA at Midwestern offers Mind-Body therapy to patients and their loved ones, offering stress-reducing services including individual, couples and family counseling, relaxation and guided imagery, and support groups.

Uhl provides counseling support to couples, families and individuals going through cancer treatment at CTCA at Midwestern. For more information about the care Uhl provides, visit cancercenter.com.

About Cancer Treatment Centers of America®
Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), headquartered in Boca Raton, Fla., is a national network of five hospitals that serves adult patients who are fighting cancer. CTCA® offers an integrative approach to care that combines advancements in genomic testing and precision cancer treatment, surgery, radiation, immunotherapy and chemotherapy, with evidence-based complementary therapies that support patients physically and emotionally, enhancing their quality of life while reducing side effects both during and after treatment. CTCA serves patients from around the world at its hospitals in Atlanta, Suburban Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Tulsa. Consistently rated among U.S. hospitals that deliver the highest quality of care and patient experience, CTCA provides patients and their families with comprehensive information about their treatment options and encourages their active participation in treatment decisions. For more information, visit cancercenter.com, Facebook.com/cancercenter and Twitter.com/cancercenter.

About Cancer Treatment Centers of America® at Midwestern Regional Medical Center
Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) at Midwestern Regional Medical Center (Midwestern) is a landmark in cancer care that uses advanced technology and precision medicine to offer treatment for adult patients battling cancer. The 72-bed hospital combines innovative conventional medical treatments with evidence-based integrative oncology services to deliver whole-person care. CTCA® at Midwestern is a Magnet Recognized® hospital, ranking among the top centers in the nation for nursing excellence. The hospital is accredited by the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT) at the University of Nebraska Medical Center for demonstrating compliance with the FACT-JACIE International Standards for Cellular Therapy Product Collection, Processing and Administration. CTCA at Midwestern also holds high honors as a Certified Quality Breast Center of Excellence™, recognized by the National Quality Measures for Breast Centers ProgramTM (NQMBC®). For more information, visit www.cancercenter.com/midwestern.

About Valentine's Day
Valentine's Day, observed on Feb. 14 every year, is a celebration in which couples recognize their romance. Originally, however, Valentine's Day began as a celebration of the martyr of Christian saints.

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SOURCE Cancer Treatment Centers of America



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