Chemotherapy, or “chemo,” as most people call it, is a common treatment for many types of cancer. One of the side effects of some chemo treatments is that it takes a significant toll on the recipient, both physically and emotionally. It can be hard to watch your spouse go through chemo and feel like there isn’t anything you can do to help them or make them feel better. If you can relate, here are five tips for caring for a chemo patient at home and how to help your spouse who is going through chemo.
How Can I Help My Spouse Through Chemo? 5 Tips for Caring for a Chemo Patient at Home
Chemo doesn’t just affect people when they’re getting the treatment. So, whether your spouse is having theirs administered at a hospital or home, the pain and challenges last well beyond the few hours of treatment. Once your spouse is home, they’ll likely feel sick, weak, and tired. They might also experience physical changes like hair loss, weight loss, or bloating. Although this time is difficult for everyone involved, you can follow these tips for caring for a chemo patient at home to help your spouse during this time.
1. Respect Your Spouse’s Journey
How a person copes with chemo is very individual. You may find yourself wanting to fix their pain or tell them what they can do to feel better. Unless they ask for your help, resist this temptation. No one likes to be told what to do when they are in the best health, let alone when they are sick. Even if you have the best intentions, you want to respect their journey and how they are navigating this time. This may mean they are on the couch all day watching TV or playing video games. Or maybe they are sleeping a lot or withdrawn. Whatever it looks like, know they are doing the best they can.
When your spouse shares about the pain and discomfort they are feeling, it’s best to simply listen rather than try to fix it. This is also true if they express frustration, anger, or even sadness. You don’t need to try to fix it for them because you probably can’t. However, by listening to them and “holding space” for what they are experiencing, you create a safe place for them to express themself and be acknowledged. Read more about how to do this here: How to Support a Spouse or Partner During Cancer Treatment by “Holding Space”
2. Remember That Love is Powerful
If your spouse is going through chemo, it’s natural to want to do whatever you can to help them feel better. But often, one of the most overlooked and simple gifts you can give someone is your love. This may look like sitting with them during treatment, holding their hand, or watching a show together. Often, there is little you can actually do that will make them feel better, but you can always give your love. Check out this post for more ideas: Pain: An Opportunity To Love
3. Ask Your Spouse What They Need
This may seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked. Instead of thinking you know how best to support them, ask! You can simply say, “How can I support you right now?” If they don’t know the answer, you can suggest something and get their feedback. The biggest point to remember is not to assume you know what they want or need.
4. Environment Matters: Keep it Light!
Humor and music can be especially powerful when someone is going through chemo. When my husband was stuck in the hospital for days, we watched cooking shows together. To this day, I am so grateful for the quiet and “normal” time we spent together. Your partner will most likely want something to occupy their mind. Just remember to ask them first and keep it light! No news or politics.
5. Remember, They Are Not Their Disease
They are still your spouse. While they may experience physical changes and not be their “old” self, they are still a person and your partner. Sometimes it can be easy to forget this and think of them only as a patient. A client of mine said she started to talk to her husband through a “cancer filter” and didn’t really share anything she was struggling with. Because she was holding back and not connecting to him the way she normally would, it created distance between them. This also prevented him from being able to support her–something he regularly did in their marriage.
Instead, remember that just because they have cancer doesn’t mean they aren’t still your spouse. Connection is one of the most important things in your relationship, and you will maintain that connection by being willing to be open, vulnerable, and share with each other. A coach can really help you if you struggle with not wanting to burden your spouse with your troubles but still want to connect.
How Your Mood Affects Your Spouse
For many people, chemo treatments and the after-effects will be difficult. While it can be really hard seeing someone you love in pain, the more you accept it, the less you will stress over something you have little to no control over. The less stressed you are, the less your stress will affect your partner. Remember, they will pick up on your emotion and energy just like you pick up on theirs. So, practice taking care of your mental and emotional health so that you can show up as the strong, supportive person you want to be.
What Do You Get Someone Going Through Chemo?
Whether you want to buy your spouse something nice and comforting during this time or have friends and family asking what to do for someone going through chemo, here are some practical and heartfelt items.
- Warm blanket – for two reasons: hospitals tend to be cold, and it’s nice to have your own blanket with you rather than having to use a hospital one; many chemo patients also deal with weight loss and get cold easily.
- A tablet – chemo treatments can be long and boring; with a tablet, your spouse can download their favorite books or play their favorite games to stay entertained.
- Socks – similar to a blanket: stay warm and comfortable with a pair that’s way better than hospital socks.
- Meal delivery service – this would be a nice gift from a friend or family member if they’re looking for ideas.
- House cleaning service – again, another great suggestion for friends and family wanting to help.
- High-quality lotion and skin and lip care products – chemo can make your skin dry, so this will help their skin and lips stay hydrated and comfortable.
- A big bag – to carry water, snacks, entertainment, socks/blanket, etc., to chemo appointments.
- A nice pair of headphones – to listen to music or a TV show on their tablet to pass the time.
Learn How to Care for Your Spouse During Chemo by Caring for Yourself First
As a caregiver for your spouse with cancer, don’t overlook the support you need to be your best. Caring for a chemo patient at home is much easier when you feel supported and cared for too. This time also takes a physical and emotional toll on you. But when you are supported and have a place to talk out your worries and get perspective on your challenges, you will have the energy to help your partner. I offer coaching support specifically for you–the partner and caregiver–to help you cope with the stress and worries and build your resiliency toolbox. Schedule a free call with me today to learn more about my programs and see how I can help.