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SECRETS’ CORNER – Put trust in God

marciadottin, [email protected]

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COPING WITH A partner stricken with a terminal illness often turns out to be a real test of the “for better, for worse” element of most marriages and long-term relationships.
While supporting each other and caring for one another’s needs on a day-to-day basis is expected under normal circumstances, everything changes when one of the couple gets seriously ill, especially if that illness could be terminal.
When this happens, the strong partner is expected to take care of the sick one’s needs in a selfless manner. That is, the strong one is expected to do whatever it takes, and exhaust all medication and treatment options available. That partner is also expected not to use the opportunity to pass on the responsibility of caring for their spouse to anyone else.
Put another way, the strong partner is expected to shoulder all of the household and financial responsibilities, as well as provide hands-on care for their sick partner. This week’s question – What advice would you give to someone on how to cope with the day-to-day challenges of living with a partner who may be terminally ill? – seeks to assist those faced with such challenges.
From comments received, readers said faith in God and finding one’s inner strength to do what you must regardless of the challenges seem to be the two most powerful factors which keep caregivers going.
They advised, too, that as God never puts more on an individual than they can bear, those caregivers faced with such a situation should realise that if they were the ones sick, they would want their partner to care for them in every possible way.
The following is a comprehensive comment received: 
• “Based on my experience, you need to take care of yourself first. You have to remain strong and healthy (in mind and body) in order to take good care of your partner. This means you need to:
a) Exercise – however little, it still helps;
b) Work sleep into your routine. Sleep does not come easy under these circumstances so when exhausted head to your bed or a quiet room;
c) Take care of your emotions – you may want to set up some counselling sessions with a professional to talk things over.
d) Action plan for family – denial is good; it allows for adjustment. But sometime soon after getting the news you need to accept what has happened and come up with an action plan.
Do not make rash decisions like quitting your job to look after the person, especially if you are the one with the superior health insurance plan.
You would also have to make decisions on the children, if any. Questions like who is going to take care of them during this time must be asked and answered.
e) Accept help from family, friends and some strangers. For instance, plan your visits around your family and friends’ visits. Allow them to cook and bring meals. Accept rides to and from the hospital instead of driving yourself to and fro. 
f) Educate yourself as terminal illness is a formidable foe. The more you learn about the disease, the more prepared you will be going into doctors’ offices. This prevents you from being too shell-shocked!
g) Join a support group. No matter how much time is left (no one knows but God), it feels good being with others who share your plight. It is not all about the illness at those sessions; it generally is about survival for both partners.
h) Prayer works. It just does.
i) Avoid the curious. Those conversations where persons want to know what happened and how you found out about the disease and what the doctors’ say only serve to wear you down. Allow your answer machine or email to work for you.
j) Avoid pity parties. We all have those, but make sure they are brief and infrequent. Allow yourself to cry, wherever and whenever. Others do understand. Crying is a great release of emotions as well.
k) Do not isolate yourself – encourage friends to come over, especially the ones that are funny. Laughter is good. When invited out, accept the invitation to lunch.
l) Think of the person lying there and be compassionate, kind, thoughtful, giving of yourself. Have uplifting conversations with them if possible. Read mail together; involve them in the decision-making; take care of important matters (while you still have the time); share stories; find out how the other’s day has gone thus far; plan (short-term, of course).”