By Susan K. Thomas
© 2015 Diversity Rules Magazine. All Rights Reserved.
Susan K. Thomas is a lecturer in English at the University of Kansas where she spreads the good gay word through LGBT literature and first year composition courses. She is currently researching the impact of HIV/AIDS on the LGBT community in Kansas. She has two cats, Hannah and Hamlet (Ham).
Q. My partner was recently diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. Now that we’re over the shock (kind of), I’d like to do something special for her. Taking a trip is out right now because she is beginning chemo. Any suggestions? Jane
A. Jane, I’m very sorry to read about your partner’s diagnosis. However, medicine and positive thinking can do amazing things, so hopefully her situation will turn around soon.
There are a number of things that you might do for your partner that don’t have to cost a lot of money or take you far from home. This is an overwhelming time for you, too, so some of these have you in mind as well.
First of all, if you haven’t talked to your partner about this, find out what she needs. What does she need from you right now? Of course you’re probably planning on stepping up to help out around the house more, grocery shop, etc., but find out where she is emotionally, and find out how you can really be there for her. There are going to be times where she will just want to be left alone, and that can be difficult when caring for somebody, but this is mostly about her right now (I’ll get to the about you in a bit).
Create a space in your home for your partner that is hers. This might be the bedroom (don’t worry, I’m not kicking you out!), a guest room, etc. Make the room incredibly comfortable with soothing colors and furnishings. Use insulated curtain panels to help keep out excess light, so that the room is dark and comforting. If you have children, involve them in decorating by having them draw colorful pictures that you can then frame and hang on the walls. Having a quiet space where she can regroup after chemotherapy or bad days is necessary.
If you don’t already, you might consider joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group in your area. During the spring, summer, and fall, fresh produce is delivered weekly, usually to location in the community. CSAs are great for getting fresh, healthy food into the house. There are going to be plenty of times when she isn’t hungry and doesn’t want to eat. However, when she does, make a smoothie out of fresh produce to help get some nutrients into her. And, remember that you are taking care of you, too, so you need to keep up your health as well.
Get out of the house. There are going to be a lot of days when she is going to be too tired to leave the house, but there are also days when she’ll feel up for outings. Make them short until she expresses that she is willing to be out longer. Don’t overwhelm her with something elaborate. A trip to the park, a drive around town, sitting outside on a patio, lunch at a quiet café, etc. are good, easy, and often quick trips.
You might also take her to get a manicure or pedicure. This is a time when she is going through a lot of stress and bodily changes. Manicures and pedicures are really relaxing. If she isn’t feeling like leaving the house, invite a beautician in to give your partner some TLC. Or, give her a foot rub yourself using a peppermint foot lotion. You might also put some color on those toenails for her.
This is a period when she is going to be feeling alone, even though you are there and others are helping out and checking in on her. Leave love notes and jokes for her to find. Keep her smiling. Emotional health is just as important (and maybe more so), than her physical right now. Leave her short books to read, and lace
them with little notes. Let her know that you are thinking about her and rooting for her.
Remember that you can’t do everything. You’ll want to, but you can’t. I am assuming that you will still be working, so there are going to be times when you need to ask for help from others. So, ask a good friend to be the point person. This is a friend who can step in and help out when you can’t be there. S/he will help to direct traffic in the house, but accepting and declining visits from caring friends, giving rides to doctor’s appointments, making quick trips to the grocery store/pharmacy, etc. Having a point person can take a great deal of stress off of you and your partner.
You will also need breaks, too. Some of the activities that I’ve suggested include you, but sometimes you need a break to regroup so that you can be a better partner. I know that this can be difficult to accept; she doesn’t get a break from cancer, so why should you? You aren’t walking away from her, but simply taking care of you so that you can be a better support system. So, don’t be afraid to go on a walk or have coffee with a friend away from your partner. Start seeing a counselor to help you work through your feelings about it all. Keep a journal and write in it daily, even if for a few minutes (and remember, a journal can be digital, too).
Best of luck to you, and please let me know how your partner is doing. Positive energy for you both.
“inQUEERies” is an interactive column. Readers are encouraged to submit questions for Susan to answer! Contact Susan directly at: [email protected].
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