A year and a half into my marriage, before I had even learned how to be a “good wife,” our lives were forever changed. At 27 years old, my husband was diagnosed with cancer.
Suddenly, all of our arguments and misunderstandings seemed petty and irrelevant. The fragility of life became real and personal, putting everything into perspective. Instead of planning for our future, we hit our knees praying that God would spare my husband’s life.
As my role as a wife changed, I grasped for practical ways to support my spouse. While that time in our marriage was filled with uncertainty, the Lord was faithful to walk by our side and provide wisdom and hope.
Through this uncharted territory, I learned how to humbly love and serve my man like never before. Even though it was painful, our relationship has been transformed because of this trial, and we’ve come out stronger on the other side.
Loving Your Spouse Through Cancer
Give him/her space to process and grieve.
The news of cancer is a devastating blow, and I’ve learned first-hand that everyone processes the news in their own way.
Some cry and pray hard.
Others are scared but will never let anyone see.
Anger and frustration consume some.
Yet others pretend that all will be well, and dare not speak of this unwelcome intruder.
Chances are, you and your spouse will process the news in different ways.
While it’s important to openly share your heart with each other, give your spouse space to process this news in his/her own way, too. And remember, there’s no wrong way to cope with a diagnosis. Simply be gentle and understanding.
Pray for him/her and together.
In times of struggle and hardship, it’s a gift to know that God hears our cry for help and our plea for hope. Bringing the brokenness of a cancer diagnosis before the Lord strengthens the relationship and provides hope for the weary heart.
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3
During a season of uncertainty, many turn to a faith in God even if it was not a cornerstone in their life before. Even if your spouse did not actively pursue a relationship with God before, many who face an illness turn to Him for help.
Be kind and encouraging.
During a cancer battle, try to shield your spouse from extra stress. Be his/her cheerleader and a day-brightener, rather than focusing on the troubles looming ahead. It may be a struggle for your hurting heart, but it’s necessary for your spouse to feel safe and loved.
Create a “treatment routine” that feels comfortable and habitual.
When my husband spent the summer going through chemo, I joined him every day in the chemo ward. (What a blessing that teachers get summers off!) Since his chemo was 8 hours a day for 5 days a week, we felt the need to quickly establish a routine.
I kept our bags packed with books, entertainment, and clever ways to distract him. His job was to relax, stay hydrated, and if possible, keep some food down. We would come home and nap, and I would take care of him in any way possible.
Knowing what to expect each day helped ease our fear of the unknown, and helped us relax as much as possible during this season of our lives.
Be understanding of food needs and medication side effects.
Hubs had both radiation and chemo, and each affected him in different ways. Often the side effects varied from day to day, so letting him decide what was best for him on a given day was a practical way I could help him.
While healthy foods are important, ice cream settled well in his often nauseated stomach. You should have seen the empty gallons of banana pudding ice cream in our trash can!
Find ways to laugh together.
While it’s a difficult season of life, laughing together through the darkness should be a vital part of any relationship. Laughter eases the ache of fear and combats moments of anxiety. Comedies work wonder on a weary soul!
Find a friend, family member, or someone in which to confide.
As a spouse putting on a brave front for the other, it’s important you find someone with whom to share your feelings during this battle. While it’s important to be honest with each other, it’s helpful to find another person with whom you can be completely honest about your fears. This other person can help you process your emotions during this struggle.
Going through a cancer battle is never easy on a family, but it can cement your relationship as you learn what truly matters in life. This illness is an opportunity to grow closer to God and each other, and it can be a blessing!
More to Consider…