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 Cancer

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Young Cancer Spouses

by Sandra Ray, Staff Writer

(Page 1 of 3)

Young and cancer are two words we don’t often piece together, unless we’re watching fundraisers for hospitals for children with cancer.  Yet, there are more and more people becoming afflicted with various types of cancer who are recently married, or have started the road to raising a family.

For the younger spouses who are just getting into what it’s like to be married, work, deal with health insurance, diagnosis is just as shocking and devastating as it would be for anyone.  But how can you navigate a healthcare system that has changed so much since your parents’ and grandparents’ time?  You may have selected a lower cost plan with higher deductibles in favor of helping pay your mortgage.  Some of the daring young forego insurance, equating youth with permanent health.  Insurance is only one of the tools needed when seeking treatment that one hopes will lead to recovery and cure.

To help the spouse who will help their partner through this time, Matt Herynk, Phd developed a website, www.youngcancerspouses.org.  For Matt, whose wife recently passed away from cancer in October 2007, he experienced the lack of resources for people in his age group. 

Focused on keeping the caregiver both knowledgeable and supported, the website contains information on a variety of topics.  One of the important areas is showing the caregiver how to care for themselves. 

How it Began

The original project was a Yahoo.com Group, founded by Karen Schlowsky-Fischer.  Her husband Mark was diagnosed with an aggressive non-Hodgkins lymphoma in November 2003.  They had been married less than four years, and he was only 28 years old. 

During this time in their lives as a young married couple, the focus should have been careers, stock options, and family planning.  Instead, their mutual focus became keeping Mark alive, and eventually well.  Karen worked to care for him, and learned the value of caring for herself as caregiver.  Without her strength, Mark’s ability to move forward would be changed.  Even when his treatment regimen stopped working after two months, their mutual resolve in caring for themselves as a unit allowed them to try other therapies.

The cancer came back, but Mark’s eight and a half month survival surprised his doctors.  His passing at age 29 in October 2004 in the home he shared with Karen was only one portion of the grief that is expected when a spouse
is lost.

Other Types of Loss

Karen and Mark lost a portion of their youth to this journey.  While people of their parents’ and grandparents’ ages might be able to call upon their children for help, they had none.  Friends and young married couples might be there for their friends, but unless they’ve navigated healthcare/insurance systems, they may just be a companion rather than a guide.

 

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