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Young Cancer Spouses

by Sandra Ray, Staff Writer

(Page 2 of 3)

Grieving the loss of a future with the beloved incorporates the dreams shared, and also the secret ones that each spouse keeps until the time is right.  The possibility of loss doesn’t mean that one shares those secrets, either.  It may be something as silly as “I started saving so we can take a trip to Paris for our tenth anniversary,” when one has only been married a few years.  It may mean having to turn down a promotion that would have allowed for a move to another area.  While many spouses would research what the move would mean to their ailing partner, cancer is a life changing process that takes center stage.  For some, it may be easier to turn the promotion down and continue the battle in the same location.

Aftermath We Don’t Compute

Adding up all the variables for a spouse who survives the grueling regimens of therapy only to lose their loved one is difficult.  After the passing, the surviving spouse must begin anew, making decisions on whether to live in the same home and other decisions.

Friends and family may open their homes to the young widow(er), who may be in need of financial help after huge copayments for treatments and other expenses.  Still, a plan has to be made because initial hospitality can only last so long.  Even if Mom and Dad have the resources, they want their child to be able to live a full life. 

In most cases, the married couple will talk some things out, maybe many things.  But when reality comes to pass, action is needed.  This is also where groups like Young Cancer Spouses can offer support.  In Karen’s case, she says the group gives meaning to what she and Mark went through.  “[It] helps support those who come after me on the journey of being a Young Cancer Spouse.”

Expectations For The Unexpected

Greg Johnson, Founding Director of Young Cancer Spouses, refers to his family as “the all American family.”  While after his wife Stephanie’s diagnosis, they tried to remain so, there were many things they didn’t expect.

Greg and Stephanie had been caregivers for his grandmother who had Alzheimer’s.  While they knew what a caregiver might be defined as in that situation, Greg especially got an expanded view.  “I didn’t realize how lonely the job can be.”  People suddenly became afraid they were imposing themselves.  While their intentions were good, no one seemed to know what move to make, including Greg.  “So we went for six months living in a bubble.” 

Within the bubble, this couple found that they did argue more, and problems took on a new intensity.  The fortunate balance was that they made more time for one another, enjoying any time they had, regardless of whether it was a chemotherapy day, or a “good day.”  As he puts it, “Live each day with no regrets.”  This is how they managed to tolerate the increased tension, which included what and how much to tell their children.

Luckily, he found the online group and gained not only support, but eventually the mission that led him to be Founding Director. 


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