How to Cope with Cancer as a Couple


SAN DIEGO, CALIF. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — A cancer diagnosis is life-changing, not only for the people who are diagnosed, but also for their loved ones. Often relationships are impacted by the stress of the unknown.

Now, a new one-of-a-kind program has been developed to help couples cope with cancer together.

Denise and Kim Griffin are celebrating 29 sweet years together. But their relationship was tested when Denise was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer.

Denise says, “It was in seven lymph nodes and now it’s spread to my spine and my bones.”

They were faced with creating a new normal.

Kim says, “I knew I had a new role to play.”

City of Hope is helping couples with a first of its kind counseling program.

Lynne Thomas, Social Worker at City of Hope says, “What happens often for a person when they’re going through treatment is they lose so much control.”

“I want him not to control my life. I wanna live my life.” Says Denise.

And remember to choose words wisely.

Denise says, “He was saying that he was my caregiver, and I don’t feel like he’s my caregiver.”

Thomas says, “They came up with another name, she said, ‘I see you as my support person.’”

Kim says, “The number one thing I learned in the counseling is to communicate.”

Denise says, “I think I’ve learned that I can open up, but he hears me more.”

Also, don’t feel like you have to fix every problem.

Thomas says, “Just listen. Don’t minimize it. Don’t dismiss it.”

And don’t let the cancer become your only connection.

“Understanding what makes your partner feel alive, what gives them quality of life.” Says, Thomas.

Kim and Denise built a rock garden of love.

Denise says, “I said instead of giving me flowers, paint a rock for me.”

Reminding them every day what is important.

Denise says, “We don’t let one day go by that we don’t tell each other that we love them.”

The program started with breast cancer patients and is now expanding to patients diagnosed with gastrointestinal and lung cancers, and their partners.  City of Hope wants to see their program spread nationally and internationally.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Kyle Fisher, Editor, Matt Goldschmidt, Videographer.



REPORT #3197

BACKGROUND: Cancer affects 1 in 3 people in the United States. It begins when something disrupts the normal cell growth cycle, causing cells to continue multiplying and old or abnormal ones don’t die when they should. As the cancer cells grow out of control, they can displace normal cells, interfering with the body’s normal functions. Cancer can develop in various parts of the body. For example, breast cancer that originates in the breast is still referred to as breast cancer even if it spreads to other parts of the body. There are two main categories are: hematologic (blood) cancers, which include leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma; and solid tumor cancers, which can affect various organs or tissues. The most common solid tumors include breast, prostate, lung, and colorectal cancers. While these cancers share similarities, they can also differ in terms of growth, spread, and response to treatment. Some cancers grow and spread rapidly, while others grow more slowly. Some are more likely to spread to other parts of the body. Others tend to stay where they started.


SYMPTOMS: It is possible to have cancer for years without experiencing any symptoms, while in other cases, cancer can cause noticeable symptoms. Experiencing certain symptoms does not necessarily mean you have cancer. Generally, it’s advised to seek advice from a healthcare provider if there is a persistent change in your body that lasts for more than two weeks. Some common early cancer symptoms include unexplained weight loss, chronic fatigue, and persistent pain. If you smoke or use tobacco, it’s advisable to try to quit. Follow a healthy diet plan, and if you need help managing your weight, consult a healthcare provider for nutritional guidance and weight management programs.


COUPLES WITH CANCER TREATMENT: Cancer can be a huge challenge for relationships. In fact according to a survey, 57.4% of couples reported that cancer played a role in their separation. On average, cancer had an 82.9% influence on relationship breakdown. Even for those who stayed together, 83.7% reported that cancer had an impact on their relationship, with 55.9% describing it as negative. Despite the difficulties, the City of Hope has developed the innovative Couples Coping With Cancer Together program. This program is unique and is part of the regular care provided to patients and families at City of Hope. It’s made to help meet the specific needs of couples facing a cancer diagnosis together, regardless of sexual orientation or relationship status. A clinician meets with the patients and their partners for a joint session before their first visit with the physician. During this session, the clinician shares insights gained from past patients, partners, research, and clinical experience. As well as ways of practical behaviors that will help them best support one another and problem-solve together.


* For More Information, Contact:             Zen Logsdon, Media Relations Manager

City of Hope

Phone: 626-409-9367

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