Childhood Cancer

A child’s life-threatening illness or injury can create enormous pressures in a marriage. Couples can be separated for long periods of time, emotions are high, and coping styles and skills may differ. Working together to handle the situation can help immensely. Parents shared the following suggestions:

• Share medical decisions

My husband and I shared decision-making by keeping a joint medical journal. The days that my husband stayed at the hospital, he would write down all medicines given, side effects, fever, vital signs, food consumed, sleep patterns, and any questions that needed to be asked at the next rounds. This way, I knew exactly what had been happening. Decisions were made as we traded shifts at our son’s bedside.

• Take turns staying in the hospital with your ill child

• Share responsibility for home care

• Make spending time together a priority, even if it is only thirty minutes a day for coffee in the hospital cafeteria

• Accept differences in coping styles

Marriages with existing troubles usually are most strained by caring for a gravely ill child. If serious conflicts develop, don’t hesitate to seek outside help.

My husband and I went to counseling to try to work out a way to split up the child rearing and household duties because I was overwhelmed and resenting it. It helped, but the best thing that came out of it was that I kept seeing the counselor by myself. I received a lot of very helpful, practical advice on the many behavior problems my son developed. My son wanted to go to a “feelings doctor” too. So we arranged that and he had an objective, safe person to talk things over with.