The support of a loving spouse or partner can make all the difference when dealing with a cancer diagnosis and difficult treatment. But good, practical advice from an experienced health care professional can also be incredibly useful. That’s the message from Patti and Russ Anderson in this video, made after Patti underwent treatment for breast cancer at City of Hope.
“They had us meet with a social worker for couples cancer counseling,” Patti says. “She was really great at telling him things he could do to help me.”
Patti is a health care veteran who has spent nearly 40 years working as a nurse in intensive care, emergency and outpatient departments. But when she was diagnosed, she suddenly had to adjust to life as a patient. City of Hope knows that close family support helps patients feel less stress and achieve better outcomes, so it works with patients and their families to help them navigate any potential trouble spots.
Russ notes that the social worker “explained to us that the whole process was to work as a team,” he says. “Even simple ideas, like the day of the surgery having one family member handle all phone calls, text messages and emails.”
As it happens, this wasn’t Russ’ first experience with breast cancer, so he wasn’t entirely unprepared. “When I was growing up, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, and then diagnosed a second time later in life, which led to her passing,” he says. “That created a whole different image in my mind of what might be ahead of us.”
“He was a good nurse — much better than I even would’ve thought he would be,” Patti says. “I had a lot of comfort in knowing he knew how to do things right, that I could turn off the nurse in me.”
Coping with cancer can be challenging even when a supportive partner is there to help, but the process often brings couples and families closer together, particularly when committed health care professionals are there to provide helpful input.
“We laughed a lot, made jokes about things,” says Russ. “Sometimes we don’t always listen so well, but in this situation listening has been a big part of the healing process.”
“He was so patient through all this,” Patti says. “Between awesome doctors, family and friends at work, we really had a good team.”
Many of the dying don’t fear death as much as they fear how they will die. “It’s the in-between part people fear the most. If you can give them insight on what to expect, that can ease a lot of their concerns,” says City of Hope palliative care physician Heather Bitar, D.O.
Diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia, Jessica Appel knew that her time was running out. Still, her story has a bittersweet ending, thanks to the many City of Hope employees on her care team who did everything they could to allow her to pass away on her own terms.