Hazel Thorn

From the first Doctors appointment, through diagnosis, treatment and surgery there are two of you on the Cancer pathway, the patient and the partner. Maybe one being brave for the sake of the other, but working together a couple can get through.

I will talk in terms of patient and partner, two of the five urological cancers can be diagnosed in women as well as men, so I do not presume the patient is male and the partner female.

I turn to the practical when faced with a challenge, so here are some of the ideas I had that may help other couples to cope.

When you know the date of the intended operation or treatment, find out what the recovery time is and think about those weeks of in- patient and recovery time. For instance if the patient is the gardener, will the partner need help with mowing the lawn during that time? If the patients car is off the road and safe, look into doing a Statutory Off Road Notice (SORN) to postpone road tax for 4 weeks, and remember to start again when the patient is fit to drive again.

Does the partner have a number for an emergency plumber/electrician/handyman, just in-case? Can the partner manage the laundry and shopping; is there family that can help out?

Remember that the patient is being taken care of in hospital initially, the carer must take time for themselves while they can, share visiting if possible, not too many and not too long, if visitors are permitted at all; and don’t be offended if the patient dozes off during the visit, they will have anaesthetic in their system for some time to come. Try to keep phone-calls short and basic, the hospital usually prefers only one person to phone them for progress reports. There may be laundry to bring from the hospital to deal with, fresh bed wear can help the patient feel comfortable, so take in a few changes to start with and then swap and wash as needed. You might need to rethink the bed wear for something suitable for access to cannulas, wound dressings and stitches, catheters and stomas .

Once the patient is feeling more alert boredom may set in, so magazines might be welcome, lighter than books and easy to flick through, or maybe use the phone or i-pod to access music, podcasts or audio books.

Think about coming home, and what clothes might be comfortable, depending on the operation involved, often soft elasticated trousers will do the trick, don’t forget socks and shoes, do you know where your partners underwear is, and what they prefer to wear in bed? That might all change, but get home first. Maybe your body shape will change, buy cheap clothes to wear for a few weeks until it settles down, or adapt what you have and buy new at a later date. For mattress protection there are any number of products, but in the short term puppy training pads, from pound shops and pet shops are easily available, disposable and relatively inexpensive.

You might find it useful to buy a RADAR key, giving you access to the ‘Disabled’ toilets, you will have more space and privacy than the general ones. These can be bought on line, or through your local council.

Not to be morbid, but have you made a will yet? Should you? Or if you already have why not look it over and see if it is still what you want. What about Lasting Power of Attorney and the benefits of someone being able to help with decisions if you are not able to?

The patient may need to be tempted to eat, sense of taste and smell may change due to the tubes and anaesthesia, small amounts of tasty favourites will hopefully get them back to a more usual diet, unless you have been medically advised to change some of it.

The patient will be tired, may be grumpy at having to learn a new way of coping with the change in their life, maybe for the first time. Carer, don’t take it personally, try for some time to yourself, if you can, your life has changed too.

Do you have any suggestions or maybe some questions that you would like to put to one of us? if so please get in touch on Facebook or via the website contact email address.

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