1. It is not about you, it is about your partner.
She will always need your unwavering support even on the good days and need to know it is okay on the rough days. How you are doing is going to be better than how she is doing so suck it up and take care of her.
2. Waiting in a hospital sucks.
Hospitals are a place for sick people; what I am I doing in here? Uhhhh…see number 1, duh. Go for a walk when you can’t be at your partners side or she is sleeping. My partner was never so beautiful as when she was wheeled out of the operating recovery room so be there for that but don’t worry about worrying inside the hospital, see number 6.
3. Get ready for an avalanche of emotions.
I was a “stuff it down” kind of person – keeping those feelings under control meant I was in control. Through this there will be ups and downs and then thrown sideways into another realm and cramming all of that inside will drown you. It is okay to feel and ride the wave of punches and mixed metaphors; turns out being empathetic works better when you share your feelings. FYI – this will be exhausting so see number 6.
4. Friends and family love you and want to help (but may not know what to do).
Let people know what your partner needs and what you need. You will get flowers and soup…lots of soup (it is good – it nourishes you, freezes and is quick to warm up but every now and then it is nice to chew something). But if you need the dog walked, a load of laundry done, the kids taken out for an hour so you can take care number 1 or number 6 just ask. People will feel better with a tangible task and so will you.
5. Cancer can be funny.
There will be times that there is no appropriate response to what you are going through, so you might as well find the funny and laugh. In the end you will have the same amount of cancer but a little bit more laughter. Crying is exhausting but laughter increases oxygen intake and may give you the energy to address the problem de jour with a clearer head.
6. It is about you.
Yes, it is all about your partner but you will have to find time to take care of yourself. You will need to be a rock, so when you feel like a sponge take time to get focused, but be ready to turn to a rock when your partner needs you. See number 4 – those good folks can give you time, it is a great gift to ask for.
7. Bodily fluids.
Remember university days and holding your friends hair back while the sour puss shooters made their comeback, well those days are probably coming back but without the “fun times” (good thing we sort of grow up). Have a cold cloth ready to wipe foreheads, a clean up kit at the ready, and our friend “bowl-y” for the journey from bed to toilet. Depending in your constitution this could be a tough section to pass through but remember number 1.
8. Understand there will be compassion fatigue.
This is a marathon you and your partner have entered but with intense intervals of sprinting and the inevitable long waits to get into the too few port-a-potties (too vague a sports metaphor?) You are going to be tired but after a while the number of fans who are along the route will seem to dwindle. Friends and family will instinctively be there for the acute phases but during the long stretches they may need reminders. See number 4 – it is okay to ask for help; asking is a strength not a weakness. May you never have to repay the kindness in kind but let them know you are thankful. If you do have to repay the same kindness then re-read this list and what ever you added to it and show the universe what karma is about.
9. Sleep, get it.
The research is there that you aren’t the best you without some quality ZZZs. You want to be there for your partner. Read number 4 again and number 5.
10. It is about you!
This time I mean both of you. You will need each other. It won’t be unicorns pooping rainbows all the time; rather it may be vomiting sleepless nights to name the least. You love each other and both hate the disease; it is okay to be sad together and to be optimistic when your partner is down but be there in the moment.