I recently spoke with a woman who was stressed because her husband has cancer and he seemed to be in denial over the seriousness of his situation.
What was especially upsetting to her was that he didn't want to address any end of life issues like drafting a will.
I've been mulling this over ever since. What happens when a couple faces cancer and they aren't on the same page?
It's sometimes a matter of perspective. Is the glass half-full or half-empty? With a particular cancer, the chance of surviving might be 80 percent. On the other hand, the chance of dying is 20 percent. Different people focus on different numbers.
It can also be a function of timing. Absorbing a diagnosis of cancer doesn't happen overnight and people have to do it at their own pace. Your partner won't necessarily process the news and their accompanying emotions on your timetable.
And realize that a partner's seeming denial might be a useful coping strategy in the short-term. It's how they can get through the next few weeks without falling apart.
Here are a few recommendations:
Sometimes the person in denial is the individual with cancer. Just as often, it's the partner of the person with cancer who's the one in denial. Either way, the principles of being patient and supportive of your partner while addressing your own needs works equally well in either situation.
Bob is the Executive Director of the Cancer Resource Center. His articles about living with cancer appear regularly in the Ithaca Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Reprinted with Permission of the Ithaca Journal
Original publication date: April 9, 2011.