A diagnosis of cancer has a rippling affect: the patient, their closest family members, the extended family, friends, co-workers and community members all end up having some stake in the outcome of the diagnosis and how it plays out. For the most part, the two people who have to live the diagnosis on a daily basis are the patient and their care partner. This could be a spouse, a partner, a parent or an adult child. In “Letters of Love and Honesty,” Ellen is the patient and her husband, Larry, is the care partner. The National Center on Caregiving reports that every year, nearly 50 million Americans provide care for a chronic or terminally ill patient that is a close family member. These care partners are referred to as “informal care partners” since they provide this service for free, working an average of 24 to 41 hours per week providing care.
“Letters of Love and Honesty” takes a look at a single aspect of having a spouse as a care partner: intimacy. While intimacy is not fodder for general conversation, it is the backbone of a strong, healthy relationship. Letters allow us to peek inside Larry and Ellen’s relationship and read their deepest thoughts and touch their emotions as they attempt to communicate their fears, their love and even their rationale for the crumbling foundation of intimacy.
These letters in no way sum up the entirety of this conversation; nor were they meant to.
Let’s keep the conversation going. If you have questions or comments, we have an anal cancer survivor and consultant to the oncology community who is a trained, professional life coach and patient advocate who focuses on and addresses sexual health issues with patients and their care partners. Email Erin Sullivan at Erin@aftercancer.co with any specific questions or to schedule an appointment.
Standing in the storm adjusting the sails,
Sheryl McIntire Patient Power, Community Outreach Care Partner Patient Advocate