Published on January 4, 2018
How do you deal with marriage stress due to cancer? Lori Puente, a patient advocate and care partner, and Danny Parker, a myeloma survivor, discuss how cancer affects a marriage and advice for other care partners. Watch now to gain their perspectives on this important relationship.
The Living Well with Myeloma series is a Patient Empowerment Network Program produced by Patient Power. We thank Celgene, Takeda, Amgen and AbbVie for their support.
Transcript | Patient and Care Partner Perspectives: How a Myeloma Diagnosis Affects Marriage
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Maybe sometimes the marriages change. But you have what you have, and how do you make the best of it? So, Laurie, so, stress on marriage, okay? So how have you dealt with that? I mean, Dave went through two transplants, you were in Arkansas, you didn’t live in Arkansas.
It’s interesting, it changed our marriage for the better. Things that used to irritate me—when you deal with cancer, suddenly, stuff just doesn’t bother you like it used to. That guy who cut you off on the highway? Let him have it, because it’s not—you feel like, in some ways, we both felt like we had the secret to life. Because suddenly, all that stuff we used to just natter about was gone. We just didn’t anymore, because it was not important.
And so, we had a difficult marriage for most of our marriage. We’re very opposite, very different. I’m an artist, he’s an engineer. I’m very spiritual, he’s very solid. Gotta see it to believe it kinda thing. But, he reached for me, when he got into this dark place, and said, help me get out. And so we did, and I strengthened my own spirituality in that process, and we’ve gotten to a really good place. We were lucky. Some marriages, they can’t. And they have to be willing to make those changes.
Because it’s their life they’re talking about. Maybe it’s not the time to fix that. I felt really great that Dave and I found that happy place. And, I call it dance steps. We had to find dance steps, and then we—like, when Danny was talking about dexamethasone (Decadron), you get this new drug, or you’re on dex, it’s different dance steps on that day, because dexamethasone, the most hated drug in myeloma, does things to people that’s very—so, I tell caregivers, don’t engage in arguments, go out to lunch with your girlfriends, don’t let them drive. Different things too, like Danny says, plan ahead. Because you know what some of these drugs are going to do, and plan ahead for those things, and work around them.
I send little text messages to my kids. Dex day. Don’t call your dad with a problem today. Because it’s not gonna go well.
Well said. Danny, so you’ve been married for a long time, and you’ve got kids. So talk about having relationships find equilibrium, when there’s the uncertainty of living with myeloma.
I think, in my mind, you’ll find yourself fortunate if you have a team like what Laurie’s describing. Or you have someone who’s willing to help you on the other side, and in your household. And, you can’t always—not all patients are fortunate to have this. So if you find yourself with this, then if you have a relationship where it can help you, then that can really help with your relationship. It can make it quite a bit deeper, make it more meaningful, and you also decide, as Laurie was saying, what’s important, and what’s not important.
My wife says, there are all these little battles, they’re not the war. So, and the little battles, you say, oh—and, you mentioned my actual kind of mantra for the last two years, which is so what? Various things happen to us, we get different diagnoses, something changes, things keep changing, but so what? We still have to go on, there’s still the next day, there’s still the next hour to, what are we going to do, and again, what are we going to focus on, that might make this life go reasonably?
Some people, when they have the diagnosis of having cancer, they may get kind of a wakeup call.
Which is, this life is not a dress rehearsal. We might as well try to live right now, and see what this is like. Some people, every once in a while, have told me, oh, now that you have cancer, maybe that’s a value to you, because now, you can really value your life. And, I say, well, actually, I’ve been valuing my life for a long time. But, it’s true. I’m not going to forget very easily anymore. But that also means finding the power of your relationship. Which is, you know, being able to really enjoy having a relationship. Diving into it, and finding out what your mate’s life, what their life is like too. And then, how can we make it better in some fashion so that we can enjoy…
When you said, “Take a walk and speak to each other”—Robin emphasized this, which is our ability to communicate is really important relative to how a relationship goes, especially when you have a serious diagnosis like this.