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Managing Cancer: A Family Affair

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Published on November 20, 2014

Being diagnosed with cancer can be scary for the patient, but the diagnosis can also have an impact on the rest of the family. When Rob Beck's wife, Tish, was diagnosed with sarcoma he took charge to help her cope and get through the difficult times. Rob shares his experience following along with Tish during her treatment, how the rest of his family helped, and advice and tips for managing your own journey with cancer.

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Transcript | Managing Cancer: A Family Affair

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Andrew Schorr:

Hello and welcome to Patient Power, I’m Andrew Schorr. In our continuing effort to connect you with real people dealing with cancer, we want to introduce you to a couple. And I certainly know in my own family, cancer is a family affair. So let’s welcome back to Patient Power, Tish Beck and her husband Rob. They have a family farm in La Grande, Oregon, that’s in northeastern Oregon, and Tish as been dealing with cancer, the family has been dealing with cancer over 10 years. Rob, how have you coped with all of this?

Rob Beck:

Well, I tend to look at things more analytically or “matter of fact,” you know, as guys do that. So we have a problem, and we’re going to solve it. We’ve got solutions. And so we relied heavily on the doctors. We have a tremendous support group, including our children. They were 14 and 16 years old. We’d be gone for six days, and they took care of themselves while we were gone. They had family close, but you know they went to school and did their chores here and took care of the farm and made their own meals. And they would, they kind of did the same thing. So everybody picked up their part and did their part, and we just had this job to do, and that was to take care of cancer and take care of Tish. So while we were at the hospital, I kept journals on drugs and chemicals, things that nobody should ever have to know. And, you know, I was her advocate. She wasn’t always able to express herself or to realize what was going on, and I had the notes and, I just took it kind of as a, I looked at it as more of a job, and, of course, loving support. But, you know, that was my part, the part that I did was to track those things and keep things in line and keep things going. And our kids did that at home, and my parents helped them out.  And so it was just a different way of dealing with it, but we also go through the same thing that she did. We went through it with her, not outside of her.

Andrew Schorr:  

So, Tish, I imagine that’s been a real help to have Rob take on this role as sort of a manager of details to help you really focus on your job of getting well.

Tish Beck:

It was huge. There were a couple of times that, you know, we rarely saw the same nurses with each visit, and there were a couple of times they would hand me a little jar of pills to take in the morning before my treatments. And he’d check them over, and once in a while he’d have to say, “No, no. Not this one anymore, they’re switching this one,” and he’d open his journal, and there would be the information. And they’d double-check with the doctor, and sure enough he was watching very close, and that was just critical.

Andrew Schorr:

Well, there certainly can be medical mistakes. Unfortunately, sometimes they’re all too many. And so having a family member stay on top of things can really be a help. Rob, would you recommend that to others, that that’s really important to manage those details and play an active role?

Rob Beck:

Absolutely. One of the things is that, you know, we would provide, or I would provide, the continuity between the doctors and the treatments. She said that she had a time when she had to go in the hospital locally here and so in the emergency room, which would’ve been a minor infection. You know, she was, her white blood counts were down. We had a drug that was given at the university hospital that they weren’t familiar with here, so they wanted to give her one that would duplicate that and could cause stroke. And I just looked the doctor right in the eye and, real closely in the eye, and said “No you’re not giving her that, this is what she’s taking,” and he finally called the university hospital and learned something new himself.

I think you have to have an advocate, especially when this is so complex. Very important. We are fortunate enough in our business that, and it was a time of year through the worst treatment she’s had that I could be with her, that I could leave our business and be able to be with her.  We had people here, our hired people that were here at the time that she was going through this.

They’re professionals. They know how to handle things when I’m gone. Luckily, we had set up methods that could empower them to take care of the business while we were gone. And so we were very fortunate to be able to do that. And, yeah, I think that an advocate whether it’s your mother, father, or spouse or whatever. You’ve got to have somebody there.

And it’s not that the medical profession has problems. And especially ours, they were incredible, absolutely incredible. And I think you’ll find that in most places.

But there’s got to be some continuity in the communication, and that’s going to be somebody you take with you, we feel.

Andrew Schorr:

Rob, Tish, thanks for being with us on Patient Power once again sharing your incredible story.

We wish you long good health and may the crops grow and you see a lot of grandchildren. Thanks for being with us.

Tish Beck:

Thank you.

Andrew Schorr:

I’m Andrew Schorr, thank you for being with us. Remember, knowledge can be the best medicine of all. 

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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