My husband has cancer.  “The news left me speechless,” recalls Maria.  Her husband, Joseph, 48 years-old, in general good health and with little family history, had cancer.  There was nothing visibly wrong with Joseph–no wound to wrap,no special care to give but even so, their world was turned upside down.

“For once, I didn’t know what to do,” explains Maria.  “This was so very different from the care I was used to providing for scrapes and sprains, fevers and sore throats.  I was plagued by questions and by fears.”

Maria forced herself to not succumb to the fears and the “what if” questions:  What if Joseph doesn’t get better, what if we can’t afford treatment, what if he doesn’t survive?  Maria knew she needed to be brave for Joseph and especially for their kids.

The first two weeks of treatment went pretty well.  Into the third week, Joseph began to experience some side effects to a much greater degree than most people.  He became extremely fatigued and his skin was very irritated.  Clothes were uncomfortable even though he was wearing loose, soft clothing.  It was difficult for him to sleep and he never seemed to be able to get comfortable as his skin was so sensitive.  When he would manage to sleep for a bit, he would unconsciously scratch his tender skin which made it more irritated.  It became a vicious circle and not only was he not sleeping, Maria’s sleep was being interrupted and she was having difficulty meeting all the increased responsibilities of being caretaker and primary parent.

In addition to general worry about her husband’s health and prognosis, Maria was becoming increasingly concerned about the mounting medical bills.  Joseph was already missing a lot of work and so was Maria.  They had a little cushion but that wasn’t going to last long and there was still so much they didn’t know about the financial impact of cancer.

Financial worries were compounded by the concern Maria experienced about their children’s acceptance and understanding of their father’s disesase. Like so many families, it was hard to put the words together to talk about Joseph’s cancer in a way that each child could understand.  Maria sensed that each one, in their own way, was anxious and depressed.  Their oldest child, Mark, was nearly 17 and seemed to be taking it the hardest.  Always outgoing and involved in school activities and with his friends, Mark was needed to help make sure that his younger brother and sister got to their after school activities while Maria was with Joseph.  More and more he was being asked to prepare dinner or run errands.  When Mark was home, he was spending a lot of time by himself, in his room.

Research and experience show that communication is the single most important variable in how a family functions as they live through the cancer experience.  Angel Foundation’s Facing Cancer Together program helps individual family members, and the entire family, strengthen and improve their communication skills to improve the psychosocial functioning of the family.  Family members learn that open, honest, accurate and age appropriate dialogue, early in the experience, contributes positively to a family’s well-being during this time. 

Facing Cancer Together provides education and support for families with school-aged children and a parental cancer diagnosis.  “There is a sense of relief in talking with others who can truly understand what our life is like with the difficulties, the uncertainties and the frustrations…We have been empowered through education and by having fun, laughing and crying with others.”

This program truly makes a difference in the lives of families when cancer strikes.  Be part of the answer to families seeking support in dealing with a cancer diagnosis.  Maximize your gift and help us reach the $5,000 challenge put forth by Angel Foundation’s board of directors.