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Published on January 26, 2018

When Someone You Love Has Cancer

Supporting spouse with cancer

In this series:

Caregiver Support

When your loved one has cancer, it’s a difficult time not only for them but also for their near and dear ones. Anyone who is involved in taking care of a loved one who has been diagnosed with cancer can help them on their journey as a caregiver. The most important thing you can do as a caregiver is to show them your love and support as they navigate their illness.

If you attend their doctors’ appointments:

  • Have an open and honest conversation with their healthcare team
  • Help your loved one understand what to expect from treatment and what their options are from clinical trials to chemotherapy, radiation or palliative care
  • Don’t force them to reveal information that they are not comfortable sharing and be mindful of what your loved one really wants to know
  • Encourage patients to talk about their symptoms, be it pain or anxiety, and be their voice if they are unable to communicate effectively
  • Have a pen and paper handy to take down notes

Conversations about advance directives and living wills are often difficult but important to be taken care of while your loved one can explain what they want for themselves. Family members and friends who are making such decisions should let go of their own prejudices and focus on the patient’s wishes.

Dr. Archana Rao is an oncology and hematology specialist with the Cone Health Cancer Center at MedCenter Mebane and member of Cone Health Medical Group.

Symptom Management

When cancer patients experience symptoms related to their diagnosis or treatment they often end up visiting the emergency room (ER), which can cost time and money. To keep patients out of the ER, Cone health created the Symptom Management Clinic, a special clinic to treat the specific needs of Cone Health cancer patients. Within the first two years of operation, there has been a 43 percent drop in emergency room visits for cancer patients.

The symptom management clinic team specializes in oncology, understand the unique needs and concerns of cancer patients, and the best way to treat your symptoms. Common symptoms that patients should visit the symptom management clinic for include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Swelling of the arms or legs
  • Redness or pain where you have an IV or at your port site
  • Rash on the skin that is new
  • Fever over 100.4 degrees

A comprehensive list of symptoms can be found here. We encourage patients to call us as soon as they experience symptoms before they worsen.

Cyndee Bacon is a managing nurse practitioner of the Cone Health Cancer Center Symptom Management Clinic and member of Cone Health Medical Group. Beth Tracey is a registered oncology nurse with the Symptom Management Clinic.

Survivorship and Finding Your New Normal

Transitioning out of active treatment can be a time of uncertainty for patients who have just overcome cancer and aren’t sure how to return to normal life. Since each patient’s needs are different, the Cone Health survivorship team creates individualized care plans for each patient that details the patient’s diagnosis, the treatment the patient received, as well as a schedule for follow-up visits. They review the care plan in person so the patient can ask questions and they provide a list of support groups and classes, such as Cancer Transitions and the CARE program, offered by Cone Health or in the community.

Support and care after cancer treatment can help everyone, men and women, reclaim their lives and well-being. The Wings to Recovery program at Cone Health Cancer Center at Alamance Regional helps newly diagnosed cancer patients connect to a volunteer mentor who has experienced cancer and completed treatment. Wings to Recovery mentors provide emotional support to newly diagnosed patients, offer an outlet for patients to voice their fears and concerns, help patients clarify issues and formulate questions they would like to discuss with their healthcare team and direct patients to other available community resources that may help them cope more effectively with their condition and treatment.

Rosa Davis is a registered nurse and the survivorship coordinator at Cone Health Cancer Center at Alamance Regional.