My husband, Louis, and I were very anxious when he was diagnosed with cancer.
I took on the tasks at home that Louis was unable to do – such as lawn mowing and feeding the animals. I also arranged appointments and checked details with the treating team.
The support of the hospital social worker was invaluable. She organised domestic assistance and transport to treatment, and reduced many of the day-to-day tasks and concerns I had. This allowed Louis and me to spend more quality time together.
Louis joined a support group at the Cancer Support Centre. He enjoyed meeting new people and didn’t feel so alone. While Louis was at the support centre, I joined a tai chi class organised through the Carers Association and also attended their support workshops and relaxation sessions. I found the encouragement from other carers gave me the confidence boost I needed.
My wife Robyn was diagnosed with grade 4 brain cancer soon after turning 50. We were told the average survival rate is 15 months, and Robyn lived for 20 months.
After getting a diagnosis like that, you just go into shock for the first couple of days, then you start thinking about how things will change and what you need to do to help. I kept working for a month or so, but I couldn’t be at work with my mind elsewhere, I knew my role was to be beside Robyn.
It’s such a different world when you become a carer. You’ve got no training, I knew no-one else who had been through it. You draw on life skills you’ve acquired over time, but you can’t really appreciate how much responsibility is on your shoulders until you are in it.
I had to look after all Robyn’s medications, manage the appointments, keep track of the symptoms, keep an eye on her as she was moving about in case she needed assistance. It’s a bit like being a parent for the first time. Everything is new, but as the weeks roll on, you gradually get things in place and find the strength to manage.
A lot of people give you advice, but it’s hard to give it full merit if they haven’t been through this kind of experience. So I joined support groups, both a phone group through Cancer Council and a local face-to-face group.
Robyn and I tried to maintain as much of a normal lifestyle as we could. We planned to go out for a walk every morning and then she’d sleep most of the afternoon. Even once Robyn was using a wheelchair, we’d head out to places she liked, the park or the beach. It lifted her spirits for the day, and gave her something to talk about. She tried to enjoy each day she had.