The devastating words, “your child has cancer”, can rock the core of the strongest of family foundations. As the parents stand close to their child during the journey of treatment, new realities set in–hospital and doctor visits are frequent and non-negotiable, sometimes at the expense of one’s job–medical bills continue to come and travel expenses increase with back and forth hospital visits– and exhaustion, due to worry, stress and lack of sleep become a new norm– All of which can take a heavy toll on a marriage.
An article written by Deborah Raiees-Dana, was published on the Arkansas Children’s Hospital website titled, Diamonds or Dust: Keeping Your Marriage Together While Your Child Fights For Life. Raiees-Dana gives a very insightful account of what couples may experience together when caring for a child who is fighting a life threatening illness. Her message–stay strong–together.
Raiees-Dana talks in her article about the loss of her daughter to cancer at the age of 14 and her simultaneous struggling marriage. “In October of 1999, Jasmin died and my spouse filed for divorce. I don’t know if having something in our hands would have saved our marriage or not, but it would have been nice to have been forewarned, and to have understood the differences that often exist in coping styles between men and women. Watching my daughter suffer as she struggled while watching our marriage fall apart was almost as bad as watching her suffer from the disease that eventually took her life. I felt painlessly helpless in both situations”- Raiees-Dana.
In her article, Raiees-Dana points out that, your marriage will change when caring for an ill child. “You will face some of the worst fears and stresses that a parent can imagine, and that will affect the way you view the world from now on”. But through it all, she explains, most marriages do make it through and often times become stronger for having shared such a journey together.
Some of the top stressors she mentions are prevalent during this time– (1) finances (2) lack of sleep and exhaustion, (3) gender differences–men and women can sometimes handle stressful situations in very different ways and their perceived, or already established parenting roles, may play an affect on how each will handle caring for their child.
Along with providing helpful tips to how to avoid communication breakdowns and how support each other through grief, Raiees-Dana also encourages parents to reach out to their support systems when needed–family, friends, support groups and communities of faith. “Many people find that God is an important source of strength for them”, Raiees-Dana explains, “and though their faith may be tested through the ordeal, it often becomes stronger because of their experiences”.
“No one chooses a potentially fatal disease for his or her child. It descends on you uninvited and forces its presence on all the members of the family. You also can’t control those around you, and you can’t expect them to react in ways that you perceive as best. Although you may feel as if you are at the complete mercy of your circumstances, the truth is that you are still in control of how you respond to this new reality. If you find yourself at the end of your resources, you can take the initiative to find options for help beyond yourself.
As a couple, you can decide together to do what it takes and not allow the disease to steal your marriage. You have all the ingredients necessary for diamond formation. Diamonds, however, are expensive, while dust is cheap. You will need to be willing to pay the price to transform your relationship into a gem. There is help and hope for those who commit together to do what is best for their marriage, their child, and their family as a whole. You do not need to go through the process alone. And when you have overcome, your strength, clarity, and light can bring hope to”- Raiees-Dana.
For the complete article, please visit the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Website. .