Lifestyle

That awful moment when you are told your spouse may die

GETTING ON WITH LIFE: Neville Rogan lends wife Margaret a helping hand in her fight against cancer.
GETTING ON WITH LIFE: Neville Rogan lends wife Margaret a helping hand in her fight against cancer. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

WHEN Wollongbar's Neville Rogan was told his wife had a terminal illness, he said life became quite frightening.

His life partner Margaret was told in 2013 that she had sternum cancer and at one stage she was informed she only had a 50% chance of surviving.

Mrs Rogan underwent chemotherapy and radiation and her husband was often on hand as her full-time carer, a role that is now in the spotlight.

"We've had to call the ambulance a few times to get her into hospital for treatment as a result of the chemotherapy not agreeing with her," Mr Rogan said.

"Those are the times when you worry about things."

NSW Cancer Council research indicates almost a quarter of all carers report symptoms of anxiety but Mr Rogan said he just got on with life and did what was needed.

"It was quite frightening when the doctor first said it was a terminal illness; I didn't know at the time what was involved in that," he said.

"But you just get on with life the way it is."

While Mrs Rogan is no longer receiving chemotherapy, she has taken a turn for the better.

Doctors are happy with her blood counts, she is back cooking and driving and they go out dancing twice a week and eat out at restaurants regularly.

"It doesn't stop her from doing what she wants to do," Mr Rogan said.

"We don't sit at home and do nothing, we go out quite regularly and enjoy life."

Mrs Rogan's sternum cancer was not her first brush with the disease. In 2003 she was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, but it had later disappeared.

When Mrs Rogan was at her worst, Mr Rogan said they had received help from a number of organisations, including Care Connect.

Mr Rogan said it was important for other carers to be aware there was help available.

"There are agencies that are there for help when you need it because (sometimes as a carer) you are lost, you don't know where to go," he said.

"There are organisations to help you."

BE PATIENT:

TWICE as many carers of cancer patients report symptoms of clinical anxiety as the patients themselves.

Cancer Council NSW research shows 21% of cancer carers reported symptoms of clinical anxiety compared to only 10% of patients.

The council's practical support manager Annie Miller said this was concerning and showed carers may not have been aware of the resources available to them.

Research also showed at least a quarter of cancer carers reported unmet social and emotional needs.

One in three calls to the Cancer Council's information and support service came from a carer. Almost half of these calls came when the person they were caring for was in the advanced stages of cancer.

"We see the majority of calls from carers coming in the late stages of their loved one's cancer journey, however we encourage anyone caring for someone with cancer to remember to reach out early for support, and most importantly know there is help out there," Ms Miller said.

Phone the Cancer Council's information and support line on 13 11 20.

Topics:  cancer carers editors picks health marriage



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