Cancer is like a blue minivan, said Carson Boss, a Syracuse man whose wife was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“Once you buy one, you see it everywhere,” he said.
Boss, author of “Your Wife Has Cancer: Now What?,” has written a manual for men who want to support their wives during chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, but need an instruction book. The book is published by Huntsville-based Familius, which specializes in content geared for families.
“It’s uplifting to me to say, ‘You can do this, you can help her through it,’ ” he said.
Most husbands don’t reach out for help, Boss said. They stay in their houses and don’t come out.
“I’d heard the divorce rate goes up in (those) situations due to finances and changes in physical appearance,” Boss said. “I just dedicated myself to, ‘No matter what happens, I’m going to be there for her.’ ”
His wife, Cindy Boss, was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 38 years old. She is now 40 and, after 18 months of treatment, has been in remission for a year. Cindy Boss said she is grateful for her family. Her husband acted as a nurse, mastered the ramen noodle and struggled to keep up with the laundry, she said.
“Just the fact he wrote a book tells something about him,” she said. “I’m just glad it was me instead of him or one of the kids.”
The Bosses have four children age 6 to 13. They became more self-sufficient by making their own breakfasts and sometimes lunches, he said. They were also good about keeping their friends away when Cindy Boss’ immune system was weak.
In addition to the radiation treatments and a double mastectomy, she had a strong dose of chemotherapy because she was young and strong. She had six surgeries, partially because she also struggled with a double mastectomy that went wrong.
“It does shake your faith,” he said. “My wife was in her 30s. She lives great, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink. Why her? It does not make sense.”
The first thing to do, Boss said, is to get online and learn as much as you can learn about everything: What kind of cancer, the drugs, radiation and general chemotherapy.
“There are so many types of chemo drugs,” Boss said. “You need to know all of the side effects of the drugs so you can tell whether (a reaction) is normal or if you need to get her right up to the ER.”
The next step is to go to every appointment and stay with her through every chemotherapy session, he said. Boss, a corporate compliance officer at Zions Bank, was able to take time off work to be with his wife at her appointments and stayed with her during every chemotherapy session. Boss said he became very good at taking notes.
Bad habits are magnified under this kind of stress, Boss said.
“Drinkers drink more, smokers smoke more,” he said. “Use this time to change your life in support of her changing her habits. Make sure you change right along with her.”
Housework, homework and cooking are only part of the difficulties — although Boss did put the colors in with the whites while he was doing laundry, added too much seasoning to the meals — he made dinners no one could eat — and said he discovered that when it came to homework, he was “not smarter than a fifth grader.”
Boss recommends caregivers set up a Facebook page to keep everyone notified about treatments and progress, which helps people check in.
Three local cancer support groups exist for family members who are struggling with a loved one’s diagnosis, said Megan Saunders, American Cancer Society patient navigator for the Great West Division.
• McKay-Dee Hospital’s Cancer Support Group meets at the McKay-Dee Hospital Education Center, 4401 Harrison Blvd., Ogden. This group is held four times a year; each time, it goes for eight weeks. The next group begins on Oct. 1 and runs until Nov. 19. Meetings are noon to 1 p.m. The group is run by an oncology social worker and a retired nurse. For more information, call 801-387-7443.
• There are specialized cancer support groups through Ogden Regional Medical Center’s Cancer Treatment Center, 5475 S. 500 East, Ogden. For more information, call 801-479-2570 or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Prostate Cancer Support Group meets 7-9 p.m. on the first Wednesday of every month.
— Breast Cancer Support Group meets the fourth Thursday of every month (except July, November and December) from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; and then the third Thursday in November from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
* * *
Carson Boss, author of “Your Wife Has Cancer: Now What?,” found the following websites helpful:
• American Cancer Society: www.cancer.org
• Anticipatory Nausea: http://motherswithcancer.wordpress.com/2008/06/24/anticipatory-nausea/
• BRCA Genetic Testing: www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/BRCA
• Cancer and Sexuality: http://health.usnews.com/health-conditions/cancer/information-on-sexuali...
• Cancer Diet Tips: www.helpguide.org/life/healthy_diet_cancer_prevention.htm
• Cancer Treatment Centers of America: www.cancercenter.com
• Chemo Alopecia: www.mayoclinic.com/health/hair-loss/CA00037