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Six L’s of Caring and Coping

January 6, 2007
by Dave Balch, Founder of The Patient/Partner Project

            When the breast cancer diagnosis first came down, we both went into shock.  The first thing we were sure of was that we weren’t sure of anything, and that we had no idea what was coming.  How serious was it?  Will she have to go through chemotherapy?  Will she lose her breast?  How long will all of this take?  What’s next?  Is she going to die?  In retrospect, the “not knowing” was the most frightening thing of all, so my advice as a caregiver is to take charge and learn as much as you can about your situation; and do it immediately.
            I’ll be the first one to say that that’s a pretty scary proposition, but the alternative (not knowing, that is) is much worse.  Here’s the thing to remember: even if what you learn is scary, it’s less scary to know than not to know.
Do not delay; the longer you do, the more anxiety you will suffer.
            When I first learned how to ride a horse we were out on the trail and we heard an approaching motorcycle.  My horse became frightened and started shaking and dancing around; needless to say I wasn’t real happy about the situation since it was my first ride!  Instinctively, I turned the horse away from the noise thinking that would calm him.
The instructor yelled to me, “Face the danger!  Turn the horse to face the danger!  NOW!”  As soon as I did, he saw the motorcycle, realized what it was and that it was not a threat, and stood there calmly watching as it passed us.
            This is a good life lesson for us all, but especially those of us who are facing a frightening diagnosis.  Face the danger:  learn as much as you can about your situation and it won’t seem so scary.
            As you wade through all of the available information, beware of well-meaning friends and family: they will give you advice and tell you what is going to happen to you based on their experience or that of someone they know.  Remember that every situation is different, and what they say won’t necessarily apply to you.  There are a lot of variables such as disease specifics, age, health and personality of patient, financial/insurance restrictions, available services, etc., so someone else’s experience is not necessarily relevant.   Be sure that you get your information from credible sources, and that it applies to you and your situation.

            Dave Balch founded The Patient/Partner Project, which is focused on helping other patients by helping their partners. Visit for Internet resources and services for patients and partners, including free online progress reporting for family and friends and a free email mini-course of “Six ‘L’s’ of Caring and Coping.”  You can contact Dave at or toll-free at 1-8-MORAL SUPPORT (1-866-725-7877) ã 2004, Dave Balch.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


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