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Six L’s of Caring and Coping -

January 28, 2007
by Dave Balch, Founder of The Patient/Partner Project

Six L’s of Caring and Coping

By Dave Balch, Founder of The Patient/Partner Project
Note: Dave was caregiver for his wife during her successful nine-month battle with breast cancer; now he is on a full-time, personal mission to help other patients by helping their partners.  This series of articles outlines some of the tools and techniques that helped them get through their ordeal together.
            One of the most important things you can do to cope with the stress of serious illness is to laugh.  I’m not saying that cancer is funny; it isn’t.  You can, however, find plenty of humor in some of the situations that you find yourself in because of the cancer.  Focus your attention there, find something to laugh about, and laugh your head off.  Here are some examples from our experience.
            1.  We were walking through the hospital parking lot at 5:00am on our way to my wife’s big surgery; a mastectomy with TRAM-flap reconstruction.  She would be on the table for six hours followed by four days in the hospital, and we were both understandably a little nervous.  Suddenly, she stopped, let out a big yell, and said, “Oh, no!  I forgot to bring my boob!”  She caught me off guard, but then I yelled back, “What do you mean?  I’m right here!”
            We looked at each other and laughed out loud, then proceeded to the admitting office, feeling better about the situation.
            2.  A few months later, when she was about to lose her hair due to the chemotherapy we went shopping for wigs.  The sales lady was showing her wigs, eyebrow replacements, eyelash replacements… it was amazing.  I tried to sound innocent when I asked, “Do you have anything to replace her mustache when it falls out??”
            3.  When her hair did start falling out, we decided to make it into an event and we went to our stylist together.  First her, then I, had him cut our hair into Mohawks, then punk-style spikes, before finally shaving our heads down to the nubs.  We took photos and created a general mayhem in the salon, laughing and getting most everyone involved.
            4.  After the final stage of reconstruction, her doctor told her about a tattoo parlor where she could go to get her new nipple colored to match the other one.   It happened to be in a rather shady part of town, and I imagined a couple of burly, bearded, biker-types sneering as they colored-in my wife’s new nipple.  I said, to no one in particular, “I wonder how they’re going to get ‘Mamma Never Loved Me’ into such a small space…”
            The humor is there, you just have to look for it.  Sometimes it takes some work, but you’ll find it. 
Here is the most important thing to remember: after you laugh, nothing has changed… but you feel better.
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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