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V-Day and the C-Word:
Thoughts from Dr. Kuske and Dr. Chen

Valentines Day and Breast Cancer

BY STEPHANIE LOUGH

By that title we mean Valentines Day and cancer. Two things one person might not think go together but for those dealing with their love life while battling a serious illness, experts say its absolutely possible during this Valentines season to find time for new romance or focus on renewing established relationships.

"Life does not stop at a cancer diagnosis," said Dr. Robert Kuske, co-founder of Arizona Breast Cancer Specialists. "While cancer can put tremendous strain on relationships, I believe dating as well as focusing on current significant others can be a great part of treatment."

Hollywood seems to agree.

The 2010 critically-acclaimed film 50/50 focuses on the life of a newly-diagnosed cancer patient, and the impact his diagnoses has on dating, as well as his relationships with loved ones.

"Although the film is a fictionalized version of a fact-based story, it's not a far cry from dating with cancer in real life," said Dr. Luci Chen, a partner at Arizona Radiation Oncology Specialists. "While glamorized, the emotional struggles we all deal with involving stress, relating and love, both internally and externally, are there."

According to Dr. Chen, establishing a new or continuing to nurture a long-term relationship with someone fighting cancer requires communication and sensitivity among all else. The person fighting cancer will not always have the energy for hours of conversation or for physical intimacy, while the significant other may feel helpless from time to time, or even selfish in his/her physical needs.

But, where there is a willand lovethere is a way.

For anyone supporting a mate or date fighting cancer this month, doctors Kuske and Chen have the following tips for making this Valentines special for them:

Give the gift of time

"Spend a day strolling the botanical gardens, if you both have the strength, or take a day-trip someplace secluded but close to home," said Dr. Kuske. "And understand if your date gets tired, it isn't because of you or your company, but simply a by-product of the hard work their body is doing against the cancer and side effects of treatment."

Give the gift of laughter

"They don't call laughter the best medicine for nothing," said Dr. Chen. "Why not consider a date at the local comedy club or even a bathroom joke book? A few hours of laughter can take one's mind off of being sick."

Give the gift of hope

"No, do not buy dozens of candles with inspirational words like 'strength' emblazoned on them," said Dr. Kuske. "But why not a 12-month subscription to your mate's favorite magazine or a fun food-of-the-month club? The long-term commitment shows your long-term belief in their success."

Give the gift of you

"Thoughtful and completely customizable personal coupons are a great way to show understanding and willingness to help with anything from household chores to babysitting," said Dr. Chen. "And don't forget to make a couple 'get out of jail free' coupons either, as we are all prone to a few temper tantrums in stressful life situations. Giving these shows it is okay to share these emotions."

Give the gift of a life without cancer

"Why not create a scrapbook of all of your fabulous memories with your loved one to remind them of brighter days," said Dr. Kuske. "But, be sure to leave some pages blank toward the end to show him/her that there are still so many more memories to make."