Name: Rebecca Sloan
Relation to patient: Spouse
Children’s names and ages: Austin- 17, Jordan- 13, Jack- 5
Location: Asheville, NC
Patient’s Diagnosis: Stage 4 Osteosarcoma, stage 3 lung cancer, Large breast tumor- unknown
Treatments: 2 years of chemotherapy, 2 separate chemotherapy treatments for past year, 1 for osteosarcoma and one for lung cancer.
Patient’s current status: Awaiting bone marrow stem cell transplant. Lung cancer still there and breast tumor to be evaluated soon.
Parenting with Cancer: What’s the first thing you thought of when your husband was diagnosed with cancer?
Rebecca Sloan: I was devastated, and I think one of my first thoughts was purely selfish: I did not want or feel capable of being a single parent.
PWC: What’s the best thing someone did for you or your family to help during cancer?
RS: My friend started making and bringing me meals once a week.
PWC: What piece of advice would you give a parent is taking care of someone who was just diagnosed?
RS: Research everything. From drugs to treatments to doctors. You will have a lot of terms and drug names thrown at you- look them up. Bring a notebook to doctor’s visits and write stuff down. Make sure there is someone looking at all the meds prescribed to avoid a drug interaction. It has been difficult for us – even though we are both nurses – to keep up.
PWC: What’s been the hardest part about the cancer/cancer treatments?
RS: Seeing my husband and my best friend so sick and in pain. Osteosarcoma or bone cancer is a particularly painful cancer.
“It has been difficult for us — even though we are both nurses — to keep up.”
PWC: What has helped your kids through this tough time?
RS: My husband has spent hours, sometimes late at night, talking with my two older boys. He is very open with them and wants to help them grow into responsible, caring adults. He reads to our five year old, sometimes even when he cannot get out of bed. He spent hours riding around with my oldest son when he was learning to drive. My son is now a better driver than me, though I won’t tell him that.
PWC: What keeps you awake at night?
RS: His coughing has become worse lately, and sometimes it wakes up Austin, too, and he comes out to check on his dad. Sometimes I just lie in bed and wonder what the future holds. He has insomnia and usually comes to bed around 4 AM. I’ve had to get used to going to sleep by myself.
PWC: What is the hardest part about being a caregiver of a cancer patient, especially with kids?
RS: Sometimes you feel like you’re doing EVERYTHING! This year I’m going to have three boys in three different schools. I am going to school myself while I stay home and care for my husband. I am taking online classes to get my Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
PWC: What’s your favorite place to go for emotional support on your darkest days?
RS: I like to go for a long walk. Sometimes it’s the only thing that makes me feel sane.
He is very open with them and wants to help them grow into responsible, caring adults.
PWC: If you could change one thing about your cancer experience (besides the diagnosis),what would it be?
RS: When I am feeling particularly stressed, I would try to put myself in my husband’s place instead of dwelling on my issues.