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Young Cancer Spouses
by Sandra Ray, Staff Writer
Young and cancer are two words we don’t often piece together, unless
we’re watching fundraisers for hospitals for children with cancer.
Yet, there are more and more people becoming afflicted with various
types of cancer who are recently married, or have started the road
to raising a family.
For the younger spouses who are just getting into what it’s like to
be married, work, deal with health insurance, diagnosis is just as
shocking and devastating as it would be for anyone. But how
can you navigate a healthcare system that has changed so much since
your parents’ and grandparents’ time? You may have selected a
lower cost plan with higher deductibles in favor of helping pay your
mortgage. Some of the daring young forego insurance, equating
youth with permanent health. Insurance is only one of the
tools needed when seeking treatment that one hopes will lead to
recovery and cure.
To help the spouse who will help their partner through this time,
Matt Herynk, Phd developed a website, www.youngcancerspouses.org.
For Matt, whose wife recently passed away from cancer in October
2007, he experienced the lack of resources for people in his age
Focused on keeping the caregiver both knowledgeable and supported,
the website contains information on a variety of topics. One
of the important areas is showing the caregiver how to care for
How it Began
The original project was a Yahoo.com Group, founded by Karen
Schlowsky-Fischer. Her husband Mark was diagnosed with an
aggressive non-Hodgkins lymphoma in November 2003. They had
been married less than four years, and he was only 28 years old.
During this time in their lives as a young married couple, the focus
should have been careers, stock options, and family planning.
Instead, their mutual focus became keeping Mark alive, and
eventually well. Karen worked to care for him, and learned the
value of caring for herself as caregiver. Without her
strength, Mark’s ability to move forward would be changed.
Even when his treatment regimen stopped working after two months,
their mutual resolve in caring for themselves as a unit allowed them
to try other therapies.
The cancer came back, but Mark’s eight and a half month survival
surprised his doctors. His passing at age 29 in October 2004
in the home he shared with Karen was only one portion of the grief
that is expected when a spouse
Other Types of Loss
Karen and Mark lost a portion of their youth to this journey.
While people of their parents’ and grandparents’ ages might be able
to call upon their children for help, they had none. Friends
and young married couples might be there for their friends, but
unless they’ve navigated healthcare/insurance systems, they may just
be a companion rather than a guide.