And in Health: A Guide for Couples Facing Cancer Together

CURE, Summer 2013, Volume 12, Issue 2

Dan Shapiro's new book explores the dynamics of relationships throughout cancer.

When it comes to heeding advice, most would agree it's best to listen to those who have experience—especially when it comes to cancer. Dan Shapiro, a clinical psychologist and the chairman of the humanities department at Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, Penn., is a survivor of Hodgkin lymphoma and was the caregiver for his wife, Terry, when she developed breast cancer.

In his book, And in Health: A Guide for Couples Facing Cancer Together, Shapiro relies on both his own experiences navigating the terrain a couple must cross when dealing with a cancer diagnosis as well as advice from other couples. He divides the book up into what he calls "mosaic chips," which serve to frame each point he makes in entertaining, and often even humorous, firsthand accounts, each of which could stand on its own. These mosaic chips cover everything from the mundane, such as determining how housework will get done, to the sublime, such as addressing intimacy and sex. Couples know that issues both large and small can derail a relationship, particularly with a cancer diagnosis in the picture.

As Shapiro suggests, some sections can be scanned for situations that apply to a couple's specific circumstances. Other sections should be read in their entirety, such as "Chapter 5: Having a Great Relationship during Treatment." In this chapter, he dives into topics that will apply to almost every couple dealing with cancer, such as the importance of having a "no cancer" date night and balancing work with medical appointments.

Shapiro wraps up the book with a valuable piece of advice for any couple facing a life-threatening illness: "When we're ill, it can be enormously difficult to summon the energy to help our partners do everything that needs to be done. But we can offer them significant helpings of verbal encouragement and kindness […] So even if you can’t do anything else, do this: Be kind. Be generous."