Emotions and Spirituality
How can I support my husband who’s been diagnosed with cancer and is waiting for test results?

Waiting can add stress to an already uncertain situation. Some people say that waiting for health and treatment information is one of the most stressful aspects of being ill. There’s the frustration of waiting, and for some people there’s also fear of what the test results may be. The waiting period can be equally difficult for family and friends. They have the added frustration of wanting to help, but not knowing what to say or do.

Some tests can take longer than others. Your husband’s physician will want results from all the tests before approaching your husband to discuss them and the possible treatment options. On top of that, the physician may have asked for further testing on some of the samples, or may have asked the opinion of another physician or health care provider in interpreting the test results.

For people who are waiting, even a little bit of information can help. Your husband could call his physician’s office and ask when the test results will be available, so you don’t have to wonder whether every phone call is the news he’s expecting. He may ask how he’ll find out the results: will he be contacted by a cancer specialist (oncologist) or his family physician? Will he get the details over the phone, or does he need to make an appointment? Clarifying these points may help.

There really are no specific words that will alleviate the stress of the situation, but there are things you can do to give your husband some comfort. The best approach generally is to be attentive to him, and let him know you’re there to support him. Often people assume their support is obvious and that they don’t need to say it out loud. Yet it can give a lot of comfort to hear words along these lines: "I love you and I care about you. I don’t like to see you going through this difficult situation. You’re not alone. I’m here for you whenever you need me."

Listening may be the single most helpful thing you can do. It shows your husband he’s important to you, that you’re attentive to his needs and that you’re available to him. It’s okay to ask him if there are particular things he wants to talk about, or if there are things he doesn’t want to discuss.