Husband’s view on protecting his spouse from unnecessary infections
For those who are new to this Site, my wife lives with stage 4 cancer. She has numerous active metastases in her lungs and other parts of her trunk. A simple infection that healthy people do not care about could, in her case, easily develop into a life threatening situation. I believe that many problems can be avoided by understanding how simple proactive routines help to protect the person you love. I am writing this article after many years of experience.
Our surgeon told us: “Germs have neither legs nor wings”, i.e. they are always transferred by people touching, via a medium (on clothing, bowl of chips), sneezing.
What are the risks and consequences?
My wife can become sick very fast, easily with life threatening consequences, whether it is a viral (flu) or a bacterial infection. I have experienced an increase in fever from 38 to 40 degrees Celsius in 30 minutes. The risk is obvious during a chemotherapy treatment. But I have seen it happening during periods without ongoing chemotherapy. For my wife, an infection often means pneumonia. I have also experienced her pulse being 170 for 3 days (last Christmas) related to a viral infection. This is a big challenge for an untrained heart and body. It also means a real setback in her everyday fight to gain back her strength. Therefore do not assume that it is “just a flu”. The flu can become a real threat to her/his life.
We do socialize. However, in almost 30 to 50% of the cases when we have met with a larger group of friends, we have experienced a setback in form of a disease. This meant that 2 to 3 month of training were wasted. But all these decisions are a balance between no life and a life with some degree of risk. Isolation is not healthy either.
If I get an infection or flu she always gets it from me. We have tried isolation in a few cases when I got sick but even that have not help. Therefore my suggestions about being around people with cancer also apply to the person that takes care of a cancer patient, i.e treat them as if they were cancer patients themselves.
Over the years we have experienced all kinds of bad judgement. People visiting us with a flu or infection. People avoiding or forgetting to tell us. People sneezing at you in the bus or when you meet them walking. People preparing food, tasting it. Health care professionals not following routines. The list is long.
Should you mention to your friend with cancer that you have a cold?
If you care about your friend, you definitely should. Let your friend know, no matter what the cost might be, like rescheduling a flight. Tell your friend that you would be happy to get back when it’s over. If your friend with cancer is willing to take the risk, then it’s your friend’s decision, which is the way it should be.
Should you mention if somebody in your family has flu or some other disease?
Do you mention it or just assume your responsibility ends with you? At one party the friend inviting me told me that someone in the family had flu. By accident I met that sick person in the kitchen. I was not happy. But it was my fault as I have not explained and they haven ’t understand the risks and the consequences at that time. I said nothing. I was scared. Should I have got what my friend’s family had, it would have been a matter of days before we would be calling an ambulance. Luckily nothing happened.
Everyone can carry an infection. How do you protect your friend with cancer from getting it?
Research shows that some germs are resistant to disinfectant, but soap and hot water helps!
How to behave when you visit a friend with cancer
Can you behave in some way in order to minimize the risks? Your behaviour can definitely make a difference! Here are some suggestions for those who are not certain about their health. I my view everyone can follow these rules to a certain degree.
- Wash your hands often with warm water and soap, dry them properly and use disinfectant. Wait for the water to get hot.
- Avoid touching and preparing food; let your friend with cancer and his family members handle the food, cutlery and plates.
- Do not handle anything on the dining table.
- Avoid shaking hands, hugging and kissing.
- Don’t share food or drink.
I have to stay healthy! Here are suggestions to minimize the risk of me getting an infection
My logic is simple. The best way to protect my wife is if I stay healthy. Here are some of my rules. Of course, I appreciate if others understand and respect my rules.
- Don’t share food or drink with others.
- Don’t share towels, toothbrush, or toothpaste.
- Don’t share glass, cutlery or plates.
- Do not sneeze openly. Research has proven that the germs can travel for more than 10 meters.
- Wash your hands with hot water and soap often, be patient and wait for the water to get hot.
- Use disinfectants a lot, I always carry a little bottle with me.
- Let me handle the food, if you are at my place. I usually know how to take the right precautions.
- Offer guest towel to your guests for drying their hands. Me and my wife always use separate towels, i.e. we do not share towels with other guests.
- Avoid bus, subway and crowded places.
- Avoid places crowded with people, like large sports arenas, cinemas, concerts, theatres.
- I cancel a meeting or change it to a phone-conference if my work colleagues/business partners are sick. If I can’t do it, I make sure I sit at a distance at the desk/table. I also avoid touching anything that can transfer germs, like sharing bread, sharing bowl of chips.
- Avoid hugs and kisses on cheeks.
- If you have visitors arriving after a long journey on buses, trains and air planes, make sure they wash their hands and invite them to take shower and change their clothes before you sit down and enjoy a good meal and a good chat.
- Buy packaged food if you are not certain about the routines at the delicates counter in your shop.
- Be very careful at the hospital. I avoid touching anything. We always clean the surroundings with disinfectant, given my wife has to stay at the hospital.
- Shower and change your clothes after a hospital visit.
The list is long. Most of it is a common sense.
It is obvious that many people do not think about these kinds of practicalities. Some people just don’t get it no matter how many times you tell them. Others understand. By following these rules you could be seen as lazy by others, on the other hand you can also save your spouse’s or friend’s life by following them.
Do you have any rules?