Don’t Let Valentine’s Day Stress Impact Your Cancer Battle


Dana Nolan

February 13, 2018

Leading up to Valentine’s Day, jewelers, florists and fancy restaurants all fight for your business.

They each stress the importance of showing your sweetheart how much you care on what many consider the most romantic day of the year.

But when you or your loved one is battling mesothelioma, you may not have the energy, the funds or the desire to make a big deal out of Valentine’s Day.

When mesothelioma intrudes into a marriage, a couple may feel like they have gone from husband or wife to patient or caregiver. This has its own set of challenges and adjustments.

As a couple shifts gears toward battling mesothelioma, they may put nurturing their relationship on the back burner to focus on fighting the cancer and managing treatment side effects.

I found that some marital relationships are strengthened by the experience of fighting cancer together.

But many couples find the stressors that accompany a mesothelioma diagnosis can negatively affect their relationship.

Financial worries, fatigue, social isolation, decreased libido and communication problems while dealing with mesothelioma can strain a partnership at a time when couples want their relationship to be at its most resilient.

It is no wonder that couples fighting mesothelioma have enough on their plate without the pressure of trying to make Valentine’s Day special.

Little Gestures Can Go a Long Way

As a couples therapist, I found that the happiest couples don’t save up their romantic gestures for one or two special days of the year such as Valentine’s Day or their anniversary.

They let their partner know they are loved and appreciated on a regular basis.

These caring behaviors don’t have to be elaborate gestures that require a lot of money or preparation.

You can do little things each day to show your loved one you are thinking about them.

It is the little things that keep a relationship strong. It is the tone of your voice when speaking to your partner. It is the private jokes you share that no one else gets. It’s saying to your partner “I appreciate your help,” or listening to their fears or worries without trying to fix the problems or give false reassurance.

Give your loved one a foot rub without being asked. Make your partner their favorite homemade meal and let them indulge.

Simple gestures speak volumes.

Don’t Let Valentine’s Day Create Added Stress

When a couple is dealing with a life-threatening diagnosis such as mesothelioma, the last thing they need is to feel pressured to live up to an unrealistic expectation on Valentine’s Day.

Take a moment and reflect upon what your partner loves about you and appreciates about your time together.

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to let your loved one know you love them and are thinking about them on Valentine’s Day.

And make sure they know how much you care the other 364 days of the year.


Surviving Childhood Trauma

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Sadly, child abuse occurs far too often. Some families seem to pass on the legacy of physical, sexual and psychological abuse because many times victims of childhood abuse grow up to abuse their own children. This pattern can be halted if victims of abuse seek and receive professional help to deal with their trauma.

Commonly, a survivor of abuse will “stuff” their emotions and the memories of the traumatic events when they arise. They may turn to drugs or alcohol to numb the pain or to make the memories of their abuse disappear. These strategies work in the moment, but the thoughts, feelings and memories will keep coming up unless they are processed therapeutically. Quite often, my clients have told me that they have tried on their own for many years to get rid of their traumatic memories, anxiety and negative thoughts before they seek counseling.

There are a variety of therapeutic models to deal with the trauma of childhood abuse.

Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy– helps victims of abuse to reframe the irrational and negative thoughts/beliefs that are often formulated after surviving childhood abuse.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)-a very specialized form of trauma treatment developed to address the flashbacks, memories and negative thoughts common in those with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Dialectical Behavior Therapy-a collection of therapeutic interventions that focus on helping victims of abuse learn to manage their emotions, cope with stress in interpersonal relationships and tolerate emotional distress.

Play Therapy-a therapy for children that helps them express and process their emotions and memories of abuse in a safe environment. Play therapy uses dolls and toys to teach about healthy relationships and boundaries.

Pharmacologic Therapy-many times survivors of childhood abuse develop sleep problems, anxiety disorders (generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder or phobias) or a mood disorder. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications to help manage symptoms which allow the survivor of abuse to work through trauma in counseling.

In my practice, I work with adult survivors of childhood abuse and utilize trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, EMDR and dialectical behavioral therapy and have found these modalities very successful. It takes a great deal of courage and trust to reach out and seek help. If you are a survivor of childhood abuse and are ready to start feeling better, ask you primary care physician for a referral to a mental health care professional in your area that specializes in post-traumatic stress disorder and interview a few therapists to make sure you feel comfortable talking with them

Relationships, Marriage, and Couples

From the Desk of Dana Nolan:

Because I closely monitor my teenage boys’ social media use, I was puzzled several months ago to find one of them refer to their new girlfriend as “Bae.” Concerned that this was something inappropriate, I investigated what it meant. I was relieved to find out that it is a acronym for “Before anyone else” and used like the term “baby” or “honey”…..Awe, isn’t that just sweet?

I do a lot of couples counseling in my practice and find it very sad to see and hear couples tear each other down in an effort to be “right.” They recount stories of their arguments where they verbally attack each other, call each other horrible names and even get physically aggressive. Defensiveness, contempt and dishonesty are all too common in unhealthy marriages. One client told me: “I don’t understand why my wife can be kind, generous and easygoing with neighbors, friends or even complete strangers, but then she comes home and begins to yell at me for not starting dinner or criticizing me for some other trivial issue. I am supposed to be the love of her life and I think she treats me worse than anyone else!” Day after day, couples who vowed to love, honor and cherish each other slowly descind into treating each other like the enemy.

One of the first steps in my marriage counseling sessions is to educate couples how detrimental it is to talk to each other with contempt, to call each other names, curse at each other or to treat their partner like they are lazy, stupid or ugly. Astoundingly, some couples tell me that being married means that you are allowed to talk to each other angrily or disrespectfully because you are together for better or for worse!

I really like the idea of “Bae” in committed relationships or marriage: The concept of putting your partner needs “before anyone else.” Of course, it only works when both people in the relationship make an effort to think of their partner before others. In the long run, I think its much more important that we treat our spouse/partner with respect and kindness and not care so much whether our neighbor thinks we are nice person. Our spouse is the one person we count on to be there for us through thick and thin, so it kind of makes sense that we treat our “bae” like we value their presence in our life.

Marriage is tough at times. Treating your spouse with kindness and respect is only one component of maintaining a healthy relationship. But, I promise that if you treat your partner like your “bae” that you will experience way more happiness than those couples who tear each other down!

For more information on how to improve your marriage (or serious relationship,) I highly recommend Dr. John Gottman’s book “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.” I trained with John Gottman several years ago and have found his work to be very helpful to couples who are williing to do a bit of work (i.e. CHANGE THEIR BAD HABITS) to improve their marriage.

Dana Nolan
Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Owner at Healthy Living Counseling

Romance throughout the Year….Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is upon us again! It is that time of year where we declare (or re-declare) our love for that special someone in our life. Greeting card companies, florists and jewelers would like you to believe that buying their products for your loved one is the best way to show your love. The bigger the gift, the deeper the love, right?

I am not “anti” flowers, jewelry or candy at all. (Note to my husband: I do appreciate any and all cards and flowers you give me!) But, my experience in couples counseling has shown me that there are many other ways that we can demonstrate our love (which includes respect, affection and appreciation) to our sweetheart. Doing little things every day is what keeps relationships strong:

*Listening to your loved one vent about their day (WITHOUT trying to fix it!)

*Buying them their favorite drink or snack without asking

*Saying “Thank you”

*Giving hugs/kisses for no apparent reason

All these are not ‘over the top’ romantic things. But, I’ve found that truly happy couples routinely do any number of little things on a regular basis to let their sweetheart know that they are loved, listened to and respected.

I am not advocating a boycott of celebrating Valentine’s Day at all! But, I am encouraging you do little things for your partner to spread the love you feel throughout the other 364 days of the year.


Dana Nolan

Licensed Mental Health Counselor