How can our relationship survive our daughter's health crisis?
anonymous Asks ...
Our 5 year old daughter has neuroblastoma. We have tried conventional treatments and nothing is working. We have researched some more aggressive alternative stem cell treatments. My wife and I cannot agree on what we should do. My wife wants to go overseas to enroll in an experimental protocol. This treatment would be quite hard on my daughter. Our doctor says that at this point there is little that can be done and he is skeptical about the experimental treatment we have been researching. He says at best we would just be prolonging her suffering. This is an awful decision but I do not think we should do this, but if we don’t I do not think my wife will ever forgive me for not trying. I do not know if our marriage can survive this anyway. How can we get through this OK, whatever we decide to do?
Penny Bell Says ...
I can only imagine the stress both you and your wife must be experiencing right now. Your anxiety must be through the roof. Making a major decision like this in the middle of crisis has got to be one of the most difficult things one would ever have to do in life, especially with so much hanging in the balance, including your relationship with one another.
Because this seems to be a question more about your relationship in the marriage I will answer it from a relationship counselling viewpoint. It sounds like you have been together on this journey so far, and in that you have done well. You have researched other treatments together but now are not in agreement as to whether to go ahead or not. You both want the best for your daughter but disagree about what that “best” would be.
I guess if I were your counsellor I would be asking you both several questions before we went ahead with any kind of mediation or decision making process. Firstly, I would want to know how polarised you both are – how strongly do you believe experimental treatment would be wrong and how strongly does your wife belief it would be right? You could both scale your responses from 1-10. Secondly I would want to know how damaging this polarisation is in each of your views to your relationship with one another, again, on the scale. Thirdly, if your wife went ahead without your agreement, or vice versa (if this was possible of course), where would that leave each of you in the relationship? And finally, I would want to explore with you both every possible outcome from those decisions and how each would be for both of you individually and relationally.
Once each of your positions and emotions have been thoroughly heard by each other we would then be able to go ahead with some negotiating, but not until then. As you see this would be a process that might take a couple of sessions. And that is what I am going to suggest to you now. This is far too important a decision to be made without knowing as much as possible about how it will affect both of you, and I would like to see you work through this with a skilled relationship counsellor rather than try to sort it out in your own minds. That way you will both be clear about how each feels and why, and be able to make the decision as a team rather than two individuals. With one another’s support you will be so much better equipped to travel the rest of this journey with your daughter. As well, it would be wise to add to this mutual support some other forms, be it church, community or hospital support groups, so that you do not feel as if you are carrying this all on your own.