Actress Marcia Cross Has a New Role: Cancer Advocate
The Desperate Housewives star is helping lead the fight against cancer in marches, through her advocacy, and with her own family.
Marcia Cross: Cancer Caregiver
Many caretakers assume immediate and sometimes complete responsibility for
their loved ones when illness strikes, from seeking the right doctors to
scheduling appointments and monitoring medications. Cross and Mahoney worked as
a team. "We formed a great partnership with Tom's doctors before his treatment
began," she says. "He had time to choose the where, the when, and the how. It
was his decision."
Caregivers, according to Cross, should keep their eyes trained on the big
picture of cancer protocols -- and all medical procedures, for that matter.
"Our doctors were so kind and caring, I just can't say enough about them. But
doctors are trained to specialize; Western medicine teaches them to look at the
disease, or the single body part … but as a caretaker you see the whole body in
action, you know every aspect of the treatment, and you know if something's
When it comes to marriage, especially when vows of "in sickness and in
health" are tested, the actress maintains, "It's important to remember that
there's a 'we,' there's a 'him,' and there's a 'you.' And you can't completely
ignore your own needs. Sometimes you have no choice. But I knew I'd gone way
too long -- we got the diagnosis [last] Thanksgiving -- so I decided June would
be my month to finally focus on myself, or at least try."
The actress surrounded herself with girlfriends -- "female friends are where
women find our nourishment" -- and while she made it to only a single yoga
class, she took a family vacation, got a massage, and tried her best to relax.
"It was about internally shifting my focus," she says. "I blocked myself off
from extra responsibility."
Avoiding Caregiver Burnout
What is the biggest responsibility of caregiving? "You have to be there as a
person," Cross says. Still, when "being there" means tackling a mountain of
medical details, sleeping in waiting rooms during surgeries, and offering
emotional sustenance to your spouse -- even as you tend to the needs of your
children, go to work, and maintain a household, all while staving off your own
internal terror -- burnout quickly ensues, both mental and physical.