REACHING OUT: New research reveals that the love and support of Brent Crosby is crucial in helping wife Lu Crosby overcome cancer.
REACHING OUT: New research reveals that the love and support of Brent Crosby is crucial in helping wife Lu Crosby overcome cancer. John Mccutcheon

Partner helps fight cancer

LU CROSBY is one of the lucky ones, with a loving partner to care for her during her recent cancer treatment.

Her husband Brent was by her side for every chemotherapy treatment and doctors' appointment, as a crucial source of support that may well have helped save her life.

According to research by Cancer Council Queensland and the Queensland University of Technology, cancer patients with partners have a much greater chance of survival.

A study, which examined 176,050 cases of the 10 leading cancers in Queensland, found that male and female cancer patients who were single at diagnosis were more likely to die within 10 years than those with a partner, regardless of the type of cancer.

In fact, the chance of death was 26% higher for single men and 20% higher for single women compared with their partnered counterparts.

They are statistics that the Crosbys can understand, after they were struck another blow in April last year when Lu was diagnosed with breast cancer.

The inspirational family behind the charity group Team Adem, had been soldering on after they lost their 19-year-old son Adem to acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in May 2013.

Lu, who has now completed her chemotherapy treatment, said: "If you didn't have a partner it would be really hard. With chemo, you can spend up to a week afterwards just lying on the couch."

She highlighted how Brent had helped with their children, meal preparation, her medication, driven her to and from appointments, and just been there for her emotionally and mentally.

This compared to many others without support, such as "single mothers who go home after (chemo) and cook dinner for their kids" or "a little old lady sat next to me at Nambour Hospital who caught the bus home afterward," Lu said.

But the Crosbys said there was a wealth of support services on the Sunshine Coast, such as Bloomhill Cancer Care, if people just reached out.

Brent said it was also important for friends of cancer patients to reach out and offer support.

"Unfortunately someone going through cancer treatment can lose their independence and friends too, because people don't know what to say.

"Just send them a text saying 'we're here for you' - it's really important to stay in touch."

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Professor Jeff Dunn said the study showed cancer patients without a partner were not only at increased risk of death from their diagnosed cancer but also from other causes of death.

"Having a partner has been linked to a healthier lifestyle, greater financial resources and increased practical or social support while undergoing treatment.

"Support from a partner can also influence treatment choices and increase social support to help manage the psychosocial effects of cancer."

The survival advantage for partnered versus single men did vary by type of cancer, from 2% for lung cancer to 30% for head and neck cancers.

Similarly improved survival results for partnered versus single women ranged from 2% for kidney and lung cancer to 41% for uterine cancer.

Source: Cancer Council Qld and QUT study of 176,050 cases of the 10 leading cancers in Qld that were diagnosed from 1996-2012.