Valentine's Day is synonymous with overbooked restaurants, massive orders of roses, lavish gifts and high expectations. For couples confronting cancer or other life-threatening illnesses, this chance to connect could be an important moment to connect or an additional source of stress.

Courtney Bitz, L.C.S.W., head of the Couples Coping with Cancer Together program at City of Hope, offers this advice:

“In general, when I’m working with couples, we emphasize that it’s important to come back to who they are as a couple and doing activities they enjoy. Their lives cannot always be about cancer or treatment. You need to maintain the intimacy and emotional connection despite all the stressors.

“During Valentine’s Day, couples feel a lot of expectations. I encourage couples to have reasonable expectations of themselves, but do take this occasion to connect with each other. Romance and intimacy and sexuality – it’s all about communication, creativity, optimism and negotiation. Ask how can we remain connected as a couple even when we’re stressed and physically not feeling our best.”

The Coping with Cancer Together Program is unique in that it integrates couples counseling as a standard part of breast cancer care. Bitz can provide excellent tips and advice relevant to couples facing breast cancer or any serious illness.

For more information, contact Nicole White at [email protected] or 626-218-3398.