When you or your partner are diagnosed with cancer, it is a terrifying time for you both.
Even if you have been together for 20 years, it is hard to know how to cope with the inevitable changes that this illness and many other chronic illnesses can bring. It’s worth noting that you aren’t alone, and while cancer and other health issues can strain a relationship, with the proper guidance, it can also build the bond that you have.
So, how can you get through the changes this illness can bring? Here are some top tips.
It’s obvious but talk to each other openly and honestly.
This can be hard, especially if you or your partner are in an emotionally frail place, but if you hold negative emotions in, they will come back tenfold. If you aren’t sure how to talk about a type of cancer, such as throat cancer, head to moffitt.org for guidance, as this website can provide you with talking points that can help break down the barriers.
If you find that you are arguing instead of talking, it may be best to seek out a relationship therapist to help you.
OK, so when you or your partner begin undertaking treatment for cancer, they or you will likely feel extremely unwell. Therefore, one of you will need to pick up the slack to keep it all going. It is hard, but you can ask for help from family and friends with things like shopping, childcare, or even household chores.
It is easy to feel resentful here, as you may feel that you are carrying the entire relationship, but remember, your partner is very ill and needs support, not judgment.
Prepare Mentally for Physical Changes
When your partner or you are going through chemotherapy or radiotherapy, you or they will have physical symptoms to contend with, such as nausea, fatigue, weight loss, and hair loss. Of course, if your partner has had operations to remove tumours, there will also be scars, which can take a huge toll on confidence. This can be shocking to see and experience, but a bit of loving encouragement can help. Give your partner a hug and some reassurance that you love them, and if you are finding it hard to adapt to the changes, seek emotional support from a trained professional.
Make Time for Each Other
If your partner is going through chemotherapy, chances are that they are exhausted and won’t want to go on long day trips. However, you can still make time for each other at home, which will go a long way towards them feeling good about themselves. Even a movie night with just the two of you can help bring you together. Just remember to make time away from cancer a few times a week, as this illness is likely to be dominating everything.
It can be hard to see your partner so unwell, and rather than bottle those feelings up, it is best to talk about them with a professional. Your partner’s doctor or nurse who is helping to oversee their cancer treatment will be able to point you in the right direction and remember that there is no shame in seeking mental health help if you aren’t coping.