Cancer treatment changes everything, including your romantic relationship with your partner. As your roles within relationships change, it can be difficult to remain supportive; both as a caregiver and as a patient. It's important that you continue to connect with your loved ones, and just because you have cancer or are supporting someone with cancer, doesn't mean that you need to deal with these difficulties alone.
Cancer & Socializing
It's important to stay connected to the loved ones or friends that genuinely want to know how you're coping with cancer treatment.
The holiday season and other periods of time where socializing increases can be an especially tough time, as a cancer patients may not be able to travel to see their loved ones or may feel anxious in a room filled with people. It has been reported that cancer patients may feel anxious, even around their loved ones, as this is a side effect of their treatment.
It's important to remember that you are not alone and it's okay to feel overwhelmed or stressed during these times of the year. It is also important to let your partner know that you may be having these feelings and to effectively communicate these thoughts or worries to them.
Supporting A Partner With Cancer
As a primary caregiver, there may be times when you will feel fatigued or stressed.
Remember that you shouldn't feel guilty, and these are normal feelings that every caregiver and spouse will go through. It's important to have a roadmap on how to move forward, which may include setting boundaries and expectation ahead of time.
- Have a special group of family or friends over: Your spouse may feel overwhelmed if you host a large party or gathering, so instead, call over the few friends or family who understand what your family is going through.
- Ask for help: Ask your special group of friends or family that are coming over to help you by hosting the party at their place or staying behind after your own party to help tidy and clean up. You shouldn't feel guilty to ask for help, and you shouldn't take care of everything on your own.
- Introduce new traditions: Change up your traditions. Instead of attending the party, you could video call your loved ones. This way, your spouse will not feel left out but still be able to get the rest they need.
How to Support a Spouse with Cancer
At times, you may feel overwhelmed or stressed when your spouse has undergone or is undergoing cancer treatment. It's important to remember that what you're feeling is okay and that you should not feel guilty about it.
Tips for Supporting a Partner Through Cancer
The following tips can help you be a better partner and help you cope with a chronically ill partner that needs additional care.
- Effective communication: If your partner feels that they are unable to attend a party or gathering, they should feel comfortable enough to let you know. Every day is not the same and it's ok, your loved ones will understand if you skip a social outing (or a few!)
- Discover new hobbies: Use this time of change to discover something new about yourself or your partner. You could watch something on Netflix together and pause whenever your partner needs their rest. If their energy is higher, take a slow stroll through your neighborhood for some fresh air. Life often feels like it's moving fast, so taking the time to slow down and rediscover each other can be seen as a gift.
- Give them space: Sometimes your partner may seem irritable or angry. It's important to give them space, since their treatment may also trigger their anxiety or depression. Give them some space to breathe and cope with their emotions. You could also take that time to have some time for yourself to cope with your own stress and emotions. It's especially important during this time to avoid talking about certain topics.
- Don't feel obligated: Just because you promised a loved one that you and your spouse would be available doesn't mean that it has been set in stone. Every day is a new challenge and there will be days your spouse may not feel ok with socializing. Keep your holidays flexible and express the potential for last minute changes to all your loved ones up front.
How to Cope as a Partner of a Cancer Survivor
Cancer treatment can be a challenge, but having a supportive and understanding partner is a massive relief. That doesn't mean they aren't going through something difficult too - although it's important to care for yourself first, there are ways you can help your partner cope with this diagnosis too.
Ways to Support Your Cancer Caregiver
Here are some tips on how to help support your cancer caregiver.
- Try to understand them: Your partner may be just as or more scared than you because of your cancer diagnosis. This can often be pushed to the side while people ask you how you're feeling. It's important to understand that they might get irritable or angry. Reassure them and appreciate them, they might need it several times a day.
- Remember that they are angry at cancer not you: Sometimes you may notice that your partner may be irritable or angry, that is because they may feel helpless and upset. Reassure your partner is doing their best and that this is not in their control.
- Communicate effectively: Make sure you share how you are feeling as effectively as possible. There will be times when you will be moody, irritable, or depressed. Make sure they know and remind them as much as possible that it's not their fault.
- Make sure they feel involved: If you can take your partner to your doctor’s appointments, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy appointments, you may want to. This will make your partner feel like they are helping you and give you additional support. Make sure the doctor is explaining the process to both of you and discuss it with your partner.
- Make sure that they are taking care of themselves: Since your partner may be taking care of you all the time, you could help them by making sure they are taking their medicine on time and staying healthy. These little reminders will show how much you care!
- Help them understand what you’re going through: It can be helpful to have your partner be involved in your cancer treatment from the beginning. Help them understand your feelings and that their feelings are valid too.
Sign Up for More Resources
You can check out more of our online resources like how you could connect with others or tips on how to cope with cancer-related ailments. If you're seeking additional support, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to be connected with a OneVillage ambassador.