Cancer not only affects your body and your mind, but it can also affect the relationship you have with the people you love. Be it friends, family or partners, maintaining your relationship with those that support you during and after treatment is important.
You may notice that friends are “busy” more often and are avoiding spending time with you. This could be because they don’t know what to say, are uncomfortable talking about your cancer for fear of upsetting you, or don’t want to view their friend as being ill. These are very common concerns for close friends, and even acquaintances to get over.
Communication is always the best option. You could sit your friend down and be honest with them about your condition. Decide what you want to say ahead of time, depending on your relationship with this person, and explain to them how you are feeling. Seeing you discuss your diagnosis openly may encourage them to discuss it with you, and how they are feeling about your condition, and how it is changing your relationship.
Family are usually the closest to us, and so can be the most difficult to interact with. Family members may begin to become overbearing. They might start giving you unsolicited advice or become frustrated that you are not handling things the way that they deem best. This is normal.
Again, the best way to deal with these issues are with communication and understanding. Things you can do to combat frustration are –
- Make a list of all the things that are bothering you. By making a list, when discussing your feelings, you will be able to follow a direct line to what is bothering you instead of getting side-tracked which may lead to an angry outburst.
- Listen to your families concerns. Understand that they are acting the way they are out of concern for you, and if you feel that their advice is helpful, take it on board.
- Stand up for yourself. If some of your family’s concern is that you can’t effectively look after your own health, lay out a plan for them of how you can. If you show the initiative and prove to them that you take your health care seriously, this may lead them to back off a little bit.
- Accept help when you can, by getting your family involved and allowing them to do small things like bring you to your check ups and arrange visits with other family members. By doing this you are allowing them to feel a part of the process and that way reduce any feelings of uselessness.
Explaining to the person you are in a relationship with is always going to be difficult but coping with the changes that this can bring to your relationship is arguably just as difficult.
- Acknowledge their feelings- while you are going through the entire spectrum of emotions, your partner is too. Acknowledge that they may be experiencing the same fear, anxiety and sense of hopelessness as you are and let them discuss their feelings with you.
- Accept that things will change- going through cancer is a difficult journey for everyone involved in the process, so it is inevitable that things between you and your partner will change. Accepting and adapting to these changes while difficult, can be done.
- Intimacy- talking about sex can be embarrassing, but it is something that should be discussed. Make a plan to have an open and honest conversation about your sex life. Be clear about your physical and mental limitations and take things at your own pace.
People find that they go through stages of adjusting and develop new ways of thinking about life and relationships, after a cancer diagnosis. Do make sure you get the support you need as a family or as a couple, talk about things, get help with practical matters such as work, money or household tasks. Develop a wider support network including other family, friends or health professionals.