Living with cancer blog

Cancer and relationships: Tips for navigating change

By Sheryl M. Ness, R.N. January 14, 2012

This week, I'd like to talk about your spouse, partner, soul mate, the person with whom you share your life. How has cancer changed your relationship?

Experiencing a cancer diagnosis can strengthen a relationship in many ways. However, cancer can put an additional stress on a relationship and may cause challenges.

When we enter into a relationship, we think mostly of the good times we'll share together; and may not be prepared for the reality of how cancer can change everyday life.

You may find that you both are dealing with the emotions of cancer ... such as sadness, anxiety, fear and anger. Roles and responsibilities can change, when one partner takes over the role of caregiver.

Household chores, work responsibilities and social obligations also get mixed in and it can be overwhelming to manage. Changes that occur in your physical body during either surgery or treatment can put intimacy on hold as well.

Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind:

  • Communication is key — keep the lines of communication open between the two of you. This is so important. Be open and honest with each other. If verbal communication is difficult, try each keeping a journal of your feelings that you can exchange.
  • Expect your relationship to change — dealing with a diagnosis of cancer is difficult; anticipate that you will have good days and bad days.
  • Establish new short-term goals — look for ways to keep your dreams alive (such as a travel goal or other important priorities).
  • Find new ways to be intimate — the physical and emotional effects of cancer treatment can affect your sexuality. Maintain your physical closeness by gentle touch or massages, kisses and snuggles.
  • Establish new roles and responsibilities — don't take on more than you can handle. Let your partner help; you're in this together.

Every couple will have their own way of dealing with a cancer diagnosis. What has worked for you? Share your thoughts and experiences.

Follow me on Twitter @SherylNess1. Join the discussion at #livingwithcancer.

With

Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.

Follow on Twitter: @SherylNess1

Jan. 14, 2012