I have metastatic breast cancer. I feel so isolated. How can I keep my loved ones close during this difficult time?

Dealing with metastatic breast cancer can put additional stress on any relationship. But having supportive relationships can make a big difference in your day-to-day life and emotional health.

If you have an advanced cancer like metastatic breast cancer, having a supportive family and relationships with loved ones can improve the quality of life for you as well as your caregivers.

If you're in a romantic relationship, 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, especially when one partner takes over the role of caregiver.

Here are some thoughts to help deal with those changes and keep your relationships and support network strong:

  • Communication is key — Keep the lines of communication open between you and your loved ones. Being able to express your worries and fears about what's happening can help each of you cope and enhance your relationship. To get the conversation started, try asking "what are you feeling?" rather than a standard "how are you?" to dig deeper and get a more specific response.
  • Be realistic — Dealing with a diagnosis of metastatic cancer is difficult. Anticipate that your relationships may change and you will have good days and bad days.
  • Respect each other — Your loved ones should respect your needs to be independent at times and to be taken care of other times, and you should respect the burdens and needs of your caregivers. Recognize and support each other's coping strategies, whether it's venting anger and frustration or being passive. Everyone reacts differently.
  • Educate each other — Learning more about your diagnosis, treatment and side effects can be empowering and help you and your loved ones to be prepared to deal with the challenges that come together.
  • Find new ways to be intimate — the physical and emotional effects of cancer and its treatment can affect your sexuality. Maintain your physical closeness with gentle touch or massage, kisses, and snuggles.

Acknowledge that relationships may change during this time. Give yourself and your loved ones time to adjust. But stay connected by sharing your thoughts, hopes and worries with those you love. It can help all of you cope with your cancer and bring you closer together.

Feb. 05, 2020 See more Expert Answers

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  46. Hormone therapy for breast cancer
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  76. Support groups
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  89. Working with your doctor when you have metastatic breast cancer: Interview with a Mayo Clinic expert.
  90. X-ray
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