Maintaining intimacy through non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
Coping with cancer treatment and recovery can be a challenge for any couple. But there are steps you can take to maintain closeness.
Facing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma can place stress on your 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 relationship strong:
- Communication is the 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. Try to approach your partner openly, asking questions to better understand where your partner is coming from. And acknowledge that you've heard what he or she has said and you appreciate his or her views.
- Let your partner help. And, in turn, express your appreciation and an understanding that things are difficult for your partner, too.
Respect each other. Involve your partner in important decisions. Talk about what decisions and tasks you want to handle alone and what ones you'd like to share.
Listening is powerful. Recognize one another's stress, and support each other by listening. Even though you may not be able to eliminate what's causing the stress, acknowledging it's there and sharing how you're feeling with one another can be helpful.
- Plan dates. You may find it helpful to plan time together doing things you both enjoy. Write it down on a calendar to make sure it happens. But because you may feel better some days than others, try to be flexible with one another — plans may need to change.
Find new ways to be intimate
The physical and emotional effects of cancer and its treatment can affect your sexuality. Sexuality is part of being human. Love, affection and intimacy all play a role in healthy relationships. Cancer and its treatments may change the way you view your body and your ability to be intimate with your partner.
To help cope with such changes:
- Ask your doctor about sexual changes you can expect.
- Be open to change, and communicate with your partner about your feelings, concerns and needs.
- You may need to find new ways to be intimate and to express your love. Maintain your physical closeness with gentle touch or massage, kisses, and snuggles.
- Talk with your doctor about any concerns you may have. You may also find it helpful to speak with a provider who specializes in sexuality.
As you navigate your relationship through non-Hodgkin's lymphoma treatment and recovery, acknowledge that your relationship may change during this time. Give yourself and your loved one time to adjust. But stay connected by sharing physical closeness, as well as your thoughts, hopes and worries. Also, remember your illness doesn't define you. Try not to live from appointment to appointment. And when sharing details about what's going on with you, don't forget to ask about your partner.
June 26, 2018
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- Barbara Woodward Lips Patient Education Center. Live well after cancer treatment. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2012.
- Facing forward: Life after cancer treatment. National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/patient-education/facing-forward/AllPages. Accessed May 29, 2018.
- Facing cancer with your spouse or partner. National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/coping/adjusting-to-cancer/spouse-or-partner. Accessed June 3, 2018.
- Sexuality and intimacy. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. http://www.lls.org/sites/default/files/file_assets/sexualityintimacy.pdf. Accessed June 3, 2018.
- Creagan ET (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 5, 2018.