When someone you love is diagnosed with cancer, it’s temping to think they’re the only one who needs extra attention and care. But, in reality, cancer negatively affects you, too: As their partner, you share the experience of filling out paperwork, visiting oncologists, traveling to chemotherapy and anxiously waiting for lab results. This all can be very challenging to navigate as a couple if you aren’t prepared.
Caring for a relationship interrupted by cancer is the topic of this excerpt from Everyone’s Guide to Cancer Supportive Care from the resource section of the Ernest and Isadora Rosenbaum Library at Stanford’s Center for Integrative Medicine. In the chapter called “When Your Spouse Has Cancer,” author and clinical psychologist Andrew Kneier, PhD, explains why it’s important for you and your partner to talk about how you’re feeling so you can avoid assumptions, support one another’s true feelings, and speak up about sexual issues. From the piece:
Most cancer patients feel pressure to maintain a positive mental attitude, and too often this pressure prevents them from expressing their true feelings. Your partner might hold back in sharing legitimate fears because he or she does not want to disappoint or burden you, or because he or she thinks that negative emotions might jeopardize healing. Actually, it is the suppression of fears, sorrow, or anger that could jeopardize your partner’s psychological adjustment and immune response. Your loved one probably has good reasons to be worried and upset, as well as to feel hopeful and optimistic. You should try to support and validate both sets of emotions (not only the positive ones).
Communication is a central theme in the chapter, as is the idea that you can’t pour from an empty cup — you must take care of yourself first so you have the stamina to give your partner sustained support. It’s a good read and a helpful touchstone for any caregiver or, really, anyone in a relationship.
Previously: Coping with depression: A free online resource for cancer patients and their families, Ernest and Isadora Rosenbaum Library: A free, comprehensive guide to living with cancer and Emotional, social support crucial for cancer patients
Photo by MFer Photography