For some couples, facing the challenges of cancer together strengthens their relationship. For others, the stress of cancer may create new problems and worsen existing problems.
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Cancer often changes roles. A person who has always been in charge or served as the caregiver may have trouble accepting a more dependent role. Or a person who has not served in those roles may struggle to take charge and provide care. He or she may try to manage your treatment schedule or communication with the health care team. If this is comfortable for both of you, it may help you cope with the illness.
But it is important to listen to each other's needs and desires and remain flexible. A partner may become overly protective or controlling. This may affect the exchange of information, both at home and with the health care team. Although it may seem normal, or even generous, to not tell your partner all the details of the diagnosis or treatment, keeping secrets usually results in feelings of isolation for both people. Talk with your partner about your feelings and work together as much as possible to make decisions about treatment, caregiving, and other issues. Learn more about how to talk with your spouse or partner about cancer.
In most relationships, each partner handles specific chores. One partner may do yard work and cook, while the other cleans and pays bills. If cancer and its treatment leaves you feeling tired or unable to perform your usual tasks, your partner may have to pick up those duties.
If you must stop working, your partner may need to go back to work or work extra hours while perhaps also taking on caregiving duties. These added responsibilities may become overwhelming and lead to feelings of frustration and resentment. Meanwhile, you may feel guilty, saddened, or frustrated. Talking openly about limitations and possible solutions will help you both feel more comfortable with these changes. In addition, although it may be difficult for both partners, it is important to accept outside help from friends, family members, or professionals. Physical needs.
The physical needs that come with cancer may change throughout the course of the disease.
How Cancer Affects Family Life
It is important that both partners talk about their needs. Asking for help with basic activities of daily life, such as getting dressed or washing your hair, may be difficult.
But your partner may not know that you need help or may not want to offend you by offering it. So it is important to talk openly and to clearly express your needs. This will help avoid the frustration and anger that could result from misinterpreting your spouse's behavior. Emotional needs.
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Each partner may have different emotional needs that change frequently. But both partners may need extra reassurance that they are still loved. Couples need to be sensitive to the changing emotional needs that come with a cancer diagnosis. Spouses or partners may want to consider talking with a professional, such as a therapist or counselor, on their own. Spouses or partners caring for their loved one may find it difficult to express certain feelings for fear of hurting or overwhelming their partner.
And it is important that the spouse or partner with cancer is able to express their feelings to someone who can handle the intensity of those feelings without being overwhelmed. Sexual health and intimacy. Cancer and its treatment often affect sexual health. Depression, fatigue, nausea, erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness, and other physical or emotional problems may lower sex drive or make intercourse difficult or painful.
Feelings and Cancer
Both partners may feel anxious about this issue but be reluctant to talk about it. Every couple has different levels of comfort in talking about sexual health and intimacy. If sharing your concerns and challenges is especially uncomfortable for you, consider getting help from a counselor, therapist, your doctor, or a social worker. They can provide suggestions for managing sexual side effects and suggest ways to maintain intimacy. Future plans. Your plans for retirement, traveling, or parenthood may change, causing feelings of sadness or even anger.
It helps to reevaluate priorities and work together to establish new, short-term goals—such as finishing cancer treatment. Things that seemed important before the cancer diagnosis may give way to new priorities, such as enjoying more time together. But putting some goals on hold, rather than changing them completely, may help your outlook on the future.
The effects of cancer on your relationships with friends and family members vary widely, based on the closeness of each relationship. Different families have different communication and coping styles. Consider how your family reacts in a crisis and how family members have dealt with other difficult situations.
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This will help you plan your strategy for communicating news and asking for support. Put 1 person in charge of giving medical updates. Having to repeat medical information and answer the same questions over and over again can be tiring and time-consuming. It can also be stressful, especially when it is about your own health. Ask a trusted family member to share medical information with other family and friends.
Have that person make necessary phone calls, send emails, answer questions, and post updates online if you are comfortable with that. That person can also assign tasks to family members who offer to help. Expect relationships to change. Many people have little experience with life-threatening illnesses. They may not know what to say to you or how to act. For some, it may be frightening to learn that you have cancer. Others may have lost a loved one to cancer, and your diagnosis may bring up painful memories. For these reasons, some of your friends or family members may not be able to offer you the support that you expect.
Although this is painful, try to remember that their reactions may reflect their past experiences and losses and not their feelings for you. Some friends and family members may distance themselves from you, but others will surprise you with emotional and physical support throughout your illness. Take the lead in talking. Some friends and family members may avoid talking with you because they do not know what to say.
Others may avoid talking about cancer, fearing that they will upset you. If you feel like talking about your cancer, bring up the subject with your friends and family members. Changes in the size or shape of the breast A change in skin texture i. How should I check my breasts?
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Common Cancer Myths and Misconceptions
Can you feel anything unusual? Lump - may not be seen, but might be felt Can you feel a lump or swelling in the breast, upper chest or armpit? Look for changes. Is there any change in shape or texture?