Facing Cancer as a Couple

Senior couple relaxing in garden smiling to camera

Whether you are just dating or you are years into a committed relationship, cancer can suddenly become part of your world.

Knowing how to handle the impact of this disease can help both you and your loved one cope as you look toward the future.

The advice below can help guide you as you face the stresses that come with cancer, regardless of how new or old your relationship may be.

When the relationship is new

If you’re just starting a relationship with someone, cancer may seem like an intense topic to discuss. But with so many more people surviving and thriving after diagnosis, dating and cancer are not mutually exclusive.

A new partner to a person with cancer may feel overwhelmed by what cancer could mean when they’re still trying to establish a relationship. The person with cancer may not be sure what to expect or what to say either. The best thing to do on both sides is to try to communicate as openly and honestly as possible. The conversations you have may not always be easy, but they are essential to moving forward in the healthiest possible way.

When it’s just the two of you

In a more established relationship, it may be easier to talk about cancer, but it is still just as challenging to deal with the effects. One partner may be facing not just physical illness, but the mental stress that comes with a being diagnosed with a life-changing and even life-threatening disease. The other partner may suddenly need to offer support in ways they’ve never had to before, including stepping into the challenging role of cancer caregiver.

Communication is essential as you work together to tackle both the disease and the needs of daily life, but it’s a good idea to also keep an eye on each other’s emotional health. Depression and anxiety are common for both patients and caregivers, so watch out for signs that your loved one may need some additional support.

When you have children

When children are a part of a relationship, juggling caregiving for them as well as helping them understand and process what cancer means can make for an added challenge.

Children worry about who will take care of them if something happens to you, or that somehow a loved one’s cancer is their “fault.” One of the best ways to help is to explain to them how their needs will be met and that cancer is nobody’s fault. Let them know that no matter what, you will work to get through this together.

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