Dealing with the reactions of family and friends can be difficult.
Whether you keep the news to a select few or ‘go public’, the shock will affect different people in very different ways. Hopefully, most may be very supportive, but others may react with grief – or simply seem to abandon you after the initial ‘if there’s anything I can do’ response. It’s all very hard to deal with when you can barely control your own feelings. Even some of the support you get may not be 100% helpful if it consists of anecdotal advice from non-experts!
It’s difficult to know what to tell your children. Tell them too little and they may assume the worst, or overhear a conversation that leaves them feeling very insecure.
Really, it probably all depends on the child’s age and level of maturity. Let small children ask questions – they are usually satisfied with practical replies and mechanical details about your treatment.
Older children are less likely to open up about their own feelings. So it’s important to help them deal with the perceptions of cancer that they’ve picked up from TV, the internet and friends.
It’s not uncommon for children of any age to feel somehow responsible for your illness. They probably won’t tell you if this is the case, so you’ll have to explore this with them. By letting their school know, their teachers can also keep an eye out for any anxious or disruptive behaviour: the school is also likely to know about any support services that may be available.
No matter how close your relationship with your partner, a cancer diagnosis is going to challenge it in all kinds of ways – here are some:
• Perhaps your partner always relied on you to ‘look after’ them – the sudden role reversal can lead to resentment, anger and guilt.
• Your partner will have to deal with the fear of losing you – perhaps they have even been through it before – and ends up withdrawing from you just when you’re most in need of their emotional support.
• The likelihood of body-altering surgery – and its aftermath – often makes both partners feel threatened of rejection.
It’s no surprise that a cancer diagnosis tends to put a massive damper on the libido. Not just for you, but possibly for your partner as well. This can be very upsetting because physical intimacy should be one of your strongest emotional supports during your treatment.
The effects of cancer and its treatment may also make ‘sex as usual’ uncomfortable or impossible. You may also feel deeply unattractive, or mutilated or invaded by surgery. Your dream of having children may be threatened or worse. And both of you will probably feel helpless to do anything about any of this. Fortunately, no matter how bad it seems, there are ways to regain your intimacy and we can discuss this with you.
Simply call our clinical team in confidence on 0203 326 9160 and we will recommend a qualified and empathetic therapist with experience and expertise in exactly the issues you are struggling with. You can also fill in the form above if you would rather have us email you.