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My husband is a stranger to me now

My husband is a stranger to me now

Posted by Nadian on Sep 16, 2020 8:05 pm

It feels disloyal to say this (but I am hoping it’s a safe place) -  my husband has changed so much over the past six months, understandably so, but not just physically but personality too.  It makes me so sad both for him and for me.  He has finished 4 months of gruelling chemotherapy and he still has another surgery and radiation to go. (He had breast cancer).  I hate that my compassion and energy reserves are getting low. 

I thought I would feel a sense of relief once the chemo was over but I am worried about this lymph node dissection coming up.  Still a long road ahead for both of us.

Re: My husband is a stranger to me now

Posted by Brighty on Sep 16, 2020 8:41 pm

Nadian‍  you are absolutely  not being disloyal.   This  is a safe place to vent and to be totally honest with no judgment.     Dealing with a change  in personality  is so sad, so distressing  for both the patient  and caregiver.      I experienced  it myself.     My fiance was such an easy going funny guy before cancer.... and turned into a totally different  person who I barely knew.   He shut down  and communication was out the window.       It nearly killed me to watch.     There can be a number of reasons  for this.    Could be anything  from depression  , chemo brain fog,  side  effects from chemo , hormones.   Or it could be a combination of everything.      Is his doctor  aware of this?   there might be something  they can do if they are aware of everything  that's happening       would he be willing to talk to anyone?     I couldnt  get my guy to talk to anyone  but  I found it helpful for myself to be able to get councelling.      I learned to practice  self care, take breaks, and try and keep in mind the good times we did have before this miserable disease took over.     I'm glad you reached out.   It is not easy by any means but you don't have to be alone.   Thank you for your honesty here.   I hope you find out more  information about what's causing  this and are able to find some peace  and a solution.     
Help is out there. All you have to do is reach out.

Re: My husband is a stranger to me now

Posted by Essjay on Sep 17, 2020 8:01 am

Nadian‍ I’m glad you felt able to share your worries here, it is safe. I’m sorry that you are seeing changes that unsettle you. It sounds like you are just as exhausted as he is by his treatment, and that’s not all that surprising because you may not have had the chemo or the surgery, but you’ve lived it every day. You’ve faced the worry of seeing a loved one go through body changing surgery, and you’ve seen him cope with chemo. That’s tough on you for sure.

I remember when I was being prepared for chemo, the nurse told me ‘it will change you’. I didn’t have any idea what she meant at the time, but I do know I am different to the person I was. Like your husband I have physical changes after surgery, but also some long term side effects from chemo which I deal with every day. Mentally, I cope with the fear of cancer daily, memory issues that really frustrate me sometimes, concentration issues, but most significantly my attitude towards life and death has a new perspective. I have no idea if this was what the nurse meant, but I am changed for sure.

As Brighty‍ says, is it depression in your husband that you are seeing? Or is he really struggling with fatigue? My husband doesn’t talk to me about his feelings much, but during my treatment I had the support of one of his friends who would take him out camping every so often and bring his experience of supporting his sister through breast cancer to encourage him to talk. I don’t know what they talked about, but my husband would come back from trips more relaxed and sometimes he would open up to me a bit, and that brought us closer. Does your husband have friends he could spend time with?

And how about your mental health? What do you do as self-care?

Your husbands team will give him a break between chemo and his surgery, and then he will have a break before radiation. Could you plan a break for the two of you? I know travel is a challenge with COVID, but there may be something you can do to make a holiday for both of you, or do some of the things you liked to do before. His taste buds are going to recover pretty quickly so he will be able to enjoy food again, and his energy levels will start to recover.

Have you accessed the psychosocial supports at your cancer centre? They are available to both of you. Talking through your worries and feelings with a professional who understands what you and your husband are going through is really helpful. 

How are you both doing today?

best wishes, Essjay

Triple Negative Breast Cancer survivor since July 2018

Re: My husband is a stranger to me now

Posted by robegree71 on Sep 17, 2020 11:46 am

I am a husband and had lung cancer surgery in April. Got diagnosed in January here in Mexico and couldn’t get back to Canada thanks to Covid. I opted to have the surgery here because it was Stage 1 and had no idea if or when I could get it in Canada. We retired here for the weather and cost of living. We played golf 5 times a week , beach is two minutes away, glass of wine $2 US where we would meet friends for Happy Hour after golf. Had it made. 
I don’t smoke, worked out a lot and bang. 
I am not on chemo thanks to whomever but lost 24 kg which almost killed me. Couldn’t get the VAT procedure here, much less invasive and 2-3 days in hospital. They took half my lung and 10 days in hospital all paid for with cash because insurance at my age is over $1000 a month. I am a Rescue Diver and can’t do that anymore and just trying to golf again, working out kills me and the fatigue is unbelievably frustrating. Worry about cancer daily and never thought of it much before. I was a very strong man mentally and physically and not much scared me.
All I need to hear from my partner is how she is scared sometimes too.  How she loves me and is afraid of being alone without me. Just what she is thinking. I don’t always respond and that doesn’t mean I don’t care or love you back. Unfortunately men are brought up not to cry and be seen as ‘weak’ so we struggle with saying those scary things because then we are admitting we are scared. !! You really don’t know what it is like with cancer until you have it.   
I was talking to a male friend last week and I was waiting for my 4 month CT scan results. Terrified to see the report. I made a comment to him, which I am getting better at. He said, ‘ I know exactly how you feel, my wife had Breast Cancer 12 yrs ago and every year we go through that.’
I am never going to be the same, my job is to protect the family, can’t even protect my self now. You struggle with being a weak leader of the group now. You can be gone tomorrow and it doesn’t  matter what you do. You don’t control anything. You worry about having a good sex life again. All things important to a man.
That person you fell in love with is still there and scared. Tell him how you are feeling and he may not respond, he may even put blame on you but doesn’t mean it. It takes a lot of time for this to heal , terrible disease for the whole family. Hang in, he’ll be back. He doesn’t want to where he is for sure. Keep talking and talk to people on here, so much experience to be shared here. If you know someone who has had cancer in their life, talk to them. See if you can get him to read some of the stories on here. 
Hope this has helped and willing to talk from a male perspective anytime.
Stay safe, Bob.


Re: My husband is a stranger to me now

Posted by Lianne_Moderator on Sep 17, 2020 12:54 pm


I am glad you posted. It is absolutely a safe space . I have been on both sides of this coin so I understand somewhat what it is like on either side.

Being a caregiver can sometimes feel helpless, and you can often be the recipient of the dark hours and the bad days. I watched my dad go through cancer and thought I had some idea of what that meant. Fast forward 17 years later and my own diagnosis and I realized I had no clue. I worried about my own situation but I also worried about what my diagnosis was doing to my partner and my family. There was a lot of weight on my shoulder, much of which was put on myself, not by my caregivers. A few years later, my mom was diagnosed, then my sister. While I would like to stop getting the chance to get better as a caregiver, I also learned we all go through it differently too. 

Some excellent responses from others here so far.

robegree71‍  has given an excellent perspective from the husband side. Thank you robegree71‍ for sharing that perspective.  I think you have so beautifully expressed the thoughts of a partner wanting to be that person they were before diagnosis. We all have an identity we assume or is assumed of us in a relationship and it can be difficult when we don't feel like that person anymore. 

Continue to reach out as you need. We are listening.