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Let's Discuss...cancer and your relationship status
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Getting through a cancer experience can be especially challenging when you are single. When you’re on your own, it isn’t easy to have to deal with the practical concerns of living with cancer.

If you are in a relationship, you may find strength and comfort in knowing that you and your partner are facing the cancer together. But cancer can both strengthen and strain a relationship – and it challenges even the best relationships.

  • How has cancer impacted your relationship status?
  • What are your tips for coping with a cancer diagnosis while single?
  • What are your tips for navigating a relationship while going through cancer?
58 Replies
Laurie71
8 Posts

@Lacey_Moderator I'm single and when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I felt alone. The challenges going through the core biopsy, meeting the Surgeon, Oncologist, surgery, post op and then radiation. It was a lot! A huge shout out to both my kids for being there for me 😍

@Laurie71- How wonderful that your kids were there by your side, as you have been for them many times throughout their lives.

You raised good ones! Thanks for sharing,

Lacey

Tigger18
18 Posts

@Lacey_Moderator I am single, and I as grateful for family and friends who stepped up to help whene I needed it. I’m very independent so it wasn’t often.

my heart breaks though for the large number of patients who lose their relationships during this battle. I listen and empathize with them in my support groups. At a time when we are facing our worst fears and dealing with everything cancer related it’s a huge drain

@Tigger18- Thank you for sharing! It is great to hear that folks stepped up when you needed them and your independence came in handy too.

You sound like a great listener :)

Lacey

Runner Girl
2894 Posts

@Lacey_Moderator
My relationship was already on shaky ground and cancer put a quick end to it. He could not deal with me having cancer. That said, a year and a half later he showed up at my door and wanted me back - with conditions. I told him he'd abandoned me and that was unforgivable.

I lost a few friends who also couldn't deal. I have no immediate relatives nearby so was on my own, save for a couple of friends and my co-workers at the time.

The relationships I made here were a real saving grace for me.

Sweets
2 Posts

@Lacey_Moderator I am now single as i just lost my husband to lung cancer stage 4 which metastasized to his brain etc :-( 😥😥

It is so hard being completely alone and i dealt with this right to the end as i did his palliative care also… I am lost :-( 😥

PuffinPam
8 Posts

@Lacey_Moderator I have been a single mom of 4 children since I was 32. I’m 64. I chose to live without a partner in my life. My children were the first I told. 1 daughter, 3 boys. They have been my rock. They always looked at me as a strong woman and were very quick to solidify that I would get through this. They know everything. I’ve held nothing back. Even the pain, the effects of the chemo, this support group. Mind you, I don’t always tell them….some days I cry. My daughter who lives a few blocks away has been with me during my chemo. My 3 boys who live in Calgary have visited. One is here now. I’m blessed. A few friends aren’t sure what to say or do. I’m kinda guiding them. Lol. I still fear the upcoming surgery - double mastectomy after chemo but know in my heart of hearts that I’ll get through it. The first thing I plan on doing when I’m through with this cancer is visit my sons. My children…my rocks. Oh and my family. 3 sisters, 2 brothers are there for me too. Checking my well being daily.

OreTimber
53 Posts

@Lacey_Moderator
I've been very lucky to be married 30 years to a wonderful woman. We've had our ups and downs but as a retired nurse with 41 years of experience she is up to the physical ailments that inevitably happen to a partner. Cancer hit us both simultaneously. We helped each other and were blessed to have each other. Lately she has been getting the short end of the stick. I've had disc problem, subsequent back surgery and more recently broke my foot which is not healing correctly. Better or worse as they said.

CentralAB
1267 Posts

@Lacey_Moderator

I was a caregiver as you know for my wife who had cancer. The cancer issues and challenges created so may changes in the relationship, and there were times when it almost felt like I was single. The pangs of grief, were almost inconsolable at times. There were of course, many moments of joy in “being together moments,” and that was what got us through. There were times when I needed help, and what I learned was if you are single or in relationship, its OK, in fact its preferable to ask for help if you need it. I think that because we were married, that I sometimes found it harder to ask others for help because I got used to going to my wife for that help. Sounds convoluted, I know but thats how it was in the last year or so

CentralAB
1267 Posts

@Sweets:

@Lacey_Moderator I am now single as i just lost my husband to lung cancer stage 4 which metastasized to his brain etc :-( 😥😥

It is so hard being completely alone and i dealt with this right to the end as i did his palliative care also… I am lost :-( 😥

Hello @Sweets I am so sorry to hear you lost your spouse like that. And although I too know the pains of that kind of loneliness when I lost a spouse to cancer, I cant imagine how you must feel

I do know how I felt, and sometimes still feel. One thing I learned, after 2 years of being single is to be really careful with relationships. I think it takes our brains at least a year to catch up with our new reality when we lose a spouse/partner and that because we are raw and vulnerable it can be tempting to make major relationship decisions far too soon.

My best advice is to start making regular, small decisions and goals each week or each day, and stick religiously to them. I find it so helpful to always have a routine to lean on. Anything that would help to better you or strengthen you would qualify as a suitable routine.

At first I was so distraught with grief that my routine was just make sure I get up and eat one good meal everyday. Bathing, shaving, personal hygiene things didnt come till week 4 or so. Good thing my sweet heart wasnt around for that! But I just didnt have the strength or will to do this for myself. So the other bit of advice that I would offer is to go easy on yourself. You are going to feel all washed up for a while, and its OK to not be OK. Because there are better days ahead. Please come back here anytime to let us know how you are doing.

Net31
6 Posts

@Lacey_Moderator
I am so lucky to be in a relationship with the most caring and amazing person I've ever met.

We had been dating for over 6 years, living together in our house, had previously discussed getting married “l”eventually " when I got diagnosed. I came home and we both cried a long time together and one of the things I so vividly remember him saying “no matter happens, I'm going to be with you”.

We decided to get married because why wait?

So 12 days after my right hemicolectomy (and exactly on our 7 year anniversary), my mother married us in a small park near our home. I was so proud to wear a dress and be able to stand with him during the ceremony.

I have no regrets for my wedding, we both wanted a small ceremony. And now I can remember 2021 as the year we got married, not the year I got cancer.

Now, I'm cancer free and still living with dark/sad moments and he is the most amazing listener. It's not about understanding exactly what I'm feeling but just being there and holding me and understanding that sometimes I just need to cry.

We already had a good relationship before this, this event just showed me even more how much he loves me and how lucky I am.

Sweets
2 Posts

@CentralAB
Oh i dont plan on having any relationships. Before my husband all i lived was abuse .My husband was my hero, We spent 38 amazing years together. Right now I need to find Myself, Love myself,learn to live and be alone with myself and be happy.

You say to try and have a routine. How, as there is nothing in my life to have a routine, i am alone , I don't cook, i dont feel like it, i dont feel like anything. its so hard, All i see is him.. want him, I have my little puppy he bought me before he passed and right now i care for her but there still is no routine. I have no clue HOW to make a routine, That is one question I have been asking myself so much. HOW do I make a routine for my life..:-( I know I need to. Just lost on How to make a routine..

I will try to figure that one out. I have lost So many important family members to Cancer, and I am a caregiver also and lost some of them to cancer and it is one of the scariest things to deal with. one of my good friends just passed with cancer , right after my husband and now my BIL has cancer also. Does it ever stop… How do I get that fear out of my head? I.m sorry i am just writing my thoughts and they r so negative, That is what i need to do is be Positive. I normally am but this cancer lately has Broken me and my beliefs :-(

If anyone can help me in how to start a routine when u r by yourself please do let me know please, I dont want to rely on my family to fill my life.. I am not young anymore so it makes it harder :-(

supersu
1297 Posts

@Lacey_Moderator
great question!

I don't know that I have any wisedom to share…..the fact of the matter was - I was single; I had cancer; stuff just had to get done; so I did it.

I am lucky that I found this community, as it offered me a morning routine.

while I was off work, (and frankly needing the support of others who had walked this path before me), I just read the posts for breast cancer stuff. I was starved for information as I went thru my diagnosis and treatment during the early days of COVID, so had very little support from elsewhere.

now that I am 2 years out, and back to work, and a ‘normal’ life….(ha ha ha), I still read the posts each & every morning. #creatureofhabit

I vowed that if I could do anything about it, I would never let anyone feel as alone as I did. I hope my responses to other folks, make them feel less alone while they write their cancer story. 🤗

cancer is a doozy on existing relationships AND the prospect of new relationships.
as a long time singleton, I doubt very much if I would ever couple up again, (I'm old), but if there ever was a glimmer of possibility frankly, I might not pursue a relationship as a ‘former’ cancer patient just waiting for the axe to fall again.

again, that's just me.

and let's be honest: if I'd started out in a couple, I am such a terrible patient, by the time my treatments were over and done with, I'm sure I would have driven any partner crazy. ha ha ha #realtalk

I am loving everyone else's posts. thank you all for sharing this vulnerable corner of your life.

cheers
su

#hellomynameisSINGLE #thesinglelife #worldsworstpatient

CentralAB
1267 Posts

@Sweets Thank you for your candid reply. I remember feeling very much like you described. “How?” may be the most important question you will ask. As I said in my post above my “routine” at first was just getting up once a day and trying to choke down one good meal each day. I found that I was incapable of doing anything else. In fact for a little while I had almost given up. Those beautiful memories you described and that you wanted again were similar for me too and I felt totally useless and hopeless without her, because I loved her so much and missed her even more. 💔 It was those very memories that made me remember one of the three promises I made to her, that I would take care of myself."

but grief had me literally crippled. That's why I had to start small. Just get up and eat one good meal. But after a while I was so distraught I couldn't sleep, therefore couldn't eat. So I went to doctor for something to help me sleep. And after about a week of sleeping really well I started feeling better in my mind. That's how we are wired.

You are totally right that all you want is him back. Nothing wrong with that either. Just promise yourself that you will start taking one small step at a time “in the near future.” You don't have to commit to anything if that's where you are at now.

What kinds of things can you see yourself doing now? Sometimes, this a hard question. Just remember the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. And you don't have to take that first step until you feel you are ready. 😀

David B
14 Posts

Thanks, @Lacey_Moderator

I'm single but have the support of some friends and family. However, most are long distance so its email, phone, and Zoom. And there are times I could use some assistance or just a good hug.

I'm in the PC-PEP program developed at Dalhousie University. It's a program for men with prostate cancer to maximize quality of life during treatment: cardio, strength training, biofeedback, food, kegels, and more.

Part of the program talks about different kinds of intimacy: doing an activity together, sharing ideas, helping, and so on. It's highlighted the parts of this I lack, being single.

I've met a few women where there's a lot of sync but they've been visiting from NY or CA or some such.

It certainly isn't a time for dating now…

Terry52
44 Posts

@Lacey_Moderator
I've been married for almost 50years to a wonderful man. He has been my rock and my strength since my diagnosis, treatment and surgery. He's a very quiet man and doesn't share too many thoughts but shows he cares in the way he has supported me and taken care of me through out this journey. He's held me, dried my tears listened to my fears seen me at my most vulnerable and loves me. But Never did I think he would ever have to bathe and dress me, do all the household chores etc that was a humbling experience for me. I don't like to ask for help. I've always seen myself as the caregiver. Boy did cancer ever turn that image of myself upside down!! In the first months of my diagnosis my grown children were so supportive. But now that they see I am able to do so much more, and active treatment is over, just scans now, I think they think I'm cured and pretty well “just fine”. I know some friends think this too. This is selfish but sometimes I want to scream “I'm far from fine”. I'm bloody scared! But I put that smile on my face (that so many here understand) because cancer isn't a fun topic. I am so glad we have this forum where everyone is so supportive and gets what we are going through!

David B
14 Posts

@David B
I find writing like this sounds a bit selfish. Especially with some of the others here going through a more difficult process. But like others here, I'm learning to be honest and to ask for help.

On PC-PEP, it's currently in the last stage of the research project. They plan to offer it across the country in time, although I'm taking it from the West coast now.

If any men are interested, the web site is here:

Thewasp
69 Posts

@Lacey_Moderator My husband has always been my rock especially since my cancer diagnosis. When we said our vows “ in sickness and in health”, he really followed that.

Ive had some more complications in the last few months and once again, he’s always there for me. I feel guilty at times because of This. Im mindful of the fact that he needs me too. We communicate very well because as he has said “I can’t read your mind. Tell me what you need.”

A cancer diagnosis is challenging for everyone. We’re both doing the best we can to navigate this.

Thewasp
69 Posts

@Terry52

This really resonated with me.

@Lacey_Moderator I was single when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and still am single. My mom was the first person that I told about my diagnosis and then it was my supervisor at work. Once I got passed the shock of the diagnosis, I found it tough to find someone to talk to who could relate. That's where this website helped the most.

My brother drove me to the hospital for my surgery but made some joke about me taking the bus which I didn't find funny at all. My brother has never had surgery and had no idea how I was feeling about the procedure. If I could have driven myself, I would have. Another thing I did find a little difficult being single is finding a ride to my treatment. I'm so used to just driving myself everywhere but having to phone or message each time as it wasn't the same person who drove me the entire time. I stayed with my mother after my first treatment because I was unsure about the side effects. I asked my Oncologist and was told that I didn't need to have someone look after me.

As for relationship, I'm still ok with being single. I still use the “Covid” excuse with the dating aspect and I'm on Letrozole is the other reason. The only people who've seen the new me are medical.

@Runner Girl The support and friendship you have offered others here has been a saving grace.

So glad you knew your worth!

Lacey

@Sweets- I'm so sorry to hear. Your spouse was very lucky to have you by their side. It is understandable to feel lost after being a caregiver for so long and experiencing loss.

Have you joined our group Coping with Grief? Here is a link: Group Home - CancerConnection.ca. I encourage you to introduce yourself and meet others who understand.

Try to take it one day at a time. One hour if needed. The only cure to grief is to grieve as they say.

Big hugs,

Lacey

@PuffinPam- What a wonderful support system you have :)

I like what you said about guiding your friends. It is quite common that people don't know what to say or how to help. I bet they sure appreciate that guidance and patience from you.

Keep us posted, that visit is just around the corner,

Lacey

@OreTimber- Better or Worse- Sickness and in Health.

Thanks for sharing! Great to hear about how you have supported each other.

kcbd
22 Posts
0c0a6fc7d11ca320f04f196fa6800570-huge-im

@Lacey_Moderator I like this version of the story. Not sure who wrote it, certainly insightful! How we react to adversity and challenges is a choice. Give yourself permission to smile and be a coffee bean, if not all the time, more often than not. It's not easy, but doing it will make for a better day for you and a stronger relationship with your loved one

@CentralAB- I think that makes sense completely. You bring up a great point people in relationships often still need help as well from outside folks.

Thank you for sharing your journey with caregiving and grief so openly to help others. She is smiling down on you for sure.

Lacey

Cea
44 Posts

@Lacey_Moderator well the first thing I think when my email says “The moderator has sent you a private message” is - crap - what did I do wrong now? ;-)

Good topic. I'm fortunate to be married to a wonderful partner - in all senses of the word. My problem is me. My husband won't be able to do it all, so I'm roping in children and sister and they are happy to step up when the time comes. But I hate letting go. I hate that I can't be the cleaner.

Two days ago, we were making the bed on wash day (yes I have a specific day the sheets get washed) and we talked about it - because he works on Sundays so that can't be when he'll do it. We also talked about letting things go for awhile and maybe seeing if one of my kids can come clean. I hate that I'm so rigid so maybe my lesson is about letting go.

My second marriage is the antithesis to my first and I can only imagine how challenging it is for people who are in that situation. I have no tips, I'm sure others may have a better experience than I to share.

Rose333
15 Posts

@Sweets so sorry to hear about you husband. I’ve been married for 43 years. I can’t imagine loosing someone you have been so long. My heart breaks for you. I recently lost my father. And it takes time to heal. But I always feel him around me when i need him the most. I see cardinals, a picture might fall or a door opens by itself. I always think it’s my dad sometimes trying to tell me something. Hope it helps

lostboy17
3 Posts
@Lacey_Moderator
Im currently single and haven’t told anybody about my diagnosis but my family and they live 3000 km away. I have started seeing someone but not sure how to broach the subject. It’s currently pretty casual but not sure what to tell her. Right now I have no symptoms all my parts work fine. I would like to still use them before I go for a radical prostatectomy in October and potentially have problems after. I feel I am being selfish by not telling her but we aren’t in a serious relationship yet. Not sure if/when is a good time to tell her and I feel guilty for withholding my diagnosis but I’m not ready for everyone to know or how she would react. It sucks having this hanging over me but not sure what to do
Cynthia Mac
3983 Posts

Sweets‍ , My Dad had lung cancer, too. He died from other causes, but like you, I felt lost after. If you want to chat about your feelings, I can listen.

I just read your other post about trying to set a routine. It can be a challenge, especially if you’re retired and don’t have that “workday“ structure to build from. One of my concerns about retiring was just that: a lack of structure in my days.

One of the things I did was to allow myself 6 months to “just be.” Get used to the idea of not having to grab car keys and head out the door at 8 a.m. and lingering over that first cup of coffee. I also promised no new commitments during that time, whether it was a new craft group or travel.

After I lost my Dad, I should have tried going back to that, instead of making some of the decisions I did. However, for the most part, things are working out, so even some of those decisions weren’t bad ones.

Something that might help you is to think of some things you might like to try: kayaking, perhaps, or golf, or knitting, then embark on one of them. I once thought about putting my little dog into a therapy dog program, but that didn’t work out.

I believe you will find your way. In the meantime, be kind to yourself, and know that you can reach out to the good people here.

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