When you find out your partner has Cancer, it not only changes their life dramatically
but will also change yours. Your plans, hopes and dreams can change in an instant. The impact of this news can have a deep powerful effect on your outlook, your personality, your mood and your mental health.
One minute you could have been going along without a care in the world, going out having fun, planning holidays, working hard and playing harder. Next thing you are planning hospital trips and wondering whether your partner will live or die.
You now have the fear of losing a loved one, you may fear the impact on your children. If you were planning children, you may now fear that may no longer happen. You may fear how the illness and treatment will effect your partner, will they ever be the same, will you cope looking after them.
Money and Logistical concerns
There is the practical stuff too such as, what if you partner was the main wage earner, what if they were self employed, how will you cope financially if you lose a wage. Who will look after the children if you are in hospital, will I be able to get time off work to take them to appointments, will that impact my career.
Despite what I have said above, don’t panic there is lot’s of help out there with all of these things, you just need to know where to find it and don’t be afraid or proud to ask for the help.
I have to admit I struggled with a number of these issues when Jo was first diagnosed back in 2016 and I didn’t search out help, thinking I could cope.
My department at work had been outsourced literally two days before she was diagnosed and my role was changing, so as well as having the emotional shock of my wife being diagnosed with a potentially life threatening illness I was also trying to impress my new management and work was really busy as we switched over.
I was lucky, we had a few friends who could advise us, they having also had Breast Cancer in the previous few years. Both the wives and husbands all were quick to check on how I was doing and to remind me to look after myself, which I have to confess I shrugged off as I had always been a laid back and calm person, I was sure I was going to be OK.
Actually what happened was that over time I felt a slow build up of tension and stress hit me, I felt like my shoulders were constantly tense, I tried various techniques to help me relax such as meditation, exercise etc, but I just felt I couldn’t relax and it got to the point where I needed to stop.
I found myself having a bit of a panic attack on more than one occasion as I tried to juggle work, the worry over Jo and hospital appointments. I felt like I was going to pass out, I was struggling to breath, so I decided to open up to Jo about these episodes as I had tried to pretend it wasn’t happening, so as not to worry her.
I went to the doctor and he advised me to have a rest from one of the things that were impacting my stress levels, as I couldn’t get off the Cancer rollercoaster, work had to give. I took two weeks off work and tried to relax, it didn’t work immediately but by the end of the second week, I certainly was starting to feel a bit better.
What it did allow me to do was spend some time working out how I can manage the stress, I continued with the meditation and I think partly recognising my own limitations helped me cope better going forward. I was not invincible and actually despite what I previously thought, I was a bit vulnerable.
Now everyone is different and you will handle stress and anxiety in different ways but I do think sharing those concerns with your partner or another close friend is really important, but also more importantly is recognising when you need help or a break. Try and take time out to look at yourself, see where you are at, emotionally, physically and identify your weaknesses.
The main Cancer charities offer support groups and helplines covering questions about treatments, the illness, the emotional and physical impacts. These hotlines aren’t just there for the patient, they are there for the family, friends and carers as well. Make sure you go to them and seek help before it all gets too much. You can find links to the main UK cancer charities on my Links page.
Financial issues, seek help quickly, don’t delay.
On the practical side, identify where you might need help as quickly as possible and start the ball rolling, for example, MacMillan offer advise and help on dealing with the financial impacts of Cancer treatment, if you think you will need it, approach them quickly. I find delaying action on these types of things only increases the stress and doesn’t put it off to a later date as you might think the stress remains there while the answer doesn’t. You can also speak to your bank, most Bank’s are sympathetic to the situation and may well have specialist teams who can assist you. You may be able to delay or suspend loan and mortgage payments until treatment is completed. The key is speak to your creditors before you fall behind with payments, they will generally want to help keep you above water. So do it straight away.
My experience 2nd time round.
This time round I have been much more relaxed, I have tried to make sure that I don’t allow myself to always be under stress, this blog is part of that as well. It has become a release and a way of expressing myself, all of which has helped me keep on top of my stress levels and anxiety over Jo’s diagnosis.
Also I have to say my bosses and work colleagues have been great throughout, I am blessed that I can regularly work from home, therefore still attend all Jo’s appointments and they have supported me throughout. I am probably also in a better place work wise than I was before, though work is never a fully smooth ride, currently my team and my role is stable which has helped immensely.
I have also found some solace and help through online resources, such as podcasts, blogs, twitter and the recognised charity websites mentioned earlier.
I am still a little reluctant to ring or talk to friends and my wider family about my feelings, but that is just who I am, but I do know, that they are there if I really need them.
But most of all Jo and I don’t hide things from each other and though it may not be instantaneous, our worries and fears are shared and we support each other along the way.
So to summarise, take time to assess yourself, get help quickly and don’t be shy to reach out to friends, family and other resources for assistance. Your partner isn’t the only person who needs to be cared for, you need to take care of yourself as well.