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How cancer has affected my marriage

Anonymous user (not verified)

I hope folks aren't tiring of my continued posts, as I've traveled this extremely challenging situation with my husband's fairly recent diagnosis of Germinal Non-Hodgkins Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma.  Talking about my experiences these past couple of months is my lifeline to coping with so much of what's been affecting us, both emotionally and physically.


Yesterday was the "special" haircut day for him.  So much of this . . . from the surgery to remove the tumor they found in his abdomen in April to this point, facing tomorrow's second round of RCHOP, has been a self-reflective journey, as well as witnessing, yet again another serious illness that has invaded my husband's poor body.  


I write this morning because I am struggling with how to balance my emotional rollercoaster with his usual resistance to dealing with anything related to tears.  He's always been the stoic one, more interested in relying on me to bear the burden of emotional upheaval in any problem or challenge we've faced and, unfortunately, this . . . this most serious condition thus far in our 40 years together is, sadly, little different.  I feel guilty for expressing my emotions (or trying to with him), as he refuses (at least so far) to give me much more than a short/limited amount of time to cry it out and move on.  NOTHING about this has stirred a sincere emotion in him that he is willing to share with me.  As I said, we've faced our share of problems in our 40 years and this pattern of behavior is one I am all too familiar with.  But, this . . . this you would think would have opened that door to bear the burden of this together, not in separate corners of this hell.  


I've heard many cancer patients say, "Family just doesn't understand".  "They just don't 'get it' ".  In my case (not to toot my own horn) . . . I have led him out of life-threatening illness before and would do it again in a heartbeat, as I've maintained a full-time job through it all . . . done hours and hours of research at home searching for answers . . . done my share of snow shoveling when he wasn't able . . . sacrificed all credibility at my job with extended absences, burned almost all of my own personal sick leave in the process . . . done my share of all the cooking and stayed with him for weeks at the hospital, watching these people we "trust" to take "care" of us, neglectfully misdiagnose him . . . . . . . . . so, I can think of little else I could have done/can do to help him now.  BUT, this has also taken a toll on me in so many ways I can't even begin to articulate.  So, in my case, "HE" doesn't get it!  And if there is some unlocked "secret" place he lives, suffering in private . . . there is no way I can help him with any of it if he doesn't open his heart and his mouth to tell me.  I'm not walking around all day, muttering to myself, unable to brush my teeth or get up and go to work . . . but, yes, I am sad.  I'm scared and I'm worried.  These are normal emotions and I think it is unnatural for anyone in his position or mine to deny themselves the opportunity to release those emotions.  The one place, the ONLY place that can fill that void is HIM; yet, he measures and seems to want to limit the amount of time I can spend in a day or a week expressing those emotions.  


In short, I guess I'm wondering if there is anyone else out there, with a husband (in particular), a "guy" they're either married to or are co-habitating with who has or is experiencing some of these same things.  OR, if there is a "guy" out there, suffering from this dreaded poop . . . who would be able to share what it is that keeps THEM from sharing with their wife or female partner those feelings that MUST be flowing through their heart and brain at such a trying time.


I THINK we have a strong marriage.  I always THOUGHT we did; but my goodness . . . if this doesn't draw us closer in helping each other when we clearly need each other the most . . . I fear nothing will.


Anyone out there who would be willing to try and help me understand?


Thanks for listening!

Evarista's picture
Posts: 320
Joined: May 2017

This is surely a difficult time for both of you, but your husband may be doing the best that he can right now.  I think that I am fairly forthcoming on this forum, but my reality is that I did not even join this forum until after I had finished my treatment.  In the 5 1/2 months before that, I was almost completely unaware of the outside world.  So inward-focused that I had little to give to those that I love. Sharing? No room for it while I was dealing with the illness and the chemo. I know that was hard on them, but sometimes that is just how it is. 

I think you would probably benefit from finding a cancer support group where you can share your feelings & frustrations.  I hope that there is something or someone in your area that can help with that.  I don't think it needs to be lymphoma specific, as many of the issues are common.  Good luck with it.


Anonymous user (not verified)

Support groups are, yes, helpful.  I have participated in some with our past health challenges; but, to be honest, we simply don't have the time it would take to spend going to yet another appointment of sorts.  Both of us still work full-time and my Terry's hours are so odd . . . many times requiring him to get up anywhere from 3:30 a.m., to 5:00 a.m., and not getting home until 6:30 p.m.  He has a break of time in between "routes", as he is a city busdriver, so he uses that time in between to nap (especially needed right now); and when he gets home we use that time to embrace, express emotion, cook dinner and get ready for what the next day brings.  There simply isn't enough time in the day for us to try and make it somewhere else.  It's all we can do to keep up with home maintenance, get to work, try and cook a decent meal and enjoy even an hour together at the end of the day.

This past week, we finally were able to talk to each other the way we needed to in order to face this "together".  It just took us a while to find our way; but, I think we have found it.  What works for one, for sure, doesn't always work for another; but to think we could survive all of this (as with other challenges in our lives), in separate corners . . . too afraid or unwilling to listen to what the other has to say . . . has only spelled failure for us.  We are total opposites.  Always have been.  This situation, though, this one . . . really had us lost for a bit there.  So threatening, so frightening . . . . unlike even the worst we had suffered in the past.  So, it now comes as no surprise that it would take the two, mule-headed people we both are, to find a way of communicating the way we needed to, to work as a "team" in accomplishing the goals we needed to focus on for a positive outcome.

Thank you for your well wishes and your suggestions.  They are most welcome.


Posts: 329
Joined: Jul 2016

Like Evarista, I joined the forum late in my journey, a full year after the first MRI detected that something was eating away at the left half of my pelvis, and a month after my sixth R-CHOP. During that whole year of diagnostic  and treatment phase, I kept everyone at arm's length and dealt alone with medical appointments, surgeries and hospital stays. I joined the forum only when I read a post by someone who seemed to have the same "variety" of lymphoma. With rare presentations, precise information is scarce, and it is hard to manage the uncertainty that leaves you in...

It does seem difficult for you as a spouse to feel "locked out", and Evarista's suggestion may be the most appropriate solution to help you through this. If there is no such group close by, the hospital where Terry is being treated may direct you to some other form of individual therapy to help you deal with your emotional turmoil. 


bluerose's picture
Posts: 1112
Joined: Jul 2009



My marriage broke apart and no doubt one of the reasons was my cancer, its not uncommon when one of the partners has cancer  I had the cancer, my husband was the caregiver.  He was a private person too and but sometimes I would see small signs of his emotional turmoil but sometimes you have to watch for subtle signs, some just don't exhibit obvious signs of impact either of cancer on others or themselves.

Cancer is handled differently by each of us survivors and caregivers and the good news for both of you is that it seems as if you have a solid marriage and thats what will get you both through this Im sure.  Maybe all he needs is to know that, he has a solid relationship, and feels with that it will bed okay, no matter what.

I know its hard on you not to be able to get the kind of input from him that will make you feel heard but since you have seen this type of behaviour before from its just his way and Im sure it doesn't me;an he is insensitive but just private with some of his feelings.  He might also be so scared of making you feel worse that he is putting on a braver face too, hard to know.

You though have to take care of you too.  If you need more emotinal input that he is able to give you then you have this site to share with and I think you will be more than surprised at just how many share in your situation and that will help you tremendously.  If you need more professional help with it all try and find a good counsellor who specializes in cancer support either for just you or if you can get him to go with you even better/

I do wish you all the best though whichever path you decide upon to get you to a better place in all of this nasty cancer stuff.  im here if you want to chat.  I am a 29 year NH Lymphoma Survivor.  Hugs.

Max Former Hodg...
Posts: 3705
Joined: May 2012


One insight I have taken from your descriptions of your current emotional relationship is that, from what you have shared thus far, he doesn't overtly have any issues with what he is undergoing.  All descriptions have been of what you are feeling. But of course your emotions are as relevant in this trial as his are.

As everyone has noted above, people grapple with these situations differently. It seems he is being strong and stalwart.  Many would prefer such a partner. Unless you just know him that well, it is conjecture that he is concealing anything from you.  As best I can recall, my wife and I, through about a year of fighting HL (when all diagnostic time and waiting are factored in ), and then many months fighting prostate cancer, never once had an "emotional" conversation.  What later surprised me was that she was far more worried than I ever had an inkling of.  So, it might have been better if we had spoken more on the subject.

You mentioned finding music therapeutic.  Envision "clearer skies"....   

Listening to this song, it is worth noting that Whitney died very young, of acute alcohol poisoning.  If link won't open, manually type into your address line.





Anonymous user (not verified)

You people are so sweet and so insightful.  Thank you for all your suggestions and obvious concern for both my well-being and for that of my husband's.

Happy to say that last week, after posting my original concerns with regard to the toll this was all taking on our marriage, turns out my Terry HAD been harboring much of his fear and his emotion, as I suspected.  The proverbial "dam" broke as it were and we were able to embrace, shed a few tears together over it all, and arrive at a place we now feel is better for each of us in communicating what this is doing to hearts and our bodies.  In our 40+ years together, this wasn't the first time we each stubbornly felt was the "better" way to cope.  But this one, this dreaded disease, is a much much scarier threat to the life we've built together; so, it's no surprise it took us a little longer to get there.

We fell asleep holding hands the other night after we talked things through, understanding each other better and realizing that this latest challenge is one that will take BOTH of us to survive, as a team . . . and that harboring any of how it is affecting each of us, will only add to the burden we both must bear together.  Sad is sad.  Scary is scary and adding to that burden with the sense that we each must try and hide or suppress how it's making us feel will only harm, not help us.  What works for us, won't necessarily work for the next couple.  But what I have learned and I think what Terry now understands that I could go out and beat the bushes finding people to share my emotions with; but the reality, the truth of it is . . . no one can fill the void I (and he) feels when we feel as though we we have to hold anything back from one another.  It's like trying to put a puzzle together with a piece from a different jigsaw . . . it just doesn't fit, no matter how hard we try and make it fit.

We each find our own way through these storms; so, as I said, what has held us together in our 40 years couldn't possibly be expected to work for the next person or the next couple.  It may or it may not; but that's what's so great about forums like these . . . and opening up to people (I've learned) is never a bad thing.  ALL perspectives have value, right?

Thank you, everyone!  Your words and your experiences are all treasured more than you can ever realize.

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