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How to deal with a cancer survivor as a partner?

Posts: 2
Joined: Jul 2005

Please don't take me the wrong way, but my girlfriend, 21 yrs old, (now ex) has changed drastically in terms of emotions and attitude after her thyroid cancer surgery. Thank god it has been fully removed and she has recovered very quickly. She currently lives by herself for the summer and I am afraid she is depressed or dealing with general post cancer emotions. Does anyone have advice and/or stories that can relate to mine so I may be a better help her through this? Thank you.

DIVA's picture
Posts: 38
Joined: Apr 2005

People change a lot after cancer. Itis not even that they change. It is just that differnet parts of them become more dominant. The problems I had with peers and relationships was the gact that everyone expected me, treated me, and only saw me as what I was. Cancer is a slap in the face followed by anger, denial and then eventually it brings the fight out in you. In the end your left feeling different and I know I had problems with my friends and family for a good while until they bothered to say ok how has this effected you. people thing ignoring it is best but everyone changes and cancer makes u fell older or cheated at times. If she is dealing with post cancer emotions she has to go through the process and you have to know she is not who she was before cancer. Talk to her about it about what she is feeling. Its up to her to get through it and its up to you to just listen and see how she has changed.

Posts: 343
Joined: May 2003

Actually... I think DIVA has always been a hard nut to crack... she is just using cancer as an excuse! DIVA... why dont you bring "SB" to the table? hehe.. just kidding.. Seriously tho.. cancer can change a persons outlook, self perception, or perception of others. DIVA is right about that. Even tho she is your ex... I think talking to her about her issues would help her and your friendship with her. God bless.
Michael (leukemia survivor)

unibal's picture
Posts: 26
Joined: Aug 2003

Cancer changes a person but not just in a physical sense. This is not some foreign disease attacking us, its our own bodies turning on us. This can lead to serious mental problems, as well as feeling alone and over cynical of others. Try talking to her and just letting her know you are there for her no matter what, and that youll never turn on her. thats my advice for what its worth, but ive never been able to keep a GF for more than a few weeks.

Posts: 2
Joined: Aug 2005

You definitely need to continue to talk to her. I was diagnosed when I was 15 and the day I walked out of the hospital, my family left me alone, my friends left me alone, and I freaked out! I cried until there was nothing left in me! and no one knew how terrified I was! Everyone kept telling me how brave I was and what a great faith and spirit I had, when inside, I was falling to piecesIn college I joined a support group, but it wasn't until I connected with another survivor that I finally started to get over the denial and address the issue. I just wish I had done it earlier. Encourage her to talk and get involved with other survivors - it'll help!

lilmom2's picture
Posts: 14
Joined: Jan 2003

I agree with what everyone has said, cancer changes you. I'm now 26, was diagnosed and treated at 16. I remember those violent emotions all too well. You hit a state of shock, think it's some nightmare you're going to wake up from, watch people around you going nuts, then you make some sort of attempt to process all the darn confusion, start treatment, watch friends sort of take a hike, watch boyfriends most often start cheating because as mine told me "I can't handle it"...HE couldn't handle it!! I was the one with a potentially terminal illness. Then my hair fell out...had to wear long sleeves 24/7...looked like I'd walked off of some sort of space ship or something. But...the benefit was...1) I could sleep in later in the morning, no hair to fix. and 2) I had the clearest (and palest) complexion of any other girl I knew. Chemo can erase acne and cancer!

Look, the girl has a LOT to deal with. Thankfully she didn't have all the hells of treatment...I had surgery, three rounds of one chemo concoction, and then two rounds of another concoction. It changes us often permanently. She HAS to deal with this in her own way. You can't do it for her because you aren't her. Talk to her, be a friend...that's probably what she needs and wants more than anything, just someone she can be herself with.

If nothing happens between now and tomorrow morning I'm going to be going for a CBC to check out my cell counts...found out of my chemo's put me at a higher risk for AML as does the fact I smoke. And it's like I'm preparing myself for the worst just so I can deal with it when everyone around me freaks out. And I've learned over the years that preparing for a potentially devasting blow, makes the blow not so hard if it does come. And, makes it a LOT easier to accept anything that isn't as bad as your own worst case scenerio. Do I WANT to deal with AML? Not really. But if I have it, I'd rather catch it, and fight it than ignore it. But, that's me. How it would affect the people around me...I don't know.

Posts: 3
Joined: Oct 2005

I am no expert in this, but, I am a cancer survivor, twice over now. I've lived and I've died, and lived again, and everything in between has affected my life, physically, emotionally, financially, etc. I was diagnosed last year with breast cancer, and at 13 with AML, when I was told I would not live a year. The medical staff was positive I would die within the year.

Anyone with any type of cancer is going to change the minute the word cancer or leukemia is brought into their diagnosis. In that instant, the subject of life, family, finances, friends, and so many other things hits you, and all of it is now your resposibility to handle. First, am I going to die, or maybe, what will I do about my family, parents, children, mother, father, and so on. Then everyday life? Can I continue work, school? Treatment, can I afford it, do I have good insurance, do I have insurance at all? The change is immediate, because life, overall, has changed in this instance. It is not just about being ill, the picture is so much bigger than that. It is so hard to understand, even for the patient, but especially for those the patient loves, and who love the patient. To top it all off, there is no easy answer. Yes or no won't cut it with an illness that invades one's life. But, with the illness, can come opportunity. Take the opportunity to realize it is time to stop dancing around the things that need to be done...working on how much do I really love life, and how much do I offer to those who live life with me. Do I live or do I exist? What is really important vs what do I think is important and why? It takes time to sort all of this out, it does not happen overnight. The things that were at the top of the list yesterday, may not be today, and the list may change tomorrow too. Life becomes very confusing sometimes, especially if you are not sure if you will be here tomorrow. Sometimes it is hard to share the fears and the pain, sometimes you're not allowed to see it, because you are being protected. It is not to hurt you. Sometimes the extra space is put in between, because we ourselves don't know. We have to take the time-outs to figure out what we truly feel, because we feel so many things at once. Know this though, the best thing one can ever do for a patient or a survivor, is be there. Don't run when the anger appears, don't disappear when the depression sets in, and don't just leave because you get pushed away. Give the space, but don't turn your back. Cancer has phases for it's victims to go through, and each phase is different and difficult. Something very helpful to know is that someone is there in their corner, and not running away.

The pain you feel is real, and don't let yourself think that you should not feel it. Everyone hurts in this, but it is possible for all to gain as well. There are no magic words to dig out of my hat for you. Just remind her and yourself, you are there for her whenever she may need you, and offer her your shoulder for crying, a pillow for punching, your ears (with earplugs) for screaming, and your time if she just needs a friend to be in the room with her while she thinks. It will mean more than any thing you could buy or give. Good luck to you. I hope some of this made some sense. I am sorry it is so long, but cancer takes time.
26 year AML survivor
11 month Breast cancer survivor

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