Even the strongest of relationships can feel the strain of a cancer diagnosis. However, cancer doesn’t have to be the destroyer of all the love in your partnership. Couples in our community shared with us their insights on managing cancer and maintaining their relationship while facing the disease, and how they emerged stronger than ever before. Here are some tips from Leslie & Andy Trahan; Gary & Amanda Nerstad; and Colleen & Tom Ziegler.
Leslie and Andy Trahan
Gary and Amanda Nerstad
Colleen and Tom Ziegler
Don’t let cancer define you or your love.
“Don’t let a cancer diagnosis take control of your relationship and the love you have for your partner. The circumstances that surround that love have changed, but the love has not. Take the hardship you have been given and allow it to grow the bond and love you have.” —Leslie, caregiver
“Cancer is something we both think about often, but we try not to let it consume us. Although cancer is a part of you, it does not have to define you. It’s important to continue to laugh and have fun.” —Amanda, patient/survivor
Know that cancer can cause changes in your relationship.
“I was quite ill initially and I relied much more on my husband Tom than I ever had. That was difficult (and still is) for me. In some ways, it changed the dynamics of our relationship. It was difficult for me to accept that I could no longer do everything I once had. Tom, however, took it all in stride and helped me to accept that it was ok to lean on him more than I had ever done before. He is my rock and I don’t think I could navigate this without him.” —Colleen, patient/survivor
“Side effects are nasty and have occasionally been difficult for us to manage. It took a while for me to understand that mood swings and personality changes can be a result of medication side effects. Once I understood this, I began to have more patience and take things less personally.” —Leslie, caregiver
Do the things you loved before cancer.
“As best you can, do not stop doing the things you did before, whether it is romantic weekly date nights, vacations with just the two of you, concerts, movies, or whatever. Do not let cancer take the romance out of your relationship.” —Andy, patient/survivor
“Cancer can be draining, but when we feel the stress and anxiety creeping into our lives, we try to change or remove ourselves from that negative environment. Date nights, hikes, enjoying nature, and spending time with friends and family allow us to unplug.” —Gary, caregiver
Be hopeful together.
“It is important to be pragmatically hopeful together. We all know that there continue to be advancements in treatment of this disease. While they may not work forever (or not even for everyone), newer treatments are allowing people to live longer with better quality. And that is hope.” —Tom, caregiver
Cancer can add complexities to a relationship, but with the right mindset, love can prevail. As Colleen (patient/survivor) said, “Be honest, be kind, and be realistic with each other. It is not an easy road, but it can be navigated if you can do these things.”
You can read more from the couples who contributed to this blog in our upcoming posts, which will focus on each couple and their story with cancer. Stay tuned to learn more!