Partners, relatives and friends of breast cancer patients - Support

Breast Cancer: Affecting one million women a year

Many breast cancer sufferers say the anguish of their loved ones is harder to cope with than the disease itself. Dealing with the various emotions (or apparent lack of them) of those around you may at times seem like the most draining task of all when you’re struggling with your own physical and emotional traumas.

Like all major hurdles in life this disease can bring families closer together and make marriages stronger. It can also wreck relationships and hurtle seemingly solid couples onto the rocks.

Fear, anger, ignorance, lack of communication and an overwhelming sense of helplessness are all common culprits in undermining relationships tested to their limits by a breast cancer diagnosis.

It’s important to remember that no matter how violent, confusing or bewildering your feelings are, you can bet your bottom dollar there are thousands of others out there feeling exactly the same. This applies equally to breast cancer sufferers themselves as to their loved ones.

So if you find the disease is putting an intolerable strain on an important relationship, don’t suffer alone – you’ll find plenty of support from professionals and other individuals in the same boat who understand exactly what you’re going through. You may well find that talking about the problem goes a long way towards solving it, especially if you can chat with others who have been in the same situation.

Internet forums and chat rooms are an ideal place to reach out to people who’ll understand what you’re going through. If they can’t offer practical advice at least they can provide a comforting cyber shoulder to cry on and assure you that you’re not alone.

Many hospitals these days offer excellent support centres, some geared specifically to the needs of partners and close family relatives of breast cancer patients. Some are doing pioneering work with young children whose mothers have been diagnosed with the disease. For example there are child-orientated support centres which bring youngsters together to deal with their anxieties through art and play in a very non-threatening environment with specially trained therapists present.

In the UK there’s the highly regarded Macmillan nurse service which provides free support for patients and their families both in hospital and at home. All Macmillan nurses are experienced registered nurses trained in cancer care, pain management and psychological support. You can visit their web site here:

No-one knows what effect this disease will have on their closest relationships. Some men have been devastated when their wives of many years have reacted to their breast diagnosis by demanding a separation or divorce. There are women who have been truly amazed at the previously unknown levels of tenderness, love and support shown to them by their partners throughout the traumas of a mastectomy and punishing follow-up treatment.

Mothers have been gutted when teenage sons have refused to discuss their illness and even seemed unconcerned about it. Some people find their oldest and dearest friends desert them in their hour of need whilst new friendships appear in the unlikeliest of places.

There are sufferers who need to talk openly about their disease and treatment whilst others prefer to avoid the subject whenever possible. Relatives and friends equally have different ways of dealing with their own fears and anxieties.

Whichever way you find yourself reacting to this situation and no matter how isolated you may feel don’t be afraid to ask for support. There are plenty of people out there who are ready and willing to offer it.


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