One of my closest girlfriends was diagnosed with breast cancer this year. She found out five months after she lost her job, four months after she got engaged, and one month after her adoption came through and she welcomed a new baby into her life. It was so much to deal with in one sitting, and we had to joke that she always said she 'wanted it all'.
As a love coach I wanted to give her advice to help maintain a loving, supportive, and caring relationship with her fiancee throughout this tumultuous year, so I enlisted the help of Genevieve Taguinod, MSN, AOCNP, a nurse practitioner at the Oncology Institute of Hope & Innovation. Genevieve specializes in chemotherapy and bio-therapy, so I knew she would have some great tips to help keep love alive in a relationship while battling cancer.
1) Patience and understanding is key
Although chemotherapy effectively battles cancer, it can also affect your daily routine and cut into the various activities couples enjoy. Whether it's sexual intimacy, routines around the house or outdoor activities, the supporting spouse must understand that there will have to be some give and take with regards to the normal routine.
2) Stick to the script
Cancer treatment can damage a patient's spirit, while creating fatigue and disinterest in work, home and social functions. The supporting spouse should always try to sustain the current standard of living at all times. Don't allow your spouse to mope around the house. With respect to and understanding of the physical fatigue created by cancer treatment, couples should try their best to stay active within their social circles, and other activities that are usually pleasurable.
3) Clown around
Some level of depression is customary when patients are dealing with cancer treatment. That depression can easily spread to the supporting spouse, which can hang a negative cloud over the relationship, and in turn create possible conflict. Clinical depression, a treatable illness, occurs in about 25% of people with cancer. It's important to keep the quality of life consistent as if there were no illness. They say laughter is the key to happiness, so although times are rough, both partners should keep their sense of humor.
4) Keep the flame burning
Sexual intimacy, sexual feelings and attitudes can vary among people during illness. Some experience little or no change in their sexual desire and energy level. Others find that their sexual interest declines due to the physical and emotional stresses of having cancer and getting treatment. These stresses can include worries about changes in appearance; anxiety about health, family, or finances; or side effects, including fatigue and hormonal changes. The supporting spouse must reinforce the other with consistent support, positive comments and communication. With the proper approach, some people find that they grow closer to their partners and have an increased desire for sexual activity.
Cancer is not a death sentence, it's a wake up call to invest quality time in your life and to value the people who are most important to you. Throughout this experience you can keep your love healthy, and continue to grow closer as a couple approaching each new day as a gift of life.
Rebecca Brody is a relationship coach in NYC (www.TheLuvCoach.com). She hosts ImprovDates.com and helps singles and couples experience love to it's fullest in their lives. Send your questions to Brody@TheLuvCoach.com