Breast Cancer's Relationship Toll
Any major illness can strain close relationships. But for women with breast cancer, it can be an especially difficult emotional challenge.
Breast Cancer and Your Family Relationships
Among the most important relationships in our lives are those we forge with
our partners and especially our children. And whether they’re toddlers, grade
school-aged, teens, or even young adults, experts say if you want to keep the
family unit strong during this challenging time, it's essential that you
confide in them from the very earliest stages of your disease.
"It doesn't work to keep this important a secret from your children.
Kids are remarkable in that they pick up on everything going on in their
parents’ life, and they almost always know when something is wrong," says
Moreover, Murillo cautions that when kids do sense a problem but don't know
what it is, they often blame themselves.
"They begin to feel guilty, as if they are causing the situation, and
they pull away. So it's very important to talk to them honestly and openly
right from the start," says Murillo.
While Nelson says very few parents use the word "cancer" in their
explanation -- most, she says, refer to tumors or lesions, or sometimes just
say “Mommy is sick” – what trumps the list of suggestions is assuring your
children that you are doing everything possible to get well.
"You can't promise your kids that you're going to be alive and that
everything is OK, but you can say you are working with the best doctors you
could find and that everyone is going to do their very best to help you get
better," says Puckett.
And what if your child asks, "Mommy, are you going to die?" Puckett
says the answer is always "I hope not."
"Tell them you are doing everything you can to stay with them, and
you'll let them know if anything changes. Building a sense of trust is key to
building a strong, supportive family unit during this time," she
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Breast Cancer And Your Intimate Relationships
While crisis automatically bonds some partners in a unified front, sadly,
that's not always the case. Indeed, experts say that when partners try to
shield each other from the pain and worry of breast cancer, often they grow
further apart -- and don't even understand
"This is an area that most patients have the most difficulty with -- not
only the patients, but their partners -- and it occurs mainly because they are
not sharing with each other, so neither knows how the other is thinking or
feeling," says Murillo.
When you don't know what your partner is thinking, he says, you often assume
the worst -- that they don't care, or that they don't want you. And the natural
reaction is to withdraw.