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 Intimate Relationships continued...
"But often the real issue is that he doesn't bring things up for fear
he'll make her feel worse. And she's not bringing things up because she doesn't
want him to worry. So the communication stops at a time when they both really
need to share these feelings," says Murillo.
But it's not just the emotional communications that can go awry. Very often
the separation starts in the bedroom as breast cancer affects a couple's
"Women connect their breasts with their sexuality and their femininity
in a way that is not typical of any other cancer," says Nelson. As a
result, she says, any type of breast cancer treatment has the potential to
Indeed, Puckett tells WebMD, it can often leave a woman feeling that her sex
life will never be the same, that her partner will be turned off, or that she
herself won't ever feel like making love again. This in turn causes her to pull
away from her partner at a time when sharing a physical connection can be
To help solve -- or prevent -- any of these problems, experts say keep the
lines of communication open and be as real as possible about what you are
feeling in all areas of your life.
"Any catastrophic illness, but cancer especially, forces people to look
at and deal with many things they didn't pay attention to before. So take
advantage of that and view it as an opportunity to make your relationship
stronger," says Puckett.
She also advises talking to your doctor about any intimate problems on your
mind. "Women sometimes wait for their doctor to bring it up, but doctors
often don't say anything until the woman brings it up. So many miss out on the
wealth of helpful medical and lifestyle information that can help with some of
these problems. So don't be embarrassed or ashamed to ask about it," says
Breast Cancer: Getting The Support You Need
While sometimes a little creative communication will be all you and your
partner need to get back on track, Puckett says this isn’t always the case.
Sometimes, she says, a partner is simply emotionally unable to provide you with
the support you need, and no amount of communication is going to change
But instead of being hurt and disappointed, experts say to accept those
limitations and appreciate that person for what they can give you, and
then allow others into your life to fill the gaps.
"You have to be open to people. You can't expect to get everything you
need from one person, even a spouse," says Nelson.
But while knowing you need help is one thing, asking for it can be quite
another. What can make it easier, says Nelson, is to recognize the opportunity
as a gift you give to others.