Cancer Hard on Marriages
WebMD News Archive
He says that marriage problems are especially common when women have tumors
in the frontal lobes of the brain. These tumors "work the same way as a
lobotomy," he says. The patient is left with a completely "flat effect.
No emotional response."
Cancer doesn't always mean the end of a marriage, though. Lawrence Prescott
of San Diego didn't leave his wife when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor,
but instead became the "primary caregiver for her and our two children, who
were 6 and 9." Prescott tells WebMD that he and his wife were married for
16 years when she was initially diagnosed and were married "20 years when
she died in 1981."
He says the hardest part for him was when his wife developed difficulty
speaking, a condition called aphasia. As a couple they went from being a very
bright, in-sync pair, to a couple that communicated through a sort of guessing
game "when I would ask questions to find out what she needed." Also
gone was her love of word games and in its place was a fascination with
"stupid television shows that we would watch for hours."
Although the experience was wearing, Prescott says, "if you love
somebody, this is what you do."
Frank G. Haluska, MD, PhD, of Massachusetts General Hospital, tells WebMD
that he thinks it is the severity of disease that disrupts marriage. Haluska
says he specializes in treating melanoma, a deadly skin cancer. Treatment often
requires very long and debilitating chemotherapy. "In this disease it is
often the treatment that can cause problems in the marriage," he says.
He, too, says that he assesses patients for signs of marital disruption but
that he hasn't observed "men leaving women. In fact, I had the reverse with
one man who was the patient and his wife left him."