Anyone have any stories to share about how their marriage changed after cancer? That is, after the crisis is over and it’s time to start living life again… How did the cancer journey affect your marriage? If there were problems or difficulties, how did you two deal with them? If yours is a story of success, what do you think was a significant factor to the journey bringing you closer?
Life after cancer can be a challenge in itself… I’d like to know I’m not alone, asking myself questions about how to handle changes - the good and the bad.
Thank you for sharing
Hi CanCervive. Such a great and important question. In the 2014 issue of our magazine we will be featuring an article on the effects of cancer and treatment on a woman’s intimate life (though I realize this is only one part of how cancer impacts a marriage). We included the artcile and also recently introduced our new initmacy blog after our dear blogger Catherine (Bumpyboobs) bravely broached the subject in a post a few years back and the response was huge! We knew the need for this sort of info was immense. You can read Catherine’s original post here: http://www.facingcancer.ca/blogs/bumpyboobs/sex-after-cancer-how-we-coped-with-the-difficulties/).
And you can also look forward to more info from our intamacy blogger, Lisa, who is a counsellor and sex therapist who coaches many couples who have faced cancer. Her blog is here:http://www.facingcancer.ca/blogs/side_effect/
The thing I do know for sure: you are definitely not alone!
While this may sound cheeky it is not meant as so. My entire catalogue of entries on the Riding Shotgun blog revolve around the very questions you’re asking. You may find some insight there.
Don Kerr a.k.a. Riding Shotgun
In addition to Don’s blog, you cna also read our magazine article about he and Katie for more words of wisdom/insight/experience: http://www.facingcancer.ca/learning/detail/riding-shotgun/
I like Don’s response because it is soooo true! Cancer for sure impacts those big relationships. It has had a few different impacts on my marriage. Chemotherapy was a time when we struggled TOGETHER, but nevertheless struggled. We fought, we cried, we were exhausted, we felt alone. Then being diagnosed with stage four brings on a whopping load of new challenges, of uncertainty, ... and then there’s this whole growing of family that may not happen - at least not as planned.
So yeah, loads of impact. Are you looking for a specific story, CanCervive, or rather a general overview of experiences?
(We are happy too, I shouldn’t forget that point. And we are living lives that have nothing to do with cancer as hard and as often as possible. For us, this is a time to build goals. It’s the life of a couple growing-up, I reckon)
Don, thank you for sharing your blog with me. After a general overview of your posts, what stands out most to me isn’t your blogs themselves, but how open you’ve been to everything that can help you cope with your wife’s cancer, how honest you are about your feelings as a husband and as a caregiver.
My husband is not like you. From the beginning, he refuses to talk about his feelings with anyone, he refuses to seek therapy or attend support groups to help him cope. At first, it looked like he was doing fine, that he could talk to his dad and that was enough. But he has become angry, afraid, depressed and closed off. I’m trying to move forward and overcome the trauma of our experience, but it is becoming increasingly difficult because he’s just trying to ignore the emotional trauma the past few years have caused in him.
My question to you is this: where did you start this journey of yours? Did you decide on your own to pursue help and support for yourself and to join your wife in making healthy changes? Along the way have you met men who were reluctant at first and do you have any advice to help me encourage my husband to open his heart to letting go of his pain and fear?
Bumpyboobs, I think I’m looking for an overview of experiences. You describe your journey as a united front - were there times when it didn’t feel that way and how did you get past that or what do you think helped you two stick together through it all?
We stood together throughout everything - the diagnosis, the chemo, the radiation, the transplant and the recovery. But life after cancer… now that we can live a relatively normal life again, our marriage seems full of cracks and I want to save it before it falls apart. I know talking to my husband seems to be the logical course of action, but I have failed to find an approach that doesn’t backfire. So I’ve decided to wait it out, to give him his space and hope that some day he’ll come to me… That’s what I’m doing, until I have a better idea anyway.
I kind of wish I knew your name. Anyway, I am currently writing a book: Riding Shotgun: Finding Beauty Among the Wreckage. It’s a book for men. My hope is that it will empower men to get beyond how we were raised and conditioned. There is no short answer to your questions save to say this: love revolves around genuine caring and compassion. It centres on the selfless motivation to give until it hurts. And, trust me, this cancer journey hurts. Caregivers, male or female, soon realize that they have a great big target right in the middle of their forehead. We will be subjected to some pretty horrid judgements and declarations. If we have some fundamental fault line in our relationships this disease will flow into them like rain water to a crack in cement just before the freeze. When the freeze comes the water turns to ice expanding so far as to threaten the very structures we once held dearest. Societal conditioning as well proclaims men who reveal vulnerabilities to be weak - somehow less than manly. It is in many cases a pure situation of the male caregiver feeling ill equipped to assist either emotionally or spiritually or physically. We’re supposed to be able to “fix it”! Slap on some duct tape. Rebuild. Take charge. Make a plan. Draw some blueprints. It doesn’t work. First step is to realize that you need help. That you don’t have all the answers. That, yes, you are vulnerable. It is though a course one must choose. It does not come naturally and in many cases it may prove impossible if the male in the equation suffers from what I call ‘cranial-rectal inversion’. If you have your head up your ass and you’re consumed with self-importance it is unlikely you will adapt. If you like I will talk to your man directly. He may well think I am some sort of less-than-manly creature but trust me…I have met many troglodytes on this trek and have no fear of them.
Don Kerr a.k.a. Riding Shotgun
Thank you for your insight. Much of what you’ve said makes a lot of sense to me and you’ve given me many valid points to think about. However, I realize now that I was too harsh in my previous post. I don’t want you to think of my husband as a macho-man with his head up his ass, because he’s really not like that. Quite the opposite in fact, he used to be very open and honest with me, which is why this wall he has built around his feelings has been so difficult to understand, because it’s so out of character. But I’m glad you interpreted what I wrote that way because I had never considered him that way and my impulse to defend him makes me see his behavior in a new light. You’ve brought me back to a place of compassion for my husband’s suffering, and although it may not do much in the way of solving our problems, it helps me see our problems through new eyes.
Thank you for your input. I will keep an eye out for your book and I look forward to recommending it to my husband some day.
You caught me out. Your point is very well taken. First perception is often wrong and we fail at times to think of how the travails affect those around us. I was intentionally aggressive and hope you will forgive me. Feel love.
Don Kerr a.k.a. Riding Shotgun
I need to add one more thing here ‘cause you’ve taught me a good lesson and it is one that should not have caught me by surprise. But then again, that is the wonder of this community where we can all learn from each other. What you taught me is not to underestimate the needs of the caregiver. Sometimes we probably display behaviour contrary to our norms and without empathy the behaviour can be seen as uncaring, uncommunicative, dispassionate, and the like. Where we all need to focus is on mutual assistance where each of us in the moment try to recognize what is really happening. Again, as I should know but must keep reminding myself - THOUGHTS ARE NOT FACTS!
Thanks for bringing this back to me.
Don Kerr a.k.a. Riding Shotgun
One of the things I’ve learned most about throughout my own journey is that the “after cancer” has been so much more challenging and difficult to understand and work through than anything else. Going through cancer treatments, surgery, etc. there is a great deal of information regarding what exactly to expect but a little less so for when it’s all over. My husband was an absolute rockstar throughout the entire process but we still find ourselves having to navigate our way through these new avenues now. I think he’d love for it to be locked up in a little box and never have to deal with, think about or go through it all again (wouldn’t we all!) but we know that’s just not feasible.
I would definitely suggest finding a friend, a support group or someone else other than just your husband to be able to share some of your fears and concerns with. Not to leave him out of the process but simply to allow you to have a place to explore and share the things that he may not want to acknowledge or deal with. You don’t want to have to worry about dealing with his issues on top of your own…
I have heard stories form friends that has a greatest challenge in their lives is to have a successful story of cancer. It was a battle, the entire family suffered financially,emotionally and mentally.It is also a great test of your faith to hold on how you hold on to him despite of challenges. What I have learned is that not only moneyn is the solution of any illnesses but we must bare in our mind that there is God who listen the our Prayer.