Being the spouse or partner of a person with cervical cancer is never an easy feat. You will be the first in line walking through them with their diagnosis, treatment plan, and all of the roadblocks and hiccups in between. You will be the first person who experiences their mood shifts and changes and help them in the times they are struggling and fighting the most. It is very common to feel helpless at times, exhausted, and even face the possibility of caregiver’s burn out.
When a person is diagnosed with cervical cancer, partners commonly feel immediately overwhelmed. It is incredibly difficult to see your partner suffering, worried and distressed- knowing that you cannot simply fix this for them. You may find yourself immersing yourself in learning all you can about the cancer, possible treatment methods, holistic options and more, all to help your partner make the best decisions possible when it comes to their care. During this time, you may also feel that you need to pick up the “slack,” so to speak, with household chores, family roles, or financial aspects.
All of these things can create a very stressful situation, and you should always remember to take time for yourself, spending time on self-care, and giving yourself a break when you need.
As you step into the role of a caregiver for your spouse, you may find yourself tripping over your words, saying, or doing things “incorrectly,” or “putting your foot in it” with your partner. This will happen, as this is most likely your first-time caregiving for your partner, and your partner’s first time battling through cancer. Without the backing of experience and knowing how to cope with the issues that will arise, you both may have feelings of anger, resentments, and generally feel out of sync.
Whether your relationship has just begun or has been established and thriving for years- there is no telling what cancer will cause within the confines of your partnership. Couples who have weathered many storms together may find themselves in a horrible rut thanks to the likes of cancer. And other couples who are just beginning may soar right through with little turmoil or trouble.
Accepting the role changes that this journey brings can be challenging. Many times, it is difficult for people to relinquish the roles in their routine. Mixing this in with diagnosis, treatment, and these ever-changing situations can bring their own complex feelings. Your partner may not be able to tell you exactly how they are feeling, and the way they interact with your may change dramatically.
By being mindful of the impact and gravity of the situation, you can help both you and your partner work through the trialing times. By being supportive and steadfast, you ensure that your partner will feel the love from the beginning to the end of your journey.
Here are more ways to help and be supportive:
- Understand the coming body changes. For some, surgeries impact their ability to have comfortable intimacy, and sex. Your partner may need to relearn their bodies and find new things that bring them pleasure. Vaginal changes can cause atrophy, shrinking and painful tightening of the tissues and muscles in the vaginal canal, which can make any from of intimacy or sex in that area next to impossible. There are specially made devices that can help your partner work with their own vagina, helping to loosen tissues and ease the pain once more. By being supportive of these holistic measures, you show your partner you are in it with them for the long haul and accept their body changes alongside them.
- Have regular discussions about treatment, changes, and the journey. By being open and honest about all aspects of care and treatment, this ensures that you are both on the same page and know exactly what is expected and coming.
- Have patience. Remember that your partner did not ask for cervical cancer, and they most likely did not expect that this would step into your relationship as the third wheel.
- Take time as a couple, and time for yourself. While self-care is extremely important for your sanity and clarity as their caretaker, it is also vital for your relationship. By taking time out for yourself, you give yourself time to breath and step away from the cancer for moments at a time. As a couple, you should also set special times to spend with each other where the cancer, treatment, and negative aspects are not discussed. This could be a date night, movie night, or something special that you both have done together in years’ past.
- Be open and honest about your feelings with each other. Many times, through this journey you will see the good and the bad feelings emerging from all people involved. It is important to recognize these feelings, discuss them appropriately, and work to find a level resolve when you can. Understand that feelings will ebb and flow during your cancer journey, and being
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