Inevitably, many of the relationships in your life will change after a cancer diagnosis. It’s only natural that something as huge as this will have an effect on the people you love. You might find you have a strong support network throughout your treatment but you feel quite alone at the end of it.
The people around you often think you’re ‘better’ once you’re in remission, which is completely understandable. They want to see you well & ‘back to normal’. But without the safety net of hospital appointments, it can feel quite scary trying to get back into the swing of things. Plus, you might have more time to think about the experience you’ve been through and what it means for you, which is frightening enough on its own, right?
The key to maintaining any relationship in your life, particularly after cancer, is communication. If your friends or family don’t know how you feel, how can you expect them to understand what you need from them? Bear in mind that when you’ve finished cancer treatment, the physical effects can drag on for a while, leaving you tired or unable to concentrate for long periods which can also affect how you interact with others.
Here are my top tips for keeping your relationships with your loved ones intact after cancer:
Be honest with yourself first.
If you’re feeling like crap, you’re feeling like crap. Take 10 minutes out of your day to reflect on what’s going on with your body and mind right now.
Be honest with your friends, family, partner, the whole world.
Some days, you’ll be craving a night out with your favourite people. Other days, you’ll want to stay wrapped up in your duvet. It’s a rollercoaster, for sure – but the most important thing is being honest. If you’re not up to a full day of socialising, let your friends or family know that you’d rather meet them for a catch-up coffee so you can give them your full attention for a couple of hours instead.
Schedule your time well.
If you know that meeting people just exhausts you at the moment, don’t over-commit. Make sure your calendar has plenty of blank windows for you to rest and recuperate. Those who love you will understand.
Decide how you’re going to handle people who didn’t show up for you.
Okay, that sounded a bit harsh, but it’s something you might have to really think about. If someone you considered a good friend wasn’t there for you throughout treatment but then suddenly comes back into the picture when you’re in remission, how do you feel about it?
There are a few honest conversations to be had, in my opinion – some people will outright say that they didn’t know how to deal with it so they avoided you. Fine. But will you still be able to have that same close relationship knowing that? It’s something you have to weigh up. I’d suggest meeting them for coffee in a neutral space to talk things through and explain how their absence made you feel. Hear their side and then decide how you’re going to move forward.
Talk to your partner about sex and intimacy openly.
Cancer changes your body and you might need some time to come to terms with how you look and feel now. Even if you’ve never had conversations like this before, now is the time to embrace them.
Dating can be scary as hell after cancer.
Should you tell someone on a first date that you had the Big ‘C’?! Should you tell them about your possible long term health conditions? The status of your fertility? All these things can be massive clangers to throw down on the table, during that first candlelit dinner. In my own experience, I would never lead with the whole ‘I had cancer’ thing but if it came up, I’d tell the other person about it. I always used to say it really fast, like ripping a plaster off, but now I’ve kind of just owned it. Everyone has baggage. Just because mine’s a little heavier than most, am I really not going to get on board that train?
Open up to people and listen to their stories too.
Cancer gives you a different outlook on life, if nothing else and people will appreciate seeing things from a different perspective. So open up.
If you’re feeling lonely, remember that I’m here if you want to chat. Just drop me a note on the Contact Us page & I’ll get back to you.
Honesty – always,