Being a partner of a woman with cervical cancer

Over the past few years, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has been working with partners at our annual information event, Let’s Meet. In 2013 we dedicated time to talk to them about life as a partner of someone with cervical cancer and the impact of diagnosis on them. We started a partners’ working group to help us further understand the issues and what information partners require. You can join the group by registering as one of our Jo's Voices, click here to register. We also produced the video below, which features three different partners.

This section has been made as a direct result of this work with partners; it has been written specifically for, and reviewed by, partners. As a partner, you will know that finding out someone you love has cancer means dealing with a range of physical, emotional and practical issues. These pages are meant as a starting point to provide you with some basic information and support about what your partner may be going through. They will also provide you with information on other organisations that could offer you practical advice and help you gain a better understanding of your situation.

When a woman is diagnosed with cervical cancer, partners commonly feel overwhelmed. It is so hard to see your partner distressed and suffering and you may feel a need to find out as much as possible in order to make decisions together. Alongside this, you may also identify household or family roles that you could take increased responsibility for.

In the early days, you may worry about saying or doing the right thing and how best to support your partner. If it is a relatively new relationship and you are still getting to know each other, you may not know how involved your partner wants you to be. Without much experience of coping with problems as a couple, you may both feel angry that your relationship has to face these challenges so soon and be fearful about whether the relationship will survive.

On the other hand, it can be very difficult to accept changes when your relationship is well established. You may be wondering how you could possibly cope without your partner or, even in the short term, manage day-to-day practical issues, such as childcare and housework.

It can be difficult for a woman to let go of her usual day-to-day roles when she is going through treatment. A combination of the diagnosis, treatment and these changes to her role can bring up complex feelings. She might not be able to tell you how she feels and the way you interact with each other could change.

Be mindful about the impact on you and how you feel. It is important to look after yourself; partners have told us that they find it useful to make time for themselves. This can be difficult in the beginning, but once you've come to terms with the impact of the illness and how it has effected your daily life, making time for yourself may become something you really need and value. This could be as simple as going out to see a friend once a week or spending an hour listening to music – whatever helps you relax and get some time out.

You may find that both you and your partner have new roles within the relationship and household to adjust to. For example, you may be willing to take on more of the practical tasks that your partner may previously have been responsible for. Some women find it difficult to accept help, and it can be hard to adjust to a different role in the family or relationship; however, these may be temporary changes [1]. Discussing changes with your partner before treatment starts will help both of you to adjust to your new roles and may help your partner feel less out of control as a result of her diagnosis.

Even though you are not the person who has cervical cancer, you may be dealing with the stress of day-to-day life during diagnosis and treatment, and after the medical appointments finish. You will more than likely be confronted with the emotions of your partner and, of course, your own feelings towards life after diagnosis. If you feel you are suffering and struggling to cope there is support available and you can read more about this here.

 

If you are a health care professional who supports women and their partners after a cervical cancer diagnosis and treatment, please visit our Information for Gynae-Oncology Nurse Specialists and Gynae-Oncologists where you will find a wide range of content, best practice guidelines, relevant links for you and your patients, and resources and ways that we can support you. You can also sign up for our quarterly health care professional e-newsletter.

Would you like to get involved with our work by helping us develop and improve our information and services? Visit the pages on our patient feedback group, Jo’s Voices, to see how to get involved.


References

  1. Macmillan Cancer Support website page on Communication with your partner: http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Cancerinformation/Livingwithandaftercancer/Relationshipscommunication/Youyourpartner/Communication.aspx. Accessed 05.02.2015. 
Date last updated: 
05 Feb 2015
Date due for review: 
08 Feb 2018

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