Being a partner of a woman with cervical cancer

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. This section has been written specifically for partners of women affected by cervical cancer, both male and female. It is meant as a starting point to provide you with some basic information and support about what your partner may be going through. The pages 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 or helpless. 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 help you 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 complicated feelings. She might not be able to tell you how she feels and the way you interact with each other could change.

Be mindful of 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 affected your daily life, making time for yourself may become something you 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.

“I was trying to be upbeat when I was around her, but I needed a break sometimes, just to mope around and feel how I wanted to feel.” – Partner, Cervical Cancer Stories Report

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 for them to adjust to a different role in the family or in your 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 are likely to 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 it on our support pages.

“It was a difficult time. I remember getting very teary around friends when we went away. I did something very insignificant, like drop a drink, and proceeded to burst into tears.” – Partner, Cervical Cancer Stories Report

If you are interested in helping us further understand the issues and what information partners require you can join out patient feedback group, Jo’s Voices, by registering on our website.

References

  1. Macmillan Cancer Support website page on Communication with your partner: www.macmillan.org.uk/Cancerinformation/Livingwithandaftercancer/Relationshipscommunication/Youyourpartner/Communication.aspx. Accessed 12.04.2017.
Date last updated: 
11 Apr 2017
Date due for review: 
11 Apr 2020

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