Getting support

"The partners of somebody suffering from any sort of cancer are usually side lined" – Barbara, partner

It is very easy as a partner to become isolated. Other people don’t always know what to say to you. Their approach may seem nosy and intrusive, or they may wait for you to talk as they are so concerned about intruding. It is very hard for them to find a middle ground, so most people will appreciate you being clear about what works for you.

It may be that you don’t want to talk, but rather just to be with people who aren’t involved from time to time. Partners tell us that taking time out for themselves really helped them. It is, therefore, vital that you don’t lose contact with friends. If you used to have time apart to pursue your own interests, it is important to keep these up. Or now may be the time to start, so that you get a break that refreshes you and helps you to be more available to your partner in the long run.

Indeed, make sure you take care of yourself – eat properly and get enough sleep. Take people up on offers of help. Friends and family often feel as helpless as you do and are only too delighted if there is something practical they can do to help.

"I talked to a very close friend about it, so that was my support system." – Partner, Cervical Cancer Stories Report

Your partner may have appreciated you acting as a buffer between her and the world, and partners tell us this role can help you to feel useful and wanted. It can also be an incredible burden, particularly if she wants you to filter details about her condition. This may mean you feel you can’t offload for fear of revealing details she does not want others to know. However, if you believe you don’t have the right to show emotion or have a little moan occasionally, this may lead you to bottle things up and make you more vulnerable to irritability, stress and illness. The more supported you are, the more support you will be able to offer your partner.

If it feels like there is no one you can discuss things with amongst your family and friends, clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) can be really helpful in offering informed advice and listening, and you can also call our Helpline on 0808 802 8000 and speak to someone who has experience with cervical cancer.

‘My partner joined the online support group that the CNS ran and was in a lot of contact with her. She also went to one of the support group meetings with her mum. I also spoke to her (the CNS) on the phone a few times. Got on with her.’ – Partner, Cervical Cancer Stories Report

You can also talk to other partners using our online forum. We have a forum section that is specifically for partners. We also run a session for Partners at our Patient Information event, Let’s Meet, every year. This session gives you an opportunity to talk to other partners, share experiences and seek support.

Don’t forget your GP, who may have counselling available at the surgery or be able to suggest local support groups or resources. There are many types of counselling and you can choose to attend with your partner (couples counselling) or on your own.

Counselling provides a safe environment where you can talk through what you are thinking or feeling, and, if you want to, look at working on some of the issues you are finding difficult.

You can talk to your GP about how to access counselling, or seek advice from charities such as Relate. Some counselling is free on the NHS, while you may have to pay for others privately. It can cost anything from £40 to £100 for a 50–60 minute session. Usually your therapist will talk to you about the number of sessions that will be required (six is usually the minimum), the amount they will charge and the approach they will take.

Organisations like the Samaritans and Relate offer email and phone counselling, as well as face-to-face sessions. The Samaritans can be an outlet for you to just talk and it is not unusual for partners to seek a counsellor for support and to help process what is happening to their relationship.

Ultimately, you may want to seek counselling together, from an organisation such as Relate, and many couples end up feeling their relationship has never been stronger. There are always options available if you would like to find support for yourself. More links can be found on our information page about other organisations that can help.

Date last updated: 
11 Apr 2017
Date due for review: 
11 Apr 2020

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