Advanced cancer takes its toll on all of those concerned and relationships are often affected. As your physical abilities change, the role you play in the household and within your family may change. Also, you and those you love may experience emotional ups and downs that are not likely to be synchronised with each other.

While the strain may widen existing cracks in relationships, times such as this often bring out the best in people and strengthen the bonds between them. This usually takes work, though.

Fact

"Studies of couples where one partner has a life-threatening disease show that a good relationships generally stay good and the less strong ones continue to be less strong."
Source: Cancer Council Victoria Advanced Cancer - Emotional Impact.

What may help

Talk to each other

Openness and honesty about how you are feeling and what you need from each other often works best. For instance it might be difficult to tell your partner that they are stifling you with too much attention is likely to be far less damaging than the frustration and resentment that may build up otherwise.

Talk to others

Talking about relationship matters with others in a similar situation may help you see things more clearly or give you a few hints. Cancer Connect 13 11 20 can put you in touch with support groups in your area.

See a counsellor

Ask your doctor to refer you to a counsellor who may help you – and, where appropriate, the people you love – work through your feelings.

Life, Hope & Reality was developed and written by Afaf Girgis, Claire Johnson, and Sylvie Lambert with funding from the NHMRC and Cancer Council NSW.

Last updated 30 August 2015