Reclaiming Our Relationship After Cancer

In honour of love week (and Valentine’s Day!) we’re sharing tales of modern love.

Every relationship has its moments. The ebb and flow. The highs and lows. But I never imagined this. To sit through numerous doctor’s appointments with my husband and feel the sting of those words: breast cancer, chemotherapy, radiation, surgery. To suddenly hear my life being talked about in terms of statistics.

Cancer hasn’t just affected me. It’s affected us. Watching our world shift from planning our careers and the possibility of starting a family one day, to putting things on hold to focus on my health and survival. The shared fear and uncertainty of our future together. The wait and worry with each scan. The feelings of helplessness as I lie on the couch after chemo riding the waves of nausea. The change in roles from partner to caregiver.

It’s been this tough balance seeing my husband put his emotions on hold to care for me. And not being able to provide him with the support he needs when most of my energy was spent just trying to get through each day. Countless months spent going to work and coming home to cook, clean and care for me. Having to inject me with Neupogen shots to boost my immune system. Bathing me when I couldn’t raise my arms post surgery. Walking me down the street and back holding me up so I wouldn’t fall.

Being able to communicate with each other has been so important though. Letting him know that I don’t always want him to try and fix things but to just be there for me and let me know that everything is going to be okay. How much I appreciate him cheering me on those days I struggle and making me laugh when all I want to do was cry. Holding my hand and riding this rollercoaster with me. Somehow being a rock that has remained constant in my life.

But I miss my husband. I miss our intimacy, our sex life. The days of carefree spontaneity and pleasure. I hoped that it would get better on its own but being forced into early menopause in my 30s has done a number on my body and on our relationship. Physically, mentally, emotionally. So, recently we went to see a sexual health specialist and laid it all out on the table.

At times I thought that my husband didn’t want to touch me. That I was no longer desirable. But to hear my husband open up in front of me and say things like “I don’t want to hurt you” or “I don’t want to place that extra burden on you when you struggle so much already with fatigue” was hard. Another stark reminder of how much this whole cancer thing has affected him too. Our hearts are both in it, but like most things we’ve been through together during this battle, it’s taken some work. Date nights. Reconnecting. Setting aside time just for us.

Taking this step has felt empowering though. To feel like we are moving forward to reclaim our relationship after cancer. Finding new ways to connect instead of focusing on the past and the burden of unrealistic expectations. Knowing we are both in this together trying to explore what works for us now and not what once was. Transitioning from patient and caregiver back to focusing on our marriage and partnership.

We have overcome some of the toughest challenges we ever thought possible. Weathered the storm. But above all this, we have gained a stronger love and appreciation of each other, held each other’s hand and never let go. – Kim Angell

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