Relationships change when you have cancer

WARNING: Your Relationships Might Change During Cancer Treatment.

Good morning lovely you!

I hope it is not overcast cold and rainy where you are. It’s hard to feel cheery and bright when the weather is grey and nasty. Take a look at the photo above and imagine a bright sunny day.I see a smile on your face. Yay!

As I sit here sipping my cup of hot tea, I find myself thinking about the people in my life who I am so grateful for. My beautiful Dave and our lovely fur baby, Zuzu. And all of the people who have touched my life who live all over the country and world. My life is forever enriched because of each and every one of these amazing people.

There was a time when the relationships in my life took a beating, and that was when I was struggling to save my life from cancer.

You see, a cancer diagnosis doesn’t just affect you, it affects everyone in your life – your partner, parents, siblings, friends, and children. It also affects the relationships you have with these people. To what extent it affects the relationship comes down to how strong the bond was before the diagnosis and each person’s unique coping style.

Based on my own experience, I am going to share some of the most common relationship issues you may find yourself facing and ways you can work through these issues.

Common Relationship Issues

Whether it’s when you have been first diagnosed, during your treatment or right after, you’ll no doubt find that there will be adjustments and transitions that will throw a wrench into even the loveliest of relationships.
Prepare yourself for the following potential issues:

Shifting Roles

Before you got sick, you may have been the more active parent. You’re the one who knows which kid likes crust on their sandwich and which one doesn’t, who puts up a fight come bath time or how to tell when your oldest is lying. But you just won’t have the energy now to do things like you used to. This can cause tension between you and your kids and you and your partner as they adjust to fending for themselves for a little while.

Were you the friend that was always high energy and cracking jokes? You just won’t have the energy all of the time to be the life of the party and so being with friends may feel more awkward during this time.

It’s important to remember that your loved ones are doing their best to adapt to this new situation, and you will all need to be patient with each other as roles shift around.


Seeing your loved one fighting for their life isn’t easy. Some people can handle it, some people can’t. Don’t be surprised if friends and family members you didn’t expect suddenly stop returning calls or come around less often. Some people feel awkward, they don’t know what to say or how to help you.
It will definitely hurt and disappoint you to have loved ones suddenly avoid being around you but try to understand they are feeling scared and helpless.

Too Much Attention

You may find yourself avoiding those loved ones who take the opposite approach by smothering you with attention and advice. You may feel pretty good some days, but that won’t stop the “good intentions patrol” from babying you and insisting on doing everything for you. All I can say is to tread lightly and remind yourself that they love you and are coping with your illness by staying busy and doing as much for you as they can – it’s all they know how to help you.

When Normalcy Doesn’t Happen as Quick as You’d Like

You may hope and expect that after your recovery things will automatically go back to being the way they were before your diagnosis. But that may not be the case. Your partner and kids may have gotten into their own rhythm, and you will have to honor that and see how you can fit into their new routine at first.

In general, you’ll find it shocking that everyone else’s life moved on while you were caught in limbo, fighting for your own life. Try not to feel angry or hurt. Life is life, and it has a habit of moving on, even when our own life feels stuck in suspended animation.

I can tell you from my own experience, and from the people I’ve worked with, if your relationships were a bit weak to begin with, your cancer journey might be enough to help them fall completely apart. But if your relationships were strong, your treatment and recovery can help them become even stronger.

How to Nurture Your Precious Relationships During Treatment
There are definitely things you can do to help keep your relationships strong during and after treatment.
1. Acknowledge that your loved ones are acting however they are because they love you. Try to be patient with them.
2. Be as open as possible. Your loved ones may have questions but will not be sure how to or if they should ask you. Start some conversations and let your loved ones know they can ask whatever questions they have. Open communication is key to sustaining healthy relationships during your treatment.
3. Ask for help. People will want to know what they can do to help, so tell them. Your loved ones will feel good if they can help you, so let them.
4. Be clear on what you are capable of. Whether it’s during your treatment or right after, it’s essential that you tell loved ones exactly what they can expect from you as far as roles and responsibilities.
5. Let toxic relationships go. Now is the time to discover which relationships are healthy, and which you need to let go. Let this time be one where you freely clean house and let all toxic-ness in your life GO.

No one said cancer would be easy! It’s hard to deal with physical illness while trying to sustain your most important relationships. But if you follow these tips, you should be able to recognize what’s going on and cope as best you can.

It’s taken me many years to work this all out. I lost friends when I got sick and never understood why. It was a very lonely time in my life but also a tremendous spiritual awakening which I desperately needed to go through.

Sending you light, love, and warmth on this raining Tuesday.

 How did cancer effect your relationships? See you in the comment section.

3 Responses

  1. Hi Prue,
    Your blog posts are so timely. This one especially.

    I hear from 1 or 2 people from my work. That has been confusing and disappointing but I’ve been working on not attaching to that. It’s not about ‘me’. And I’m working on sending grace and love to them. They can only do what they can do. I understand its emotional for everyone.

    I’m learning to feel and share ‘universal love’ despite having hurt feelings. Particularly at a time in the world that is craving loving one another.

    With love and gratitude for you,

    1. Thanks Jenny. You have a great attitude. Everything is within us. All the love in the world is right there deep within us. We must forgive those who don’t understand and move on with grace. Just like you are doing!! Cancer changes us for the BETTER!! Hugs, Prue.

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