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Relationships

You and Your Partner

You and your partner are individuals, and each of you will cope differently with the stress that accompanies your child's diagnosis, treatment, and life after cancer. The strain of a life-threatening illness, spending time apart, struggling to pay bills, and creating some sense of normalcy for the other members of your family can be overwhelming for a couple and can wreak havoc on your relationship.

After your child's treatment ends and follow-up care continues, you and your partner may be unable to return to your old sense of normal. Childhood cancer changes people. Don't let it define you, but recognize how it has changed you and integrate it into your new life as a couple and as the parents of a childhood cancer survivor.

The following excerpt is taken from "Amanda's Gift," a book by her father, Scott MacLellan:

"There is no time for intimacy and no peace with which to want it. Our identities soon become intertwined with activities aimed at survival, not growth. I am no longer husband, I am provider of health insurance and weekend caregiver. I am no longer friend and lover, I am father and mother to 'the healthy child' who still lives at home. We all become something other than what we imagined.

"Amanda's illness became our life. All our activities already centered around her care, but we also allowed it to define who we were as people. It became our only common bond. It became the thing for which we stood. We became "the couple with the sick little girl." People would marvel at our ability to stay together in spite of the illness. In fact, the illness was the only thing keeping us together at all!

"Our toughest time came when Amanda entered a relatively healthy phase and things returned to a somewhat normal life. It was then our common bond broke and we had to face each other as individuals and as a couple. It was then we had the time to consider our own personal egos. It was then we felt the deepest void between us."

"For Deborah (my wife) and me, the key was to integrate Amanda's illness into the rest of our lives. We started looking at Amanda's illness as a part of our lives, not our life itself. In short, we began to take back control of our lives."

As you and your partner take back control of your lives, make time for yourselves as a couple.

  • Watch a movie
  • Hold hands
  • Play a game
  • Pray together, if you are religious
  • Go out with friends
  • Talk. Share your thoughts
  • Laugh together
  • Forgive each other, if needed
  • Enjoy your family

Additional information can be found here:

  • What About Your Other Kids?
    Presenter: David Buchbinder, MD, MSHS
    From: Children's Hospital of Orange County, University of California, Irvine

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Your Friends

You may find it difficult to talk to your friends and other community members about your child’s cancer diagnosis. Most adults have limited experience with cancers affecting children. When you talk to people about your situation, they may act as though your child has received a terminal diagnosis.

But don't give up if you get negative reactions. Instead, educate your friends about childhood cancer. Explain that childhood cancer is very different from adult cancers in that prognoses are better and that causes are generally unknown. Understanding your child's diagnosis will probably make your friends more comfortable discussing cancer.

Some friends, however, may not stay connected to you during this difficult time despite all of your efforts. This happens for a variety of reasons. Some may drift away because a cancer diagnosis reminds them of their own vulnerability. Others may react negatively if you don't return phone calls or initiate contact when your schedule gets especially hectic, although most people are willing to offer friendship when your time permits.

In fact, your experience with cancer may alter your life so much that you will want to make new friends. In any case, as you transition back to "normal" life, it's important to develop and maintain a strong network of friends.

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