How to help your other half fight cancer

Published: 21 Nov 2017

Most of our blogs tend to focus on people who are fighting cancer, but in this latest post, we want to focus on those closest to cancer patients: your partners.

Watching anyone you care about battle cancer is hard, but it is often most challenging when that person is your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife.  You may be at a loss as to what you can do to support them during this time.

Seeing your spouse suffering can be incredibly difficult to handle, and it’s easy to feel helpless. However, there are many things that you can do to provide comfort and assistance during their chemotherapy treatment. Here are a few of our suggestions as to how you support your partner’s cancer battle:

Let your partner cry on your shoulder

It’s amazing how many cancer sufferers feel they have to be strong for friends and family, but you can create a safe environment for them to let down their guard.

Make sure they understand that they don’t have to put on a brave face around you. Reassure them that, however they are feeling, you’ll be there for them; with a cuddle, a kiss and a tissue to wipe aware their tears when needed.

Don’t take their mood swings personally

Sometimes, your other half may take their fears and frustrations out on you. As difficult as it is, don’t take this personally – you haven’t necessarily done anything wrong; they are just processing a huge life event that is interrupting their ability to function physically and emotionally.

Patience, tolerance and kindness are the best qualities to practice as a supportive partner. Just be careful not to suffocate them, as you may find that they also want some space to process how they are feeling. 

Talk honestly and openly about their fears 

It’s hard to talk about the scary side of cancer, especially with the person that means more to you than anyone else in the world, However, they are more likely to open up to you, their partner, than to anyone else.

Sometimes, it can be equally - if not more - difficult for loved ones, who are not fighting cancer to talk about your fears and express your emotions. This is usually for unselfish reasons but it’s important that you steel yourself and speak openly and honestly with your partner, no matter how much you don’t want to. 

Listen and acknowledge each others’ fears. Don’t just brush off concerns by saying ‘you’ll be fine’. Talk about strategies for coping with concerns together. Two-way communication is critical to helping your spouse cope during their cancer battle.   

Be there at the important moments

It sounds like an obvious point, but being by your partner’s side during medical appointments and treatment sessions will give them strength, and having someone to hold their hand can make all the difference.

Often it can be very helpful to pre-arrange that you take the lead in asking questions and make notes on medical advice, especially if your other half is feeling tired or emotional, 

As a partner of a cancer patient, sometimes it can be easier said than done to get time off work. Make sure you’re honest and open with your workplace about what’s happening and how it will impact your schedule – some of the tips from our blog post on telling your work you have cancer may come in useful.

Help out around the house 

On a practical level, there are a lot of things you can do day-to-day to make your partner’s life easier when they are going through chemotherapy. 

From cooking them nutritious meals, to doing the washing, or putting the kids to bed, taking everyday chores away from them will give your spouse more chance to rest and recover.

Even if your other half wants to keep routines as normal as possible, there will be days when they don’t feel well enough to complete usual tasks. This is where you can step in with small acts of kindness that make a big difference. 

Act as a ‘buffer’ for well meaning friends and family 

Naturally those around you will want to offer their support and assistance, but there may be days when your other half isn’t up to seeing anyone.

You can act as the gatekeeper during those times, providing updates on their condition and reassuring friends and family that you will call on them if you require any help.

It’s helpful to discuss with your partner who they do and don’t want to see during treatment, so you can manage offers of company accordingly. 

What was the best thing your partner did to help you through your cancer battle? Share your experiences on our Facebook group.