Although my spouse has cancer, the illness is really happening to both of us. Our life is being disrupted in many (though not all) of the same ways. We are sharing many of same emotions and concerns. We are both challenged to find constructive ways of dealing with the disruptions and threats posed by cancer and with the side effects of medical treatments. It can be tremendously reassuring and comforting to know that the two of us are facing the illness together and that our support and involvement will be steadfast and unwavering regardless of what happens.
I've begun to understand that most cancer patients feel pressure to maintain a positive mental attitude, and too often this pressure prevents them from expressing their true feelings. I know Terence sometimes holds back in sharing some of his legitimate concerns because he does not want to disappoint or burden me, or because he thinks that negative emotions might jeopardize healing. But we make a concentrated effort to encourage one another to support and validate both sets of his emotions (not only the positive ones).
The cancer treatments have affected his sexual function. The chemical castration is caused by prostate cancer treatment (hormone therapy). The key to dealing with this issue is open communication. It’s typical for most couples to be reluctant to broach this topic, but we acknowledge these issues and convey our desire to face them together. I also go out of my way to reassure Terence of my love (because of who he is as a person, not because of physical attractiveness or sexual performance), that my main priority is his survival, and that I continue to desire him!
I can’t assume that I know what Terence is thinking or feeling about the cancer, or that I know what he needs from me. I might think that he wants me to offer encouragement and hope, when actually he just wants me to say is ``I'm with you and we'll face this together no matter what happens.''
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