"I couldn't leave him alone and go to work"
Stephen and Margaret discuss how a globlastoma diagnosis has changed their lives.
If you or your partner has been diagnosed with a brain tumour, it’s natural for your relationship to change. The new practical and emotional challenges can put a strain on even the healthiest of relationships.
Adjusting to your new role as a carer, rather than just being someone’s partner, is difficult for many people. Particularly for couples where this is a big change. For those diagnosed, there’s often guilt over feeling like a burden and anxiety about their partner leaving. And the fear they’d be happier if they did.
Talking about these feelings can ease the strain, but what if the tumour or its treatment are making it difficult to communicate? If the areas of the brain responsible for speech and language are affected, finding new ways of communicating effectively can take significant time and patience.
Personality changes are common for those affected by brain tumours. After experiencing mood swings, aggressive behaviour or loss of inhibition, people often report their partner feels like a completely different person to who they fell in love with.
Ed from Kent was diagnosed with a Grade 4 glioblastoma in June 2018 after he collapsed at work. He and his wife have recently been using the relationship service the Charity offers in partnership with Relate to help support him as a husband and father.
“My wife and I had been together for 10 years when I was diagnosed. Until then, our relationship had been so carefree. From day one, we knew that we had a long-term future together and we had a good grasp of what we both wanted that to look like too. However, my diagnosis threw all that into question overnight. We did still get married just nine months later and we soon welcomed our first child after going through IVF.
“The diagnosis really changed how I viewed myself and how I felt that other people saw me too. All of a sudden, I needed help and support to complete what should be really simple tasks. I thought that I had become a burden – someone who needed caring for – and it really knocked my confidence. This resulted in a total lack of interest in the physical side of a relationship.
“The relationship service with Relate was so empathetic. I quickly built a rapport with a professional ear which gave me the confidence to discuss in detail the emotional and practical barriers which were creating the issues in my relationship. We talked openly and real effort was made to understand my situation, offer practical solutions and also understand that sometimes maybe I didn’t want to talk.
“If someone is looking for practical or emotional relationship advice, I can’t recommend it highly enough to help navigate the tricky ways in which a brain tumour diagnosis can impact on a relationship.”
It’s often uncomfortable, as you adjust to your relationship changing after a brain tumour diagnosis. It’s natural to feel sad about losing what you had or grieve for the loss of the future you’d planned together.
You don’t need to go through this alone though. Relate offers a wide range of content to help people experiencing relationship difficulties and we’ve teamed up with them to provide Relationship Support Service for couples and individuals whose relationship has been affected by a brain tumour.
We know that, sadly, some people in our community have seen changes in their loved ones that have led to them being violent or aggressive, although this is rare.
These changes can seem even more worrying in the current situation, but it’s important to remember that if this is something you’re experiencing, your safety is paramount and the current social distancing (or isolation) rules don’t apply if you need to leave your home to escape domestic violence.
If you feel you’re at risk of abuse, remember there’s help and support available, including police response, online support, helplines, refuges and other services.
You are not alone!
This content and our relationship counselling service have been created in partnership with Relate, the leading relationships charity in England and Wales. If you found this information useful, you might also find the following resources by Relate interesting:
This content and our Relationship Support Service have been created in partnership with Relate - the leading relationships charity in England and Wales.
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