Coping with being less independent
One of the most common difficulties people face after a brain tumour diagnosis is feeling like they’ve lost their independence.
The physical or cognitive challenges they experience may mean they now need help with everyday tasks, such as dressing, shopping or even socialising. If they’re no longer able to work, they may need to depend on their partner financially too.
For many people, losing their driving licence represents something much bigger than having to rely on loved ones or public transport to get around. It can become symbolic of all the ways they’ve become less independent because of their diagnosis.
For partners, the additional caring responsibilities can make them feel like they’ve lost some of their freedom. Especially if they’re balancing this with their career or raising a family.
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 completely natural for a relationship to feel less balanced than it was before the diagnosis. Adjusting to this can be uncomfortable for many couples and, unsurprisingly, it can put a strain on the relationship.
If this happens, communicating with your partner about how you feel is vital. Although, this can be more complicated if the brain tumour is causing difficulties with speech, language or understanding.
You don’t need to go through this alone though. Relate offer a wide range of content to help people experiencing relationship difficulties and we’ve teamed up with them to provide our 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: