How the Relationship You Have With Your Husband Changes After Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide. It will affect up to one in eight women during their lifetime and can cause significant physical and emotional stress.
Fortunately, there has been substantial research on breast cancer and its treatment and, therefore, if caught early the survival rates are high. Despite this, when facing a breast cancer diagnosis, it is still essential to look after your mental well-being; the treatment regime can be challenging and can impact extensively on relationships with family and friends. Avoiding depression and maintaining strong attachments to those you are closest to will improve your overall quality of life.
The relationship between a husband and wife is unique. A successful marriage will encompass not only friendship, but also attraction to one another. Breast cancer can affect this relationship in many ways, and this article strives to explore some of the reasons why, from both a physical and an emotional perspective.
Many cases of breast cancer occur after the age of 50, when for most women their child-bearing days are over, but this is not always the case. Some women are diagnosed younger, and in these cases it is important to consider the impact any treatment might have on current family plans and future fertility.
Not all treatment causes infertility and there are preservation techniques, such as egg harvesting that can be implemented if loss of fertility is a concern. Discussing future family plans with your husband might not be something you anticipated having to do, particularly if you are young, but regaining some control is an essential part of coming to terms with your diagnosis.
It is advisable not to fall pregnant during breast cancer treatment, or even in the two years following. This is not only because the drugs you will be given might be harmful to the baby, but also because your body will need time to recover, even when treatment is over. Whilst this may be difficult to accept and waiting might be frustrating, view it as special time spent with your husband, to further develop the relationship that the two of you have.
Most women with breast cancer undergo surgery. Sometimes this will involve removing the part of the breast containing the tumour (lumpectomy), this is known as breast-conservation surgery; other times the whole breast might need to be removed (mastectomy), in this case all breast tissue, including lobules, ducts, areola and nipple, is removed. To prevent future relapse, some women opt to remove both breasts at the same time. Dealing with any of these surgeries, where body shape is altered, can be a challenge. When even looking at yourself in a mirror is difficult, revealing your surgical scars and new body shape to your husband can feel overwhelming. The Breast Cancer Care Organisation reveals that many of the calls to their helpline come from women who have undergone breast cancer surgery. These women describe a lack of confidence, low self-esteem, and embarrassment when it comes to removing their clothes, as well as a fear of rejection. This is a huge burden to carry alone, so it is advisable to talk through your feelings with your husband. Allow him to reassure you that despite the changes in your body shape, you are still the same person. If you want him by your side the first time you look in a mirror, tell him so.
Over time any swelling will subside and scars will fade, and with the option of advanced breast reconstruction and very realistic prosthetics, you will hopefully reach a stage, emotionally, where you can be happy with your shape again.
Chemotherapy side effects
At a time when you may already be dealing with low self-esteem, chemotherapy can cause a range of side effects that impact your confidence further. The very properties of chemotherapeutic agents that make them excellent at killing cancer cells, unfortunately also renders other cells in the body vulnerable to damage. Hair loss and weight gain are frequent side effects. Worrying that your husband will no longer find you attractive is a major emotional and psychological hurdle to overcome. If, following hair loss, your scalp becomes sensitive, itchy and uncomfortable, consider using a product such as the Ozalys Soothing Care Soft Scalp Milk. Alleviating the physical discomfort that chemotherapy can cause, should help you feel better equipped to deal with the emotional impact.
Low sex drive
With so much else to deal with, it is hardly surprising that following a breast cancer diagnosis a woman’s libido suffers. Dealing with stress, anxiety, extreme fatigue, body confidence issues and unwanted changes in appearance is a lot for anyone to deal with, and a loss of interest in sex is hardly surprising. An understanding partner will respect this and offer support in other ways. Perhaps you will still want the affection of a kiss or a cuddle, or the practical support of driving you to places, or taking you shopping for new clothes.
In most cases once treatment ceases, libido returns to normal.
Some breast cancer treatments that are hormonally-based can result in early menopause. This can affect your relationship with your husband on both an emotional and physical level. Emotionally, the menopause can cause anxiety, depression and mood changes; and when you have to deal with premature menopause, these feelings are likely to be exacerbated further. Physically, some of the typical symptoms of the menopause, including hot flushes, memory lapses and sleep problems, can impact the lives of those you live with.
For women undergoing treatment for breast cancer many of the above issues are interlinked. Post-surgical body changes in combination with either chemotherapy-induced hair and skin changes and/or hormonal fluctuations, may be sufficient to cause low self-esteem. However,couple this with concerns about future fertility, and in some cases early menopause, and it becomes apparent how psychologically vulnerable a breast cancer patient is.
Having breast cancer may change the relationship you have with your husband, but some of these changes might actually be for the better. Learning how to support each other through challenging periods, allowing him to comfort and love you when you are struggling to love yourself is paramount to getting through it. Allow yourself time to recover, emotionally and physically. You can rebuild your confidence, but take it a day at a time. Sometimes small steps are key; take the opportunity to buy new clothes that flatter your new body shape and do not aggravate your scars; apply specialist products to painful dry skin, to ensure it is fully moisturised (all of the Ozalys products come highly recommended), plan days out and experiences, so you can think about something other than your cancer diagnosis. Build up an impenetrable support network of your closest family and friends and involve your husband in all of the decisions that you make.
Ozalys’ products have been designed with women who have been affected by cancer in mind. Ozalys allows women to continue to care for themselves every day using products that innovate through their formulas, optimal absorption and packaging. Ozalys’ specially-formulated solutions are catered for physiological conditions that cause dermal sensitivity, or for the side effects of certain treatments that may result in olfactory and dermal ultra-sensitivity.
Ozalys’ personal hygiene, face and body care products have all been developed with the utmost care, minimising preservatives and excluding all substances suspected of being harmful to the body. Their highly soothing, moisturising and protective properties, as well as their delicate application and scent, turn daily beauty routines into moments of well-being and comfort.
- Hsiao, F H, et al. “The Changes of Quality of Life and Their Correlations with Psychosocial Factors Following Surgery among Women with Breast Cancer from the Post-Surgery to Post-Treatment Survivorship.” Breast, vol. 44, 4 Jan. 2019, pp. 59–65., doi:10.1016/j.breast.2018.12.011.
- Living with Breast Cancer in Women. NHS, www.nhs.uk/conditions/breast-cancer/living-with/. Updated 26/09/2016.
- Living with Breast Cancer. Cancer Research UK, www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/breast-cancer/living-with. Last reviewed: 29/12/2017
- Coping with a Low Sex Drive. Cancer Research UK, https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/coping/physically/sex/men/low-sex-drive. Last reviewed: 2/8/2018.
- Breast Cancer in Women. Healthtalk.org, www.healthtalk.org/Cancer/Breast_Cancer/Topic/1547/. Last updated: August 2018.
- Breast Cancer. Mayo Cinic, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/breast-cancer/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20352475. Reviewed: 10/1/2019.
- Young, Single and Facing Body Image Doubts Because of Breast Cancer. Breast Cancer Care, 16 Feb. 2015, www.breastcancercare.org.uk/about-us/news-personal-stories/young-single-facing-body-image-doubts-because-breast-cancer.