Supporting your partner through a cancer diagnosis is complex and not always easy. We've compiled a list of suggestion from our families, of things that helped them stay connected and supportive in difficult times:
Remember this is going to be difficult for you too - look after yourself and accept help from others. You do not have to be strong all the time.
Find support for you, such as local support groups, others you may know in the same/similar situation. Mummy's Star can help with this.
Do not avoid talking about the subject of cancer; it needs to be acknowledged.
Take the lead from your partner when it comes to making decisions and talking about the difficult things, and also trust your understanding of them to let you know when to challenge or gently push.
It's totally normal not to know what to say sometimes. Share this with your partner or simply listen; sometimes it's the best thing you can do.
Treat your partner as you did before their diagnosis; they are still the same person though their needs will change.
Schedule time to do nice things together, whether that's going to a favourite restaurant, taking a walk, or snuggling on the sofa watching Netflix.
Don’t go over the top with sympathy... except when it is wanted!
Always ask if you are unsure what they need or how to help: there may be something specific that will be helpful, but (be prepared) they may also have no clue how you can help.
Do offer practical support: doing the ironing, cooking a meal, taking the child/ children out for an hour, doing the school run, grocery shopping. If this is difficult for you to manage, consider bringing in extra support from family, friends or hiring a cleaner.
Develop a network of family/friends who are willing to drive to and possibly attend appointments with your partner, especially if you aren't able.
Create a pool of people who can take on childcare duties for you want you to attend appointments or treatment with your partner. Consider hiring someone if needed.
Remember, each day will be different for your partner in terms of mood, energy, needs, so being responsive and flexible will help.
Find reasons to laugh together, things don’t stop being funny because you have cancer!
'I’m fine' can sometimes mean 'I’m not fine but I don’t want to talk about how I feel right now'. Don't take this personally, respect it and be ready to listen when they are.
Remember that you are a human in uncharted territory. We all make mistakes in life but be kind to yourself, learn and communicate and you will be doing the best you can.
Mummy's Star can help you with lots of the above so don't hesitate to email firstname.lastname@example.org to self-refer to us.