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Metastatic breast cancer

Living with a life-threatening illness is a big stress and it’s also a big stress for the person who lives with you. – Peta

Being the partner of someone with metastatic breast cancer brings unique and often complex challenges. The nature of every relationship is different – some couples have been together for many years, others only briefly. Your partner’s age, personality and past experiences will shape their reactions, as will any pre-existing tensions between the two of you. The needs of partners can therefore vary enormously.

Research has shown that partners can feel as overwhelmed or depressed as the person with cancer. Partners can sometimes benefit from professional support or going to a support group. While there are increasing numbers of resources for male partners, female partners may face the added grief of feeling isolated and disconnected, and feel that their needs are not acknowledged.

Whatever the nature of your relationship, at least some of the following will almost inevitably apply to your partner:

  • feeling helpless and uncertain about how to respond to your needs
  • feeling isolated
  • finding it hard to express their own grief and frustration about the situation (including thoughts like, ‘They’re the one with cancer, I have to hold it together.’)
  • feeling fearful about what the future holds but being apprehensive about expressing these fears in the mistaken belief that they have to ‘be strong’ and ‘protect’ you from distress
  • feeling that talking about the situation will be too painful.

If you have young children, your partner may also worry about being left alone to raise them.

BCNA’s booklet She has secondary breast cancer: how can I support her? has been written to help partners, family, friends and colleagues understand your needs. Download now