Partners of breast cancer patients are at high risk for mood disorders. This is not difficult to comprehend. Breast cancer changes not just our lives but the lives of those who are closest to us, our marriage or relationship partners. The issues confronting us often make a partner feel she or he must be the strong one in the crises that crop up from time to time and in the big decisions of coping or choosing treatment regimens. Who actually administers to our partners? And, how often does a partner who is always there for us say, Don’t worry, I’m fine, or I’ll figure it out. How often does a partner with an issue make a statement like, Compared to what you’re going through, this is nothing.
Concerns in their own lives apart from our shared relationship and dealing with MBC can loom large and yet receive no attention because they will not allow it. They will stubbornly insist that they do not need support from us when they are experiencing issues. The perception, true or not, depending on the relationship, is that they must not require any support from us about anything. It is often a challenge to convince a partner that we can still be supportive. The closeness in our relationships can actually grow during this time, but it is frequently the case that relationships break up because of the strain. Statistics show that the rate of divorce is highest with older women but lower with women in long-term relationships.
Researchers found that partners who have lived with a loved one for five or more years who have breast cancer can suffer from depression, bipolar disorder and other affective disorders to the degree of requiring hospitalization. Of course, partners of patients with MBC need support as well as we do and may need mental health screening to ensure optimum mental health. It is probably a good idea that your partner’s primary physician (PCP) know that you have MBC so s/he can properly monitor your partner’s physical and mental health. Too often they do not even know that their patient’s partner has stage IV cancer because partners are good at being strong and hiding their own needs.
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