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Joined: 2/13/2007
Msg: 1
Chemotherapy and relationshipsPage 1 of 5    (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
As some of you may know, I have a girlfriend that was diagnosed with breast cancer. She already had four sessions of chemotherapy. They take place every three weeks and each day has a series of events, that gets worse and worse with each session. Unfortunately, one of the side effects not of the chemo but of the Steroids that they give you, is a bad temper, in some cases to the point of being very destructive.

I have tried during this time to not only be a father to her children, but a support system to her. I am not going to say that I have been perfect, or that our relationship did not have rough points, but I have tried to do my best. Anyway, we had a ridiculous fight a couple of days ago, because I took too long going to buy a lawn mower, instead of being with her. During the last Chemo session she was really bad and in bed. I would come in the room and check on her all the time, then cooked and took care of the kids, cleaned the kitchen. She wanted Matza ball soup and I forgot to get it from the supermarket. I drove back and got it so she would be happy. Well, she said that I chose a lawn mower over her and that she had enough. She took off, and a couple of hours later came back for her kids and left. Over the weekend she picked the kids clothes and enrolled them in a different school. She is staying with an old friend of hers that is more like a grandfather than anything else and I know him.

Anyway, my question is How has people dealt with Chemo, Cancer and relationships. Did the relationship managed to survive. Was it the Chemo, the cancer, the steroids, or simply the fabric of the relationship what made it fall apart. I am deeply torn over this. I will admit that I am no saint. But I feel completely devastated.

(If anyone wants to delete this you may be doing me a favor, but if you see the relevance, please comment. I need help.)
Joined: 1/7/2009
Msg: 2
Chemotherapy and relationships
Posted: 8/11/2009 10:51:01 AM
I'm genuinely sorry to hear about your gf's condition, and this situation. I can't give you any advise, as I've never dealt with this on a personal level. How about seeking support groups, talking to her doctor(s) or acquiring some educational reading material on side effects/how to cope, etc......?

Keep us posted, and God be with you all.

ADDENDUM: Here in NYC, we have a renowned cancer hospital Memorial Sloane-Kettering. I went on their website, and there is some information on there regarding various issues. Take a look at it, and if the hospital that she is being treated has something similar, you may want to reference it for support groups and such in your local area.
Joined: 12/22/2008
Msg: 3
Chemotherapy and relationships
Posted: 8/11/2009 10:56:28 AM
I can't say that I've been in your position but I've been around people who have had terminal illnesses. I can't imagine being in their position to know the types of things that go on in their head just dealing with the question of their own mortality, much less what drugs and treatments will do to them. From a number of your posts and from this one, you seem to be a pretty caring guy - a lot of people would run from this type of situation and bail. You didn't. Of course, we have no way of knowing what your reaction was with her personally when this transpired but for some reason she felt the need to leave you. To have enrolled her kids in a different school would indicate that she's pretty definite about splitting from you. If you've given her some time to cool off and calmly talk to her and let her know the benefits to both her and her children by keeping you in their life and she still says no, unfortunately, you'll have to walk away at this time and know that you did the best that you could. You've been responsible for your own behaviour - you can't be responsible for hers, no matter if it's the treatments or her mental state dealing with thoughts of her own mortality. I feel for you.
Joined: 1/18/2008
Msg: 4
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Chemotherapy and relationships
Posted: 8/11/2009 11:16:14 AM
Well, Outmind I certainly know what you're going through with an S/O with cancer and chemotherapy and stemcell replacement.

I don't know the prognosis of her cancer or what type she has but I'm very sure, every day she's feeling her mortality.....wondering....wondering.....
I'm sure her mind is in a whirl.

I must say that according to your post, you do the best you can, but I feel that it's not anything you've done to cause her departure.

My S/O of 12+ years died of cancer in 2007, it was so horribly heartwrenching to watch someone go through all of the treatments, 18 months worth of it. The stemcell replacement was the most gruelling on him. Often times he just didn't want anyone at all around to see him and what all of that was doing to him mentally and physically and could get touchy about it. But everyone understood. He said he sometimes just wanted to run away and hide from the world. Sometimes if you would look at him when he was talking he'd stop and snap, "What are you looking at?" Nobody would be staring or anything of that nature, just normal eye contact you have with someone when they speak.

From experience I don't really believe that it's anything that you have done and a lawn mower probably seemed like a small thing compared to the row she has to hoe. Her feelings and frame of mind are all out of whack not knowing what her future holds I would imagine.

She could be trying to separate herself from you, pushing you away in an attempt to spare you from going through this. In her mind (if this is what she's thinking, only a guess) she could be trying to do what she thinks is better for you. I don't know. Sometimes people do that.

These treatments are often times worse than the disease.
These things very often can and do take a toll on a relationship.

Have you tried talking to her since she's moved?
Let her know that you are there even though she's moved out?

I'm terribly sorry this is happening and hope that she makes it through her cancer to live a full rich life.
Joined: 2/13/2007
Msg: 5
Chemotherapy and relationships
Posted: 8/11/2009 11:24:51 AM
OP - you haven't given us enough info to help. Did you go check out lawnmowers instead of being with her while she was getting her chemo? Did she plan on counting on you to be there but you let her down? Or does she want you by her side 24/7? Was she left alone with no one to help her?

No, it's a little more complicated than that. Chemo itself is like going to an airport and sitting there for 4 hours. It is boring to any one. I have been with her during several chemo sessions because I know how it feels. The real problem begins usually two days later when the poison works through your body. You practically shut down. With the last one she shut down the same night. I was there with her. She did want me there, in the room 24/7 and I guess, I fail to do so. Instead I took care of things, cooked, cleaned, gave her food, checked on her again.

Apart from the steroid issue, it sounds like your girlfriend was just waiting for any little excuse to leave. Or maybe larger issues from the relationship were festering inside of her, and this latest fight was the last straw for her.

We've had this discussion and you are right, she says that I have been emotionally unavailable to her. And she may be right, because I do not know exactly what is going through her mind. But for instance, I would ask her, "how are you feeling" and she would say in a nasty tone "Well, can't you tell." So I would let her be. Then a couple of days later she will snap at me saying "You haven't ask me how I could you."

I am perplexed.
Joined: 2/13/2007
Msg: 6
Chemotherapy and relationships
Posted: 8/11/2009 11:54:26 AM

She's fine. And? Playing you like a fiddle.
Ease up on your self-guilt and take the hair shirt off for a bit.
Hugs, and you know you can email me any time!

Brutal as you always are, GoneSailing, thanks, I see what you are saying.

Everything you said is so right. So I am digesting now.
Joined: 1/18/2008
Msg: 7
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Chemotherapy and relationships
Posted: 8/11/2009 11:55:47 AM

Her diagnosis was NEVER life threatening. Ever. And you've rather coddled her - from the beginning. I see this as a temper tantrum

It wasn't ever life threatening? Ever?
I wish I had known that prior to most of what I typed in my above post.

I'm now inclined to agree with the majority of what ~GoneSailing~ has said.
Joined: 8/4/2007
Msg: 8
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Chemotherapy and relationships
Posted: 8/11/2009 12:07:17 PM
Outmind - I've seen your posts here forever...sometimes I agree, sometimes not. I have read about the gf...and it's hard to deal with illness . Within yourself, and when caring for someone else. My fiancee had MS, so my only familiarity with that is - the mood swings. YES, the illness itself causes havoc in a person. but the steroids were terrible. I swear to you that this man never once, in almost 6 years, yelled at me till I cried - until he was on the "roid rages". Then after that - HE would cry, inconsolable for hours, because of what he had done to me. Then - after that passed - he'd start yelling again. I also experienced the "don't leave my side" thing - I'd get halfway down the steps and he'd say - where were you, don't leave me. It's hard to know what to do, when whatever you do will be wrong. I can't speak to your gf's personality before her illness, as another poster did - that is something indeed for you to digest; and indeed it's for you to decide. Don't allow yourself to feel bad about taking care of business while she was ill - come now - someone HAS to cook, clean, take care of school/kids, run to the market, and yes even mow the grass. It doesn't matter who is ill - those things need to be taken care of. Please don't feel badly about trying to do what you could to keep things running while she was out of commission. I wish you well!

Joined: 1/1/2009
Msg: 9
Chemotherapy and relationships
Posted: 8/11/2009 12:25:28 PM
I'm sorry for what you're dealing with. I have seen your posts and while I don't always agree, you've always written about how happy you are about having found your GF, even if she's going through the chemo (and you go through the situation as well). Many would have bailed and it takes a special person to stick with it.

If I were to put myself into your GF's shoes (not that I really can, since I haven't made the experience) I think one of the hardest things for me to deal with would be the total reliance on other people. The feeling of helplessness. The asking someone else do do things for me, instead of just going and doing it. And even though you do it out of love, it would push some buttons in me that are very important: I'm very much into fairness and I would feel that it's unfair to be a burden to someone else. I'm proud of what I've accomplished and what I'm able to do and I wouldn't be able to do a lot of those things at the time. I'm very independent and would be come dependent. The fact that I wouldn't be able to reciprocate for things would be difficult etc would be somewhat of a temporary annihilation of who I am and I might push you away, because of self loathing, not because of something you've really done or not done. But out of shame of not being who I really am and you seeing me this way.

I don't know. I'm just rambling. That's just of the top of my head........
Joined: 1/7/2009
Msg: 10
Chemotherapy and relationships
Posted: 8/11/2009 12:29:45 PM
For whatever it's worth, I was RXd steroids for a bad case of allergies/sinuses infection, and the steroids did make me "cuckoo" (i.e. very emotional/insomniac). Some people do not react well to steroids/meds.
Joined: 2/13/2007
Msg: 11
Chemotherapy and relationships
Posted: 8/11/2009 12:45:36 PM
It wasn't ever life threatening? Ever?
I wish I had known that prior to most of what I typed in my above post.

GoneSailing is right, since I shared some info with her in the past about what was going on. My gf, was first in denial, that she didn't have breast cancer at all, that maybe it was a mistake. Then when they found that she may have multiple tumors and they thought her lymph notes were involved she became fatalistic. We actually changed doctors about twice, and actually some was right, since an article came out on the paper that the one hospital where we were had problems with how they followed up with their patients. So finally they did the Cat scan, and some other scan, and a series of biopsies and found that the cancer had not spread, thus instead of being stage 3 or 4 she was stage 2. The secondary tumors were not cancerous but are a type of mass that has more than a 50 chance of turning into cancer. This was a huge emotional roller coaster to her of sleepless nights, sometimes crying, other times checking every article in the internet. And then blowing that information out of proportion. All along I told her, look we may not know exactly what you have, but we do know what you do NOT have. So you need to relax and we just need to start the chemo.

So yes, she is a very emotional person. And I can understand that, and deal with it as well, what I do not understand is the mood swings. And Cookie said so well. One moment she would be mad, screaming at the kids. The next one she was fine. So after the chemo and the double lumpectomy and more chemo she should be fine. So we are talking about what, another 6 to 8 months of this.

Now if I sound a little dumbfounded, stupid, well I am. It's hard to help someone while they are kicking you (metaphorically of course).
Joined: 2/13/2007
Msg: 12
Chemotherapy and relationships
Posted: 8/11/2009 12:58:12 PM

Women will never understand why buying a piece of lawn equipment can take an inordinate amount of time. There are lots of options and features. I hope you got the self propelled model with a setting for's well worth the additional cost.

Those same women will be the ones who take 2 hours to go out for dinner.

I doc, that's too funny. Is a self propelled with mulch. And yeah, if I had said... Honey why don't you get ready to go out to eat, take your time. I am just going to check on mowers. I would have gotten home and she would still not be ready. Hahaha.

I still had to cut the yard the next day, since it was at that point were it was way too long.
Joined: 5/31/2007
Msg: 13
view profile
Chemotherapy and relationships
Posted: 8/11/2009 9:37:48 PM
iam sorry to hear about ur gf ...... sometimes it hard to be strong......iam sure she is VERY scared...... i think counsling is a good start... for both of u...i would also ask the doc if this bad temper is norm..... and see if he could sugest something for her.... but i think i would talk to her and be honest... about how scared u r also.............
good luck and god bless.......
Joined: 2/13/2007
Msg: 14
Chemotherapy and relationships
Posted: 8/12/2009 8:02:38 AM

Its the steriods, making you fat, making you eat, making you go insane at the drop of a hat, making you feel tired, used up and dried out, then making you high, then making you so low you would happily put your head in the oven.
Its the positive people, who tell you its about willpower and attitude.

Chemotherapy and relationships
Posted: 8/12/2009 10:00:57 AM
I have to agree with Gone Sailing.

People react proportionate to their personality. If a person is quiet, s/he will react quietly. If a person is optimistic s/he will react optimistically. If a person is a victim, s/he will act as a victim. And so on.

From what I read of Gone's and Out's posts, this behaviour was not shocking although the extreme she took it may have been.

I cannot tell you how I would react as I have never been in that situation.
Joined: 1/4/2007
Msg: 16
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Chemotherapy and relationships
Posted: 8/12/2009 10:02:20 AM
OP, sorry about your unfortunate circumstance but I have known a few that went through Chemo and this isn't the usual behavior. Like gonesailing said, everyone handles things different but this seems to be an extreme case. This probably has already been posted but there are special counselors for Cancer patients, friends and family included. Best of luck to you.
Joined: 7/20/2005
Msg: 17
view profile
Chemotherapy and relationships
Posted: 8/12/2009 10:54:07 AM
I know about mood swings from medication, and realize it is a difficult thing to be around, but to be honest, it's actually really easy to deal with it if you know what to do. What's that are like mascara, they run at the first sign of emotion? Often when men don't know what to do in reaction to irritability, they will exacerbate the problem by withdrawing further or getting annoyed themselves and/or getting defensive. Then it can quickly blow up. When it really didn't need to.

What she was asking for was some reassurance that you WOULDN'T choose a lawnmower over her. It's phrased in the negative and accusatory which is not good communication on her part of course (and hence why the mood disruptions from the meds can be a problem), but it CAN be mollified. Instead of getting defensive or arguing when you return and she's upset, you do the exact opposite thing that comes instinctually to you (which is close down, run away or withdraw), and you go up and give her a big hug. You can say, I see that you're hurt, and I'm sorry if what I did hurt you, but I did not intend to hurt you. Of course you are more important to me than a lawnmower. Do you want to talk about it? Then you can take turns opening up about why the situation was hard for you. Perhaps you are tired and don't have the patience to nurse her and therefore come up with excuses to get away (even though she has no way to get away herself). You can admit that when she is calm and figure out solutions, as long as you take ownership of that. Because I have never heard of a lawnmowing emergency that required a new lawnmower to be purchased right that moment (the grass will still be there tomorrow), I think that if it was a day she particularly needed you, it probably would have been wise to postpone it to another day.

If you explain how difficult it is for you to do the nursing but communicate the DESIRE to be there for her when she needs it, she will not leave you because you are not good at it. She will leave you if you stand your ground and act like you are entitled to your lawnmower time or whatever it is. She just needs to know that she is important to you, and when you're moody and imagining that your partner doesn't care enough, the thought hurts that much more. It is never too late to fix things either. Call her up right now and talk to her. Keep calling if she won't talk the first time. Show her that you do care, and that you want to fix things. Do not try to keep defending your point of view. You can open up and tell her your FEELINGS about how you wish you could do a better job (if you are capable of that right now), but do NOT get back into any arguments about details like how hard you worked at taking care of her the last time she was in chemo, for example.

Moods can be exacerbated by drugs and throw perspective off, but that doesn't mean that whatever she has to say during a mood swing should be discounted. It just means it might take a bit more understanding from you when she communicates what she has to say in an inappropriate way (angry, and accusing).
Joined: 2/13/2007
Msg: 18
Chemotherapy and relationships
Posted: 8/12/2009 1:13:05 PM

He made it through surgery, but, due to a depleted T-cell count (which the docs rumored was high enough to perform surgery) sepsis/infection overtook his bloodstream, his body kept filling with fluid, and, in horrible pain, he told us all he loved us and couldn't hold on any longer...suffered a massive stroke and pretty much called it quits after...didn't want to live anymore. He didn't make it; passed away about 4 days later. I'm sure he wasn't in his right mind, and, sounds like, neither is your GF.

Wow. I feel for you brother.

I saw her today at the house and she has even lost more weight on her face. She looked like in bad shape. I mentioned the Roids rage thing, and she accused me that I was the one with rage and issues, not her. I am trying to understand her, to help her. I even offer to do what it takes to deal with this in HER WAY, as Gonesailing mentioned, but it was too late.

So, this is not about a lawn mower, or just Chemo, or just Steroids, but all of them put together. Obviously I am not emotionally there when she thought it was important. I guess I am guilty of not understanding, of not getting it and I take full responsibility for that.

One side of me says, move on. The other wants to continue.
Joined: 2/13/2007
Msg: 19
Chemotherapy and relationships
Posted: 8/12/2009 2:58:07 PM

My wife battled breast cancer for six years before She passed away, and there were many times that Her fears were parlayed into fits of anger and she lashed out at Me for not caring enough.

Dude I hear you. But my question, first, I am sorry about your wife. At what stage was she diagnosed? Did you see big changes in the behavior. When she told you didn't care enough, what did you do right in your mind, what would you have done different?

And by the way, she left me, so it's not like I can now take her of her.

I talked to her about getting together for dinner and she said that she was too sick and needed to rest. Then thank me for asking. She is close to date 10 from the Chemo day and usually she is comatose that day since I guess it's the low white and red blood cell count.

Also she used to take a small dosage of Prozac and Adarol (I think it's called) and they don't work on the first 10 days, so she takes them then on after that.
Joined: 2/13/2007
Msg: 20
Chemotherapy and relationships
Posted: 8/13/2009 7:17:57 AM

When you are trying as hard as you are to 'get it right', you need her to appreciate what you're doing. I think you need to try less hard: ensure you can sustain any efforts you are making without knowing that you're getting it right. Do what you do because you want to do it, give only what you can give freely -- be more selfish in order to protect her from feeling that she ought to be thankful.

There's a certain resonance to this statement and it makes sense. Unfortunately, being an intense person like me, sometimes it does not help. I have the mentality of go get it, and have it done. Letting things float and just be become rather difficult. It is the feeling of either you deal with your life or life deals with you. So learning to let go, in a Zen way, in a Buddhist sort of way is what comes to mind, and to stick to no matter what try to be compassionate. So I am letting go.
Joined: 2/4/2006
Msg: 21
view profile
Chemotherapy and relationships
Posted: 8/13/2009 7:30:59 AM
Well, that's kind of a pickle with her taking off but I'm not sure it means the end of the relationship. I don't think you can ever walk in another person's shoes when you feel that bad, that helpless, when you are worried that you are going to leave your children without a mother.

When I was in the coma two years ago, the whole waking up and getting my life back was surreal and when you are used to being normal and suddenly your body is skin and bones, weak as a puppy, etc., plus your brain hasn't fired up all the connections yet. That year was horrible for me and my daughter because we were both so frustrated that I wasn't "me."

I suspect she is with grandfather guy because he is safe and she doesn't feel the need to try to hold up her end of a relationship. Before you got to the fight and moving out part I would have suggested you try to remind yourself that the insanity would lessen when the chemo is over.

People have problems making it through something like this when they have been happily married for years but trying to do it when you are still in a new relationship no matter how wonderful it is I would think would be incredibly hard.

My suggestion and I know it may sound a little crazy, but if you want to work things out, which I assume you do, you cannot take this personally. If you love her, accept that your role in her life may be different for a while. If she feels more comfortable being sick as a dog, yada, yada, and because there are no intimate emotions she will be able to not lash out at this guy, living with him atm may allow her to do this with more grace than she would be able to accomplish with you.

I soooo, sans the ordeal aspect of it would like a redo of my recovery, to just let all the b.s. go and have trusted more that things would get better that whatever condition I was in on a certain day, that wasn't as good as it was going to get.

The other thing I can tell you from personal experience, the hardest part of what she is going through right now is her kids. I almost died, but I didn't die. When I was processing all of the information after the fact it absolutely chilled me to the core that I almost checked out and wasn't even able to say good-bye to my children, had in fact fought with my daughter the night before I slipped into the coma because she was mad that I was in the hospital on her birthday.

She is probably trying to be positive, to focus on beating the cancer, but she has this nagging fear that she can't get away from and because you love her and she can't physically or even verbally lash out at the cancer, she has lashed out at you. Give her some time, speak to her about you spending time with the kids so that they can do fun things and so she can have a break and let her know that while it hurts you can understand why she may be more comfortable hanging at grandpa guy's pad, and see what happens from there.

Have you spoken with a counselor at a cancer center or her doctor about the ways they have observed significant others being positive supports during this treatment as well as the disease in general? I think if you haven't that would be a good place to start because I assume that you would still like to remain a friend and supporter to this woman should you not manage to work things through.

You two are in my thoughts and prayers.

After reading many of the reposts I have to question whether it matters when this was diagnosed in terms of the psychological reaction to it. She obviously feared cancer if she couldn't even get herself to the doctor when she should have. No matter how good the prognosis, until she feels well again and/or perhaps never, is she really going to feel safe from the disease. I was pretty darned paranoid for a while because the type of pneumonia I had has only two antibiotics that are affective in treating it and while relapse is fairly rare, it can happen even a couple of decades later.

I had three c-sections but for some reason when I had a hysterectomy, which is much the same procedure to a degree, I was totally paranoid I would die on the table. Not much making sense there, it is just the way I reacted emotionally to the surgery.
Joined: 10/8/2007
Msg: 22
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Chemotherapy and relationships
Posted: 8/13/2009 8:13:32 AM
Outmind, I wrote you privately a few days ago thinking that my experiences in this area were not applicable merely because they didn't involve cancer with significant other.

As this thread goes on, I see there is something going on in my thinking that resonates beyond the fact that you're dealing with a significant's also seems to be beyond limiting it to cancer to perhaps dealing with relationships when disease or illness or something so catastrophic and fearful happens to threaten 'self' that it becomes this kind of primal survival thing to act this way.

I'm experiencing something very similar to what prompted you to write this thread and have been for the better part of 6 weeks or so. I have someone exceptionally close to me that is venting and railing and has, as your girlfriend has, pulled away in almost the same way that you detailed because of illness. I understand that this right now, is one of the most important things I can do for him. He needs to do personify through me what he is railing against what he is fighting. The details of his case are unimportant--it is not cancer, but trust me that in every way a fight for his very existence.

I marvel at his strength of character and his resilience. I too was overcome hurt when this started. I've come to learn that he to be able to do this...and for me that I need to take it. In my case, there is no option of walking away permanently---I could never live with myself. What I have done is find a way to 'walk away' from the feelings of hurt that were painful and consuming me...and thoughts that like couldn't he see all I was doing for much I loved him? I left that line of questioning behind...and replaced it with recognizing how amazingly resourceful he is and that his truly compassionate and loving nature is only temporarily being obscured by this.

Giving him what he needs by being this 'punching bag' is something that only a 'strong' person that is intimate and close to that person can be to another. I am strong enough to take this. I do whatever it takes mentally to push myself away from making any of this about me, and remembering that for right now anyway, it's about him.

If I happen to be caught up in the flotsam and jetsam of a ride that I didn't ask for for a while---it's because he needs hang on to me...use me to push release some of the more poisonous aspects of disease...that are bi-products of living with immense stress dread and fear. I am strong enough for this and for him. I think you are too.
Joined: 2/13/2007
Msg: 23
Chemotherapy and relationships
Posted: 8/13/2009 9:31:42 PM

Was she a Diva?
A princess?
Demanding of your attention?

b itch. I love you. You got my message? You are so in the money.
Joined: 2/13/2007
Msg: 24
Chemotherapy and relationships
Posted: 8/13/2009 9:37:11 PM

Most people did not give me much of a chance of survival, and there were any number of times when I was very close to death. But I am very lucky, and I had great doctors, and support from friends and family, and I survived to be much healthier. The recurrence rate for my kind of cancer in the first five years is 60% - but now that I have passed three years, that number has dropped to around 7%. You both can make it through. I wish you both luck.

God, I am so fvcking proud of you. And your ability to open up and speak!!!! Thank you.
Joined: 2/21/2005
Msg: 25
Chemotherapy and relationships
Posted: 8/13/2009 11:19:46 PM
I am so sorry for the both of you. This is extremely difficult and I know that emotions are running wild at this point. But my advice to you is that you are going to have to make some decisions for her, as she is obviously not herself at this point.

Go get her. Take flowers, take candy, take jewelry, whatever, but go get your girlfriend and her kids. Remain calm throughout, but you go to where she is staying, you tell her in no uncertain terms that you love her, you miss her, and you will do whatever it takes to get through all of this, but that she is sick and you are determined to take care of her, no matter what.
Those kids deserve a man who cares in their lives too. Be it.

Don't take no for an answer. Now is the time that she needs you to be the Knight in Shining Armour, and sweep her off her feet. Get off your ass and do it.

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