Boy and mother in the background, another boy in the foreground jumping in the air

Your well-being while caring for a sick loved one

Caring for the well-being and resources of the patient is often overshadowed by the confusion, sadness and exhaustion experienced by the spouse or partner. When faced with a loved one’s cancer diagnosis, your first thought may be about coping with it and perhaps to try to take control of the situation. Your well-intentioned efforts may cause additional stress for both you and your partner.

Your well-being while caring for a sick loved-one

Every cancer patient’s journey has its own timeline, no matter how well you try to prepare and anticipate the ups and downs ahead. Facing the reality of life can be frustrating and exhausting, even if you have a good plan.

As a spouse and partner, it’s good to be aware of the things that trigger stressful emotions in you. Sometimes they may be triggered by

  • A sense of sacrifice, “I’ve given so much and get nothing in return”.
  • Feelings of powerlessness, “I can’t cope with all the things I have to deal with.”
  • A longing for intimacy and sex: “When will it be my turn? Will I be able to want like I used to? Are my needs justified?”
  • Worries about coping financially and emotionally. 

What can help?

Make time for yourself

Make regular time for yourself. Putting off your needs for a while is sometimes necessary and shows flexibility of mind, but if your needs go unmet over a longer period, it will significantly affect your well-being, physical health, relationships and quality of life. By making sure that you take good care of yourself, you are more likely to be able to support your partner in the long term, and both you and your relationship will be better off.

It’s perfectly normal to feel guilty about taking time out for yourself, but taking care of yourself is the best way to help and support your partner.

Talk about your feelings

You are allowed to feel strong and overwhelming emotions, the whole range of emotions. If you  suppress your feelings, you may build up resentment, anger, feelings of being left out. Facing your feelings will help you to move forward and find a new, more compassionate relationship with yourself and your situation. It is understandable that you may feel exhausted and hurt, especially if your family relationships have been challenging and difficult in the past. You may ask why I should be the one to care for and support my spouse.

Being kind to yourself 

It’s understandable that your partner’s illness, with all its uncertainties, is a burden for you too. It is in such challenging and stressful circumstances that it is important to try to find compassion and leniency in how you treat yourself, instead of making unreasonable demands. Worry can drive you to do more and more or to do all the things you were previously capable of.  Pause to consider what is most important at this time and save your energies for these things.

Get support before you need it

At the beginning of your partner’s illness, you may feel strong and able to cope and not feel the need to accept help from friends. Exhaustion can creep up on you, so it’s good to lean on others and allow yourself to take care of yourself by taking time for yourself.


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