Talking with partners

The emotional support provided by a partner can affect how you cope with the diagnosis. How you communicate with your partner about cancer depends partly on how you’ve always communicated. Many relationships can be challenged by a cancer diagnosis. This may be because of several factors, including an uncertain future, financial worries after the diagnosis, and social isolation.

There may also be role changes for both of you. Your partner may try to protect you by doing everything for you, which can challenge your sense of independence. Or you may not be able to do things you used to do, which can lead to feelings of frustration and helplessness. These feelings are common for people diagnosed with advanced cancer.

Some studies suggest that partners experience levels of distress similar to or greater than those of the affected partner, and as a result may feel depressed and anxious.

Ways to talk to your partner

  • Share your feelings about how you’re coping with the diagnosis, and give them the opportunity to do the same. Being open and honest can help you and your partner through any anxieties, sadness and uncertainty, and your relationship may become stronger.
  • At times, you and your partner may not share each other’s feelings, attitudes or opinions, and this can lead to tension. It can help if you still feel involved at home and with the family, even if you can only do small tasks and need to pace yourself.
  • You may find it difficult if your partner doesn’t want to talk about the diagnosis or your treatment options with you. They may unconsciously distance themselves as a way of coping, without meaning to be hurtful.
  • When things are tough, you could try telling your partner what you need most from them. Many people say that their biggest single need is for a sympathetic listener. Remind your partner that the important thing is not what they say – but to be there and to listen. Let them know you appreciate their support and that you understand that it’s tough for them too.
  • Often the partner is the main carer, and will need support with emotional, practical and physical concerns. For more on this, see Information for carers.

    − Kaye

We use the term ‘partner’ to mean husband, wife, de facto, same-sex partner, boyfriend or girlfriend.

Listen to our podcasts on Family Dynamics and Cancer and Cancer Affects the Carer Too


Sexual intimacy

We are all sexual beings, and intimacy adds to the quality of our lives. During the initial shock of diagnosis, sex might be the furthest thing from your mind. Physical contact, such as hugging or holding hands, can provide comfort. Over time, you may have questions about your sexual and intimate life after cancer.

There may be times when it is difficult for you and your partner to have the kind of closeness you would like. Depending on where the cancer has spread, or the type of treatment you’re having, you can feel sore and find even a gentle hug uncomfortable. Your partner may avoid contact for fear of hurting you or you may avoid physical contact for fear of rejection.

Ways to establish sexual intimacy

  • Allow time to adapt to physical and emotional changes.
  • Most people find it is easier to re-establish contact by lying close together in bed. If this first step is hard, ask your doctor, nurse or therapist to suggest ways to help make sexual intercourse easier.
  • If sexual intimacy is no longer possible or desired, you may find physical closeness in other ways, such as cuddling, stroking or massage.
  • Talk with your partner about your feelings and concerns about the sexual changes in your relationship, and acknowledge the changes in intimacy.
  • Call Cancer Council 13 11 20, see Sexuality, Intimacy and Cancer, or listen to our podcast on Sex and Cancer

Physical and emotional intimacy

Physical and emotional intimacy can provide comfort at difficult times. A sense of closeness can come unexpectedly. A kiss from a child, a hug from a friend, or a caring touch from a nurse could make a difference to your day.


Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on living with advanced cancer.


Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

Need more help? Visit: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4059

Kobo

To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit: http://www.kobo.com/help/koboaura/response/?id=3784&type=3

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit: https://au.readerstore.sony.com/apps_and_devices/

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200375630

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.


This information was last reviewed in December 2016
View who reviewed this content
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