First-person account of how cancer can affect a marriage

Ask women about their relationship, writes Jody Schoger, and "you’re apt to hear variations on this theme, 'He never blinked,' or 'He really showed me how strong a man he truly is.' In other words, you’re not apt to hear what it’s truly like for some women." On her blog, she publishes a first-person account from an anonymous contributor that rings true for many. The tl;dr: the impact of cancer is really, really hard for both partners in a relationship—before, during, and after treatment.


  1. A friend of mine is going through chemo at the moment, and she is the very definition of fortitude and humour, and I told her so.  If and when I encounter anything as tough, I hope I have even 1/10 of what she brings to the table.  She and her husband are blogging the lot, and are tight as tics.

    1. My wife started blogging her cancer story too, right up until the hardest part where she was too sick to do it anymore. She died about a month after that. But my wife’s illness was short, only about three months from diagnosis until she died, so it wasn’t exactly the same experience as people who do this for years, or who are talking about recovery.
      I can’t say that a lot of my experiences don’t match the article, though. My daughter had turned to me as a primary parent shortly after my wife got sick, because my wife couldn’t care for her (she was only about 15 months old). Our sex life stopped, which sounds trivial but is still challenging. It’s hard not too get angry when your workload suddenly triples but there’s less money to go around. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Hopefully that I’ll ever have to do.

  2. I feel like the people with cancer are under a lot of pressure to not complain because if they do people are going to come down on their beloved significant other with undue force. 

    You monster, how can you not be the most caring, supporting, helpful person in the world, YOUR WIFE HAS CANCER!  It’s really hard on everybody involved and they don’t need busybodies berating people for being human. 

  3.  your friend and her husband sound fab. power to them, and love for a good outcome.

    but part of the power of this post is that the woman writing it is obvi seen as fab by her pals too. the long haul of treatment and the isolation may leave things less than rosy on the inside of a relationship over time. i think that is why so many patients have RT’d the heck out of this post.

  4. i think i am seeing that the “heroic” survivors are supposed to be accompanied by “noble” caregivers. this crock is hard on all involved.

    and tyler, i am truly sorry for your loss.

  5. Day 2 home and my husband says, “I thought this surgery was supposed to make you better. I can’t take this much longer. I’m not going to put up with this for the rest of my life.”

  6. Nobody takes caregiver classes just in case. I did what I could for my wife, stumbled, fell, got back up, re examined my priorities and did all I could to provide a buffer so she could deal with the worst of it without feeling like the world was caving in. It was 8 months of a non-stop  barrage of appointments and chemo and surgery, it almost seems like a blur now. With pancreatic cancer there’s a lot less talk of recovery, so we just fought for everyday. My work was really understanding and allowed for a lot of time away. Between that and the support of family we gave her some peace and comfort. As tyler said, hopefully the hardest thing I’ll ever do, and love gets you through it.

  7. My mother struggled to beat cancer for six years with my father by her side before she passed. Just thinking back on it still amazes me to this day. My father was diagnosed with depression after her illness began and worked 60-hour weeks, but was always there for her. Truly incredible and it’s definitely worth taking a closer look at – I’m sure experiences like Bonnie Ash’s are somewhat common, and something like cancer is bound to take a toll on a relationship regardless of anything else. I’m not expressing myself very well, but this is definitely a topic that needs discussion.

    1. MY wife is going thru her second bout w/ lung cancer….and ive noticed one thing, nobody ever mensions the one factor that totally disappears >the sex <.. yes youve tried to express & come close…….but for furthur education "cemo brain "…the brain is so f—ed up that  the body follows.  it is very hard for men to be caregivers..our hearts are with our wives. ,,But ….it is not easy to subdue our biological needs , knowing the whole time that the woman i love ,has had a radiation labodomy…

  8. So many great comments.  

    We have so far to go in cancer treatment and care – for the entire family.  Both my partner and sister were as impacted by treatment as I was – yet as I think back the only person the doctors ever asked about was me. There they sat, in uncomfortable chairs, waiting, watching. 

    Since then my husband has been the patient on the table three times. I’ve been the one sitting in the chair, quiet, watching. I’ve been the one with the stiff upper lip and believe me, at the time I wouldn’t have acted any other way. It’s what you do when the person you love is in treatment that’s hard to look at; hard to imagine.  It’s what you do.

    But that doesn’t mean you aren’t tired, or grumpy, or mad, or wishing that, for once, you could take a day off.  It doesn’t mean you wish you’d both found another way to spend every last dollar you had.  It doesn’t mean that there aren’t days that you don’t begrudge those with “normal” day-to-day problems and concerns.  I know I did.  

    There are failures on a number of levels. There are failures when the family group (whatever its makeup) doesn’t’ have it’s needs acknowledged; it is a failure in the community that our support for people who are chronically ill fades as soon as the first set of stitches are removed.  

    There are lessons for all of us but first, I credit the anonymous writer who honestly spoke the truth and all of you for sharing your stories.

    Thank you so much,

  9. My wife suffers from clinical depression, and the last two years of my life have been very similar to what people have described here… taking care of our toddler by myself (although thankfully with a lot of help from my mother-in-law), using up our savings to pay for day care, no sex life…. I often found myself wondering if, when I was feeling most angry and resentful, was whether I’d feel the same way in she had cancer instead of depression. I came to realize that it probably would be very similar. It’s tough. But I maintain hope that we’ll get through it. It helps that I have a really great kid :)

    Thanks for sharing.

Comments are closed.