Cancer is tough and its long treatment is unbearable. You and people around you are forced towards the new normal, exactly like the feeling of lockdown and there is no unlock coming. It affects your job, dents your career and financially empties your pockets, affecting the remaining life of the family. Caretaking takes centre stage.
Cancer makes us realise how fragile and delicate our present life is. We re-examine every life decision and every curve passed around them. We crosscheck in every vocabulary and break down communication in our minds. Terminal illness changes the role and creates guilt.
All these breakups and relationships become more difficult to handle, particularly if you are invested in them. There is too much written about it. There is enough meme to literature about it. Half of Urdu Shayari, I think, was invented for the same.
The health condition slowly takes away everything. Some lose strength in their legs and are wheelchair-bound. The next possibly will be voice or neck. It’s like a breakup, basically two people going their separate ways as they are no more aligned to a common goal. The body fights any new agent, cold or chemotherapy. They are praying against hope that it should not fight chemotherapy.
Out of 10, three people get better results. You hope to stay in those three. Doctors are fighting to not lose more functions for the time being. However, the future might have more dimensions to it. Do they keep asking if you could swallow? You respond, “Not sure”.
You blame yourself or blame everything around if your relationships are breaking due to the recent diagnosis. Your health goes irreversible. Please do remember that some occurrences around you happen not because of who you are as a person. But certain things remain beyond our control.
It takes some time to realise that we cannot influence the outcome. However, such terminal illnesses change patients and change people around them. Cancer is no one’s fault, but it affects everyone’s mental health adversely.
As Hiba Siddiqui, senior Psycho-oncologist from Max Healthcare (Delhi-NCR), added, “Cancer throws a lot on the couple, of which many partners feel a sense of abandonment as well. Breakups are never easy when one partner wants to stay while the other cannot.
Many times, your control over cancer diagnosis and treatment doesn’t always have a set course, thereby taking a physical and mental toll on both individuals and impacting their relationships. There will be good and bad days, and sometimes, this inconsistent pattern creates resentment and anger.
This physical and mental exhaustion is often displaced on the partner, whereas the actual reason for this turmoil is cancer and its impact on both your lives.”
Well, this definitely does not address the pain one partner feels, but still, it helps to not point fingers at each other. These words surely help when you or your ex is attempting to move away from a tough conversation.
In a fit of rage, we often say unexpected things or go completely silent with zero communication. But it becomes more important to realise we should respect people and their decisions. It’s our human quality that we seek security, safety and affection. We go into deniability or denying any such acceptance could happen to us too.
In case you or your partner decide to make a distance, let the other party know peacefully and walk away. Following relationships are anyway hard. Instead, focus on the physical and mental health of the person dealing with cancer. Ensure you are around people and friends who respect your needs. Your body and mind respond to the positivity, love and respect you are offering it.
To begin with, it was never your mistake; neither were you responsible for the diagnosis nor the change in relationships. Instead, we need to focus on things we can control and influence. Your health and treatment should have a conversation. We adapt, mend our expectations and we get fine by breakups with passing the time.
Fundraising could be our next step in turmoil and it supports you in long-term treatment and offers you networking with patients, doctors, pharmacies, and hospitals. In India, fundraising for your health is still a new concept. However, there are many such fundraising platforms in the market, boosted due to lockdown.
At first, you have to accept your reality. Emotionally, it’s exhausting even to accept to raise funds on an online platform. Share among your friends on WhatsApp and inform your own extended family members. People in the clan raise themselves that we would come forward to pay the bill listening about the fundraiser.
Going public with your ongoing treatment and bills are a huge toll as you end up thanking everybody for rising to the occasion. First of all, people keep asking, “What happened?” or “We met recently only, did not believe you were going through such pain”. All you can do is answer with a smile, loads of patience and copy paste messages on the phone.
We need to accept ourselves, then our ailment, to start the idea of the fundraiser where people come together to contribute to better health. In my case, it was highly motivating to see over 500 people contribute, which made me keep going. Where otherwise, you could feel alone, fighting and keep paying at the hospital window.
I am happy to write, share, and raise the amount as it directly helps me pay bills for ongoing chemotherapy treatment at the hospital and lower my family’s financial burden. Such a fundraiser, at the optimum time, came as a boon for my treatment. I wish others also good luck in raising their amounts for their health requirements.
A cancer diagnosis not only breaks existing relationships but also changes, evolves and positively builds your new relationships.
Humaira, a Psychiatric social worker from TISS-INHS Asvini, added, “Family support, primarily, and support of others plays a vital role in the treatment journey.”
Relationships grow because your cancer diagnosis makes some people around you more responsible. This could be an extended family member or an ex-colleague. I have received messages from many batchmates and ex-colleagues to stay strong and how their families also dealt with cancer patients.
Some stories were comforting and may require another dedicated article.