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Interview 47

Age at interview: 55
Age at diagnosis: 49
Brief Outline: She is in remission from acute leukaemia.
Background: She is retired and married with one adult child. Ethnic background: White British.

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Her husband found it difficult to cope with her leukaemia; she resented this and sexual relations...

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Her husband found it difficult to cope with her leukaemia; she resented this and sexual relations...

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What about sexual problems? Did all this wreak havoc with your sex life?
 
Oh absolutely. My husband had great difficulty in coming to terms with my diagnosis and was unable to cope. I resented him terribly for not coping and therefore not being of any support. It was me with the life threatening disease and it was him falling apart. I don’t think it is a terribly uncommon thing to happen unfortunately as over the years I have heard of people splitting up over a leukaemia or cancer diagnosis. I know of someone recently who split from his wife, he has CML and she was never able to accept it although he is doing well and is at work and leads a normal life she has a huge mental block over this, she has refused counselling and this man has now lost his family over his wife’s inability to get to grips with his disease.
 
It is very difficult to have rampant sex when you are in such a position. I think my husband was afraid to hurt me or do something that would make me worse somehow, it sounds silly but I think that’s how it started – it was like he was protecting me. I also had a problem which was accepting that my husband was not coping. I felt he was letting me down and being selfish when retrospectively I was being selfish and not considering his own emotions about the whole thing. I am a very strong person and he is not, and I found that hard to accept. I resented him for this and he found an outlet in gambling – he spent a lot of time and money gambling on horses – somehow believing that if he won lots of money he would make everything alright. What he did was put us in debt and increase my resentment - but it was his way to cope. His other crutch was drinking and this also did not help in resolving our difficulties.
 
I do believe that it is sometimes harder for the other person in a relationship to cope. The person with the disease has something to focus on, gets the help and support at the hospital but the partners do get forgotten in all this. There should be counselling readily available for people diagnosed with a cancer and their close relatives/partners. It is not something you may want to go to at first but along the way everyone would identify a time where this would be useful.
 
Before my diagnosis I used to read articles about couples splitting up after one of them had been diagnosed with cancer and I couldn’t understand how this could happen at such a time when they really should be together and helping each other …. now I can see what a devastating effect a cancer diagnosis can have on a couple and family and it really is not easy to deal with all this when you are trying to stay alive.
 
We are several years down the line now and I would like to say that all was well but it is not, we have resumed a sort of ‘status quo’ but we will never be the people we were before I was diagnosed with leukaemia.
 
This aspect of wrecking people’s lives is really not recognised, people focus on the disease and the treatment but the psychological issues run deep and cracks in relationships become crevasses.
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