Relationships after cancer

It’s pretty likely that every one of your relationships has been affected in some way by your cancer experience.

After everything you’ve been through, your role in your family, group of friends or relationships is going to be different. You have changed – and so of course your relationships with others have changed. You might feel more mature and stronger than before and think different things are important now.


Family roles and relationships

Many families expect everything to return to normal (however they define that) when your treatment ends. But be prepared – you, and your family, may have changed permanently.

  • Try to be patient with your family as they adjust. It may be hard for them to give you back your independence, or to know how to talk about your cancer.
  • Spend some time experimenting with new routines and finding out what works for the whole family. Continue to find ways to talk to and support each other and work together on making a ‘new normal’.


Relationships with friends

You may feel disconnected from your old friends and that you can’t relate to them as much anymore. Maybe you feel like you have been forced to grow up faster than them and now feel more mature. Or maybe you have missed out on a lot of opportunities to socialise with people your age and you feel like your friends have moved on and left you behind.

  • As you try to return to ‘ordinary’ life, you may find that you need to rethink and even end some friendships. This may have happened anyway – cancer or no cancer.
  • As you begin to realise what is important and interesting to you, give yourself opportunities to meet people who have similar interests and values. Maybe you could join a club or a team, or connect with people online. You can join Canteen’s online community for young people affected by cancer.


Relationship with your partner

If you have a partner/boyfriend/girlfriend who has been with you during your cancer experience your relationship has probably changed (for better or worse).

You may have dealt with some struggles and not communicated as well as you did before cancer. You might find that your attitude to things and your outlook on life has changed and this can affect your relationship.

But some couples find that going through something like this together strengthens their relationship and reinforces their closeness and commitment to each other.

Due to cancer, you may be dealing with changes in your appearance, body image and sexuality. Talk to your partner/boyfriend/girlfriend about how you’re feeling so they know what’s going on in your head and can support you.

Read more about sex after cancer.

If you’re having ongoing issues with body image or sex that are affecting your relationship, talk to someone in your YCS team or a counsellor.


If you’re single

If you’re single, you may be stressing out about how to start meeting people again and when to tell them about your cancer.

Cancer may have affected your confidence, self-esteem and appearance. Some people worry that they are less attractive and will find it difficult to form new relationships. Many wonder whether – and how – they will tell future partners about their cancer, particularly if their fertility has been affected.

Read more about sex after cancer.