Relationships after cancer treatment

Relationships can be difficult to manage at the best of times, but they can change during and after a cancer diagnosis. Read more about how to navigate relationships with family, friends or your partner after cancer treatment.

  • Relationships can change during and after cancer treatment. This is normal – you’ve been through a lot
  • You might find that things are different with your family – maybe you’re not spending as much time with your parents, or you’re seeing your siblings more
  • It might feel like you don’t have as much in common with your friends, or like you’ve missed out on a lot
  • You and your partner might have different feelings about your future, with new priorities and goals
  • Meeting someone new might feel scary right now, but don’t worry. There’s no rush.
  • Talking about how you’re feeling when things feel different is always a good place to start.

Relationships can be tricky things to manage at the best of times, so they can feel quite different after you’ve had cancer.

The people close to you might feel the same way. And as a result, your relationships might start to change.

Family relationships after cancer

You might find your family struggles to get back to normal (whatever that is).

During your treatment, you and your family will have adjusted to your new reality. Your parents may have become your carers again, and might find it hard to let go.

You might have needed more support than you’re used to, and now you’re ready to have more independence again.

Your parents might have given you more attention than your brothers and sisters. Your brothers and sisters might have needed to do more around the house. And so on and so on.

Now your treatment is over, figuring out how things are going to be from now on can be complicated. It can leave you feeling like you’re dancing around each other as you try and get your independence back and everyone tries to readjust.

It’s a good time to experiment with who does what, and to be honest about how you’re feeling. Try and find out what works best for everyone and how best to support each other.

Take the time to listen to the people around you (that’s a good idea as you work through all of your relationships). You’ll figure what’s normal now soon enough.

Friendships after cancer

You might have stayed close to your friends right through your cancer treatment, so they know what’s happened to you, you know what they’ve been up to, and all of you fit right back together now you can spend more time with them.

But sometimes it’s not that straightforward. Maybe you feel you’ve missed out on things or can’t relate to your friends like you used to. Maybe you feel like you’ve grown up faster than them or they’ve left you behind.

Or maybe their problems and worries seem a bit trivial now, so you find you’re less interested in hearing about them.

If some friendships have become difficult, you might find things gradually feel less strained once your treatment is over. Spending more time with people and doing the things you’ve always done can help everyone feel more comfortable.

But it might be that some friendships don’t quite work anymore. That happens too – cancer or no cancer.

If you find that you’re interested in new things, you might want to try and meet new, like-minded people – maybe by joining a local club or team or by connecting with people online.

And try not to worry. Even if it feels like a lot is changing now, you’ll soon get a better idea of what you care about and what kind of people you want to hang out with. Just give yourself a bit of space and time.

You and your partner after cancer

If you’ve been with someone throughout your treatment, you might still find that things feel slightly odd.

Don’t worry – that happens. Just like with your family and friends, it’s all about readjustment.

You should know each other pretty well by now, so talk about anything that feels strange. It might be that neither of you have really spent much time thinking about what’s going to happen.

Even if you’ve talked about the future before, the situation can seem different when that future actually arrives, so it’s important for both of you to work through what you want now.

When you’re feeling ready, it could help to talk through:

  • Anything new you want to do in the future
  • Anything you’re confused about or want help with
  • How you feel about your relationship now
  • How you’d both like your relationship to develop

That might sound pretty scary, but it can be exciting too. After all, this is your chance to start thinking about all of the things you might have been too nervous or distracted to think about before.

Meeting someone new after cancer

Trying to start a new relationship is often daunting. If cancer has affected the way you look or given your confidence or self-esteem a knock, it can seem even harder.

While you never know when you might bump into your perfect partner, if you do want to meet someone new, it might help to:

  • Join local groups or clubs, especially if you’ve not hung out with many new people lately
  • Join an online dating service (but make sure to follow advice on keeping yourself safe)
  • Talk to other people who’ve had cancer about how they met people after treatment
  • Focus on anything positive that’s come out of your treatment – maybe you feel stronger or you appreciate people more
  • Talk to friends, family or a professional – like a psychologist or a counsellor – if you’ve got anything weighing on your mind

If your treatment has affected your fertility, you might be worried about telling people about that. But there’s no rush. If you meet someone and the time feels right, explain the situation and talk through what it means – and remember that you can always talk to your doctors about fertility treatments too.