PUBLISHED ON: 8 June 2018

Sharon tells us how breast cancer affected her relationship, and how breaking the taboo of talking about her emotions helped.

Sharon and her husband

There was no time to stop and think 

I was diagnosed in September 2013. I found a lump in the shower, but assumed it was to do with breastfeeding.  I had a six-month-old baby and had been having trouble feeding him.  

I left it for a while before going to my GP. He wasn't sure what it was, so referred me to the breast clinic. I had a mammogram and an ultrasound, both of which didn't show anything. They decided to give me a biopsy, just in case. Everyone said it was nothing to worry about.  

A few days passed, and then I got a call. I needed another biopsy. When I went back a week later to hear the results, I was told straight away that I had grade 3 DCIS breast cancer. After that, everything progressed quickly. The doctor started talking about surgery and said I would need a lumpectomy.  

I wasn't prepared. I was still trying to process it in my head.  

After my lumpectomy, I went on to have chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It felt like a double-edged sword. I wanted the treatment to be over with but there was also no time to stop and think about what was happening. 

It was a lot to deal with as a couple   

My relationship had been going through a lot of changes. My husband and I weren't long married. We were dealing with our new baby, my two teenagers and my husband's redundancy.  

My cancer diagnosis was another added pressure. It was a lot to deal with as a family, let alone as a couple.  

When treatment starts, you think it'll be fine. You think, 'We'll do this together, we'll fight the cancer and we'll come out stronger the other side.'  

But we weren't prepared for the emotional strains that would come from my diagnosis. Our dynamic as a couple changed. As time went on, we went from being in a partnership to a patient and a carer.  

My husband started to take care of everybody. He was looking after the baby, looking after the children and looking after me too. I felt that he was taking my role as mother away from me.  

I didn't know how my husband could find me attractive 

I was also struggling with the physical effects of treatment on body. I didn't recognise myself when I looked in the mirror anymore.  

I used to break down and cry. I felt like I had lost myself. If I didn't find myself attractive, how could my husband find me attractive? It was a horrible feeling.  

We all feel pressure to put on a happy face 

All the patients I would meet seemed to be holding it together.  

I would say to my husband, 'Everyone else seems to be okay!' He'd reply, 'They may look like they're okay, but underneath, they're falling apart.' 

I think we all feel pressured to put on a happy face. We don't want to appear to be sad or low. It's seen as a weakness to let our emotions out. It's almost as though its taboo to share something so personal.

Nobody told me my relationship could change 

There was no help offered to deal with what I was going through emotionally. If I wanted help, I had to find it.  

I did find some counselling support for my family, but I don't think people can really understand how you're feeling unless you've been through it.  

I found out about Breast Cancer Care too late after my treatment. I wish I had heard of the Someone Like Me service before. It would have been so helpful to have support from somebody who had been there too. 

I rediscovered my own strength 

Sharon

Eventually it got so unbearable in my home that I moved out.  

This broke the pattern of patient-carer that my husband and I had fallen into. I had my own space and my independence back.  

I started to recover the routines of my everyday life – the job, the school runs, the children. It helped me rediscover myself.  

I reclaimed my femininity back. I felt strong. I knew that I could look after myself and not be reliant on someone else.  

My husband never lost hope that we would get back together. When we reconciled, it was an equal partnership, like it should have been from the start.  

You're not alone 

You can feel so isolated by your emotions. It's important to remember that others are facing the same issues and feelings as you are and that you're not alone.  

I now volunteer for the Someone Like Me service. I've lost count of the women who have said, 'I thought it was just me.'  

Volunteering for Someone Like Me has also helped me process some of my own thoughts about my experience.  

When your problems feel so personal, the best thing you can do it be as open with your feelings. Someone else out there probably feels exactly the same.  

 

#ShareTheCare this Breast Cancer Awareness Month and help more people like Sharon get the support they need by donating today.

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