Can't cope with my partners emotions

I don’t know if anyone has any advice for met, or if I am in the right forum. I am having problems with my partners emtions towards my breast cancer. I was diagnosed 19th June with Invasion lobular cancer, had mastectomy and sential node biopsy 11th July, and now booked for full left axcillary clearance this week. I worked at the hospital that I am being treated, and everyone has been brilliant.
I am a strong person, and have hardly cried. Think It hasn’t hit me yet because everything has happened so quickly. I think I am dealing with it ok, but feel a bit numb and don’t talk about it much. However, my partner has taken it worse. I love him to bits (been together 5 years) and I know he loves me and dotes on me. However, now he is always down and has a face like a wet weekend (sorry shouldnt call him). He has already taken two weeks off work, and now has a bad back so cannot do much. I even mowed the lawn myself three weeks after mastectomy, otherwise it wouldn’t have got done. He is getting a bit bad tempered, I know he is in pain, but has seen his doctor and is o pain killers and awaiting scan. He seems to be more concerned about his back now, says I don’t given him any sympathy, and that a little bit goes a long way. I do sympathise, has he has had back ache in the past. He says since I have got cancer all I do is nag about what he should be doing around the house etc. Am I being unfair, maybe I do nag, but I still try do do jobs round the house instead of asking him. I have endven started driving and doing a bit of the shopping. I try not to ask him to do many jobs because of his back, if he does anything, he starts grunting and groaning. I ask him each morning how is back his, and have suddenly noticed he hasn’t asked how I am feeling for a few days.
Like i have said, I am a strong person, even though I don’t talk much about, i think about it 24/7, nights are the worst, then I am tired the next day with lack of sleep. Some days i am quiet and don’t say much, other days it’s none stop chat. The other day I woke up, and I was in a really positive mood, my scar was healing, I wasn’t in pain, when I came downstairs, said morning to my partner, and started to chat, he waved his hand in a motion I was talking too loud and to quiten down, really did a lot for me that did. He just seems to sulk about now grunting and groaning about his back, and even though I want to help, I feel he is bringing me down with him, and I want to stay positive. He says I am pushing him away, and would appreciate a bit of sympathy, I am trying really, but sometimes thing, what about me. Am I being too strong, not even sure how I should feel, like watching someone else sometimes. He went back to work for a week, and I was glad of the peace and me time. Now his back is playing up he is off for three weeks, I am having my next op this week, and dont feel I can listen to him whining about his back when I may be uncomfortable myself.
Sorry to waffle a bit and sound ungratefull… sometimes wonder if this is why I have cancer… to test me. I am having chemo and radiotherapy after my op, so know it is going to be a struggle. Just cant cope with my grumpy partner at the mo… even though I know he is in pain himself.

sorry for any spelling errors, should have checked before posting.

Don’t lose your positivity. It’s very impressive, and you do come across as a strong person. Look how far it’s got you. your OH isn’t coping very well at all. Many will say he is a resentful, attention seeking, man flu type of man. That may be so. However, I do think his behaviour is a reaction to the BC. There appears to be a role reversal, and lots of projection going on. What a great example of the power of positive mental attitude. There you are, healing, getting on with things, getting on with life, there he is, apathetic and glum, nursing a chronic back problem and infuriating his boss (I imagine). How do you get on with BCN? I’d mention it, they may have something useful to say or offer…

There is often counselling available for partners/families as well as for “patients”. Breast cancer truly can affect the whole family.

That said, he does have to take some responsibility for how he is reacting and realise the negative effect on you. In the end, I feel you have enough to contend with, and you don’t need to have to carry his burden as well as your own. Share maybe, but sharing goes both ways!

There are books to read, people to talk to, and some partners come on here to seek advice. I hope you can both find a way through this together, but it is not unknown for this bl**dy disease to tear relationships apart. Oops, nearly used a bad word … I’d have had the mods writing to me again. I’m sorry, I’m sure I’ve developed Tourette’s since diagnosis! ;p

Reading your post again, and the comment about maybe “being too strong”, reminds me of the “elephant in the room”. The elephant being breast cancer. It’s worrying the heck out of both of you, most likely. That elephant takes up nearly all the living room in your relationship, yet neither of you really is able to talk honestly about it (ie your feelings), in case you upset the other, and so it leads to a state of unbearable tension, hence the “acting out”. There, I’ve exhausted my amateur psychology for the day.

Hi DTebbs,

I’m sorry to read what you’re dealing with at the moment. I hope it will help that I have put for you below the link to BCC’s publicaiton for partners ‘In it together’ you can either download a copy or send for one to be posted out to you free of charge. You might also find it helpful to give our helpline a call and have a chat with one of the staff there, they’re here to support you. Calls are free, 0808 800 6000 lines open Mon-Fri 9-5 and Sat 10-2.

Take care,

Jo, Moderator

I think honestly people react in different ways, my wife is fantastic at being able to get on with life and forget about this horrible disease I can’t forget I think too much (I always have over analysed everything in life) I am good at the time i.e. when Marg was diagnosed she was in bits, but I was able to concentrate on the now and ask all the questions, only after the event does it hit me. I have had to stop asking her if she is feeling ok and has she checked herself properly because I could see it was getting her down. I think you can be too caring (as daft as this sounds) because the illness in some ways can become about you rather than the patient (I hope this makes sense)people do show their emotions in different ways, we know someone who lost their son last year in horrendous circumstances not the first tragedy to hit this poor family and the father thought he had to be brave and so wouldn’t cry in front of the family, but would go to the garage and cry buckets, sadly the family thought he was uncaring and this caused major problems, there is no right and wrong way it’s a journey that nobody wants to have to take, the only advice I think I can give is to talk about it say how you feel and let your partner have his say, good luck and please stay well


Hi Everyone
Many thanks for your comments and support. I have downloaded the ‘in it together’ leaflet, which I will show my partner. I know he is concerned and worried about me, he has had a lot to deal with this year, his father passed away earlier this year, and now my cancer. I think it is also a bit of man flu type illness, and wants some of the sympathy I am getting, but no doubt he is in some pain. Anyway his painkillers are kicking in now. I do get on well with my BCN so will speak to her about him. I do recall now that at my last consultation, while the consultant was speaking to me, I so that she was watching my partners face.
His employers have given him a number to book appointment with a counsellor, and I am trying to get him to go. Told him it would help, as he is getting quite moody lately. I am talking to him, and tell him how I feel, but not all of it, as I don’t think he could handle it. I know he would worry even more than me.
I am the lstonger partner, but god help him should I crack up… hopefully I won’t (or not too much anyway).
Again, thanks everyone. xx


First of all you are the one with cancer and yes you are a strong person, but you need to have a rest yourself. It is bad enough having to go through the operation and chemo. Chemo is very hard and you will need that ‘me’ time and rest.

I have been through cancer, only had my Operation in October and than Chemo and Radium. I finished this year in May.

I became very ill from the chemo and ended up with pneumonia and nearly died. Chemo therapy is very strong and your immune system will go down.

Also if you are doing everything yourself, what are you doing with him. Clearly he seems very selfish and feels sorry for himself. Okay he is in pain but you are the one with cancer and you need to rest.

I did not work at the time of my illness , so I did not have the pressure of that, but my marriage was terrible. Totally selfish husband, wanted to make love all the time, bearing in mind I only came out of hospital and because I did not feel like it , he used to spy on me a and started to accuse me of all sorts of things. Did do nothing around the house.

Thank God Iam a fairly strong person, otherwise he would have killed me, not the cancer.

So please look after yourself and don’t stress about your partner. You only got one life and

Now is your time to get better. You need someone who supports you.

Try to talk to him, tell him you love him , but also make clear to him that he needs to support you through this.

I hope that you will be fine with your Chemo and get through it well . If you have any questions  about the treatment or anything just let me know. Take care


Many thanks for this. Sorry not been on for a while, had to get used to new site.

Also had to have another op, axillary clearance, SNB showed cancer in two nodes  so this put me  back a bit.

Start chemo next week.  My partner is still off work, stressed out, and believe it or not, he still has back ache.  Maybe he does need sympathy.  I had to go in with him when he went back to GP, to tell the GP he can’t cope.  It was bit funny, GP was asking how I was, what surgery I had, treatment etc, and my other half comes out with “I can’t cope with it all”  There’s me, calm as anything.  He came with me last week to see the oncologist, when she was discussing treatment, think he realized then how bad it was and what it was going to be like for me.  He even said he was sorry I am going through all this.  I have talked to him, and said that even though I don’t show it, I am bothered and think about it 24/7, so can’t cope with his moods too.  He did say he will try a bit more.  He does do jobs round the house and cooks etc, but gets very depressed.  His GP put him on what I call ‘chill pills’.  He won’t read anything about the cancer, as he says he is scared and would rather not know.  Anyway he is trying (very!!!)… He understands that I have to be strong, but says he needs some TLC too at the moment,  but I can’t give it to him… He has got details to contact a counselor, but wont’ do anything about that yet.


I hope to be on here often, as I am due to start chemo, so will join in the threads there.  Looking for one also to ask if anyone else with lobular cancer has decide to have their remaining breast removed, even though it is healthy.  Other  half was shocked with me when I said this.  Said I never mentioned it before, although I know I did (he does admit he doesn’t always listen or take things in). Maybe I need to start a new thread. 


Xx D

Hi…just want to chuck my hat into the ring…I get the feeling DTebbs…that your OH is scared of your cancer…his way of dealing with it is moaning about his back…he’s probably more afraid than anything…the thing is…you need to talk together…not that this is easy and I’m a fine one to talk…my OH didn’t tell me how he felt until 12 months after my treatment ended…men are needy creatures…they swap mummy for a wife…well mine did!!!..but saying that…he took early retirement to look after me…chemo is v hard and you must listen to your body…never mind his bloody back…your immune system will be down and the se’s affect everybody differently…I have had a back problem for 20 yrs and given a choice I would take that than cancer…a bad back hasn’t the ability to kill you…your treatment will not last forever…so while you’re having it put yourself first…if he won’t support you then that’s his problem…you are the one who is important in all this…

Thanks for this.  Yes men can be very needy,  I live with one.   Thankfully he hasn’t asked for sex yet…  I am defo not interested at the moment,  think it will be a while - thats another story.


I know he can’t cope, but like me, he will have to.   I have started to open up a bit more to him, he says he does want to know what’s on my mind, although he doesn’t always like what  I say.  Think that is why I don’t say much about my thoughts , because I know deep down he isn’t coping.  Head in the sand.    Anyway, I am saying more, and about I want or think.  I’ve told him that there may be times that I feel ill (chemo) or loose the plot myself sometimes.  I know I have to put myself first and beat this, and I will come what may.


I do know he loves me and I love him, but  cancer is a b*****d, and does sort the men from the boys so to speak.   It is going to be a long journey.



Some partners get s##t scared that cancer ALWAYS kills… so they react to the fear.

Hopefully he is opening up more now.

Every best wish to you both


I must admit I don’t think my OH is quite as oblivious to what you are going through but I do think that us girls being strong and trying to make it not so bad for everyon else ca backfire on us. I am still doing all the cleaning, cooking, shopping etc despite having had lumpectomy and wle in July, and being 3 cycles into 6 of FEC T. Because I am off work and my husband is not he assumes I have plenty of time on my hands. If I do say at the end of the day ’ I am absolutely knackered’, he says ‘me too’ !!! If I am irritable because I am in pain or shattered he asks me what is wrong, and has even said in arguments that I shouldn’t keep ‘playing the cancer card’.
I have given him various leaflets that my cn has given me so he can get some more information on what I am going through, and even recommended he goes on line to this site to get some support, or advice on how best to support me and the children, but he has not done so. He will spend hours at a time trawling the net looking for the best golf club, or researching the best golf bag, but will not get any more clued up on what we are both going through. He even argued with me about the fact that I said I could not go away on holiday in half term as my immunity was compromised, he actually said he had never heard of such a thing. He would have done if he had read the information I have given him. He is now going with the kids.
In some ways he is good but I do think that men like situations they can control and do something about, this is not like that, but just because he can’t make it go away doesn’t mean he can’t make it easier on me, and the kids.
Sorry for rambling and venting, I feel better now! X