tamoxefin and my wife, now separated

my wife had breast cancer 2.5yrs ago, she was 46 and had lumpectomy, chem and radiation. she has been on tamoxefin for 2.5yrs. i wasnt handling the changes well, something was happening to her, 7 weeks ago she screamed at me to get out of the house, after 15yrs marraige and 2 children. 13 and 10. her behaviour over the past year has been odd to say the least. she has been reported for outbursts at the patients of the hospital she works at, my parents noticed change in her nature, she even screamed at her dad for not watching a car reverse in front of her mum, then she broke down crying loudly in front of many people. we had many arguments and silence for days, she ended up on venlafaxine which has its own side effects. i had no idea what to do…i had my own troubles also. with the separation she has been exhibiting strange behaviour, wont let me talk or see the children. sends me texts in their name, then when i ask to talk to them via email she berrates me, then later she sends emails to me apologising for the text admitting she did send it. she also texts me to have lunch out of the blue, when this didnt hapen due to work. she then berrates me. when i try to send emails via the home emails to my girls she doesnt like them and tells me. today i had a phone call from the police saying she has taken out an avo on me. when it was i who voluntarily on her request left when she asked. she sent a text today telling me the car service on our family car was good.is this a common theme with people that have had breast cancer and are using this drug tamoxefin, or is it due to the early onset of menapause via the drug?? i would love to hear from anyone…i do love my wife dearly and cant stand knowing she may not be well.

Hi barnie


I am very sorry to hear you are experiencing problems. I have been married for many, many years so I will try to help. This must all be really confusing and upsetting for you. I don’t want to comment on the possible side effects of Tamoxifen, I’ll leave that to the experts. Cancer is such a rollercoaster of a ride and I think that many women patients feel that control has been taken away from them and their emotions can be all over the place, that is not unusual. We sometimes forget that it is also hard for husbands, knowing the ‘right’ thing to say and also being fearful of saying the ‘wrong’ thing. Sometimes I’m afraid when people are ill they take it out on their ‘nearest and dearest’ even though that is not fair. Fifteen years is a long time to be married. In the circumstances I am baffled why she would ask you to have lunch with her. The only logical explanation I can think of is that she must be missing you. It is wonderful that you say “I do love my wife dearly” but does she know that, or are you just taking it for granted that she must realise simply because you have been married for so long? Have you actually told her that you love her? Do you think she would go to marriage guidance with you if you suggested it, or would she be angry and dismiss the idea? You know her best. If not, you have the option of going on your own. 

Hi Barnierubble,

I’m sorry to hear of what is happening and hope that things start to get better for you all.  To try to help I have put for you below the link to BCC’s publication ‘In it together’ which is aimed at partners of those with a breast cancer diagnosis.  Also I have put a link to the area of this website where this is discussed further.

You may find it helpful to give our helpline team a call and talk to them about your worries and concerns for your wife, they’re here to support you all through this.  Calls are free, 0808 800 6000 lines open weekdays 9-5 and Saturdays 10-2



Take care,

Jo, Moderator

Barnie Rubble -


I’m sorry to hear you and your wife are having difficulties.  


Going through breast cancer does have an enormous impact on most women. Be it the physical change from surgery, the side affects and damage from radio and/or chemo, the background concern that it may come back or have spread…obviously the degree of impact varies a great deal from person to person and things may feel better or worse on different days due to the whole combination of factors. Many women describe the period through treatment from diagnosis as being a bit like being on a rollercoaster. While the highs and lows of the rollercoaster even out over time, I think many still have dips at times.


The Tamoxifen doesn’t actually cause early menopause, but it acts as a blocker to the oestrogen receptors, hence women get what I can best describe as some chemically induced menopausal type of side affects. That’s different to a biological menopause and only lasts while on the medication - unless the woman naturally enters menopause during the time on the drug. It can contribute to fatigue in some women which obviously doesn’t help. 


Everyone is different, from my own perspective I feel like I got through the cancer thing relatively ok, bar feeling somewhat upset that the tamoxifen would knock out any last chance of having children (again, it is still possible to conceive on Tamoxifen but a baby may not develop properly due to the Tamoxifen, hence bit of a no no). However when I returned to work I was put under pressure to return much faster than I felt able to re severe fatigue and endured a meeting where I was treated incredably badly, unfairly and in my view not humanely. The overall consequence of this I can only describe as getting through/surviving breast cancer relatively well, only to be driven over by a steamroller - by a couple of people who really should have known better. Because I am principled and didn’t want others to be treated this way I took up the cause. It has been exhausting. It was immensely distressing that anyone could treat someone in that way. I started having occassional major dips (which would come on very rapidly always associated with the way I had been treated on my return) and ended up having to take Citalopram, which has its own side affects.


At one point in time someone close to me said they needed a holiday (without me) since they were very stressed and I was part of that stress. In fairness a number of their close relatives had died, but to me, I was the one recovering from cancer. So 2 sides, 2 lots of pressure and it’s about finding a middle road of understanding if you and your wife are prepared and want to.  


Has your wife got any friends she can confide in or could the GP refer her to a counsellor if she is feeling up and down? I appreciate you don’t want to risk patronising her in anyway since this may not be the case. Could you both go to counselling together as a way to find a way through for both of you, but mediated?      


I have no idea if that helps in any way at all but given that you are trying to find out how other women with breast cancer feel felt I should respond.


I really hope that things calm down and you get a window to try to understnad one another better and see if you can both move forwards.




hi , im 38 and i have tamoxifen i recently seperated with my partner, he left me i didnt know how he felt even tho he says he kept telling me i dont actually remember him telling me, yes it is like a rolarcoaster from day they tell you till the day u finish chemo, you havent got time to think logically you just move and get thru days, i also know other who have tamoxifen and they describe theirself as like bipolar and one min they ok and the next they very skitish im lucky and im not going through any of that i finished chemo 22 april i have herceptin aswell as tamoxifen, yes my partner left but looking back even though i was sorting things out fiancially for him whilst i was going through chemo, if leaving was the better option for him then so be it he had that choice to have a conversation with me, as id completed chemo and was trying to get myself back to normal if you ever do, all he ever says is i dint show him enough effection, most ppl i speak to they say omg you have been through so much and he goes on about hisself . i would say if your wife is that bad she must go to the doctors as they can actually change tamoxifen for something else good luck and i hope she settles down x

Hi Barnierubble,


What you describe below is almost IDENTICAL to my missus. Same time scales too… My wifes behaviour has been justified too by a horrid sad alcholic woman (single) who has befriended her as a “drinking partner”. He GP appeared scared of her too. Despite writing her prescriptions for AD’s and advising counselling she is not bothered when my wife decides neither is appropriate for her…