Illnesses like breast cancer can have an effect on you in ways that other people may not always be able to understand. No matter how much you try to explain, and no matter how strong of a bond you share with your family or friends, ultimately, only you know what’s going on with your body. The lack of understanding can create a strain on your relationships, friendships and everyday life.

Usually, we tend to only discuss the more obvious breast cancer-related factors like breast cancer symptoms, diagnosis, treatments, and causes. But, we forget that the mental and emotional impacts of breast cancer are just as important to address. These mental and emotional impacts often take a toll on relationships.

Here are some impacts that emotional and mental trauma associated with breast cancer can have on your relationships and social life, and how you can overcome them:

1. Intimacy with your partner

Breast cancer treatment can come with a heavy baggage of scars, weight changes, loss of breasts and lots of emotional outbreaks. Understandably, this can leave you feeling self-conscious and negative towards the thought of exposing your body. All these feelings can have a negative effect on your desire for intimacy.

Similarly, your partner may also need time to accept what’s happened. It’s just as scary for them as it is for you! Some partners may take an overly protective role, meaning they’ll try their best to protect you from further distress. They may decide not to mention or initiate being physical in fear of hurting or upsetting you.

In order to minimize the chance of misunderstandings, your best bet is to be open and honest with your partner. An open line of communication will not only strengthen your relationship but will also allow you mental peace as well as allowing your partner to respond to your needs effectively. Without communication, you both may end up making assumptions about each other without realizing it. And that is a recipe for disaster! Communication really is key.

In order to achieve intimacy, you don’t have to go all the way. There are other ways you can enhance intimacy for example: holding hands, having meaningful conversations or simply spending quality time with each other. It may also be helpful to go to couples therapy and talk to a counselor to help you if you’re finding it difficult to speak to each other.

2. Losing connection with your friends

Going through cancer is not easy. In fact, let me rephrase it, it’s probably one of the most difficult things you’ll ever have to go through. Constant visits to the hospital, medications, uncertainty of how you’ll feel the next day, weakness and emotional trauma it’s energy draining!

Staying in bed and eating last night’s leftover pizza may sound much more appealing than enjoying a 3-course meal in a fancy restaurant with your besties. And guess what? That’s totally okay! A cancer diagnosis can challenge friendships. But honestly, you’ll lose some and you’ll gain some.

Everyone reacts to this news in their own way. Some friends might avoid you in fear of saying the wrong thing whilst other friends will cheer you on in your race against cancer. You might be the one to pull away as you may not have the energy to maintain your friendships alongside dealing with treatment and a whirlwind of emotions.

No one deserves to face a battle such as cancer alone so here are some things you can do to make it easier to maintain your friendships:

A. Communication

I’m going to continue repeating this until it is drilled into your mind. Seriously, I’m not joking. Be open with your friends in order to provide them with an opportunity to support you in ways that you need. Don’t be afraid to be direct. If you don’t want to talk about your cancer let them know. They’re your friends and they’ll understand.

B. Assign one person to medical updates

It can be tiring, stressful and just downright annoying to repeat the same information over and over again. It could be helpful to assign one person to communicate your medical information with others. This way everyone will stay up to date and you won’t have to worry about repeating the same details over and over.

C. Know your limits

Don’t feel pressured to accept every invitation. Let people know if you don’t be want to be invited to social events, let them know your limits.

3. Cancer and the workplace

Often, cancer patients find it difficult to relate to co-workers and adjust to the work environment after a cancer diagnosis. It is important to understand that your co-workers and even your employer has a relationship with you and breast cancer might affect this relationship impacting your career ultimately. Since breast cancer treatment may mean taking more time off from work because of hospital appointments, maintaining a good relationship with everyone at work is important. You may not want to talk to your co-workers regarding your situation openly because of fear of being treated differently. And again that’s normal. Just keep updating them about your work and remain in touch to remind them that you’re still a part of your workplace.

Talk to your manager about providing resources to help you manage your cancer at work. See if they can provide work from home opportunities where you can still work but from the comfort of your home.

Open communication with colleagues is helpful to get past feelings of uncertainty and to help bring a sense of normality. However, you should use your judgment about how much to share about your cancer and treatment along with whom to share these things with.

Remember, your relationships are precious. Don’t let breast cancer hinder you from loving unconditionally. You are a survivor and nothing can stop you from bettering your relationship.

So gear up today and write your own happily ever after, after breast cancer!

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