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Relationship worries in face of cancer diagnosis

(9 Posts)
starstar84 Mon 29-Jun-15 15:43:34

Please help me sort out my feelings about my relationship with my boyfriend, my relationship with his cancer, and how the two might be interplaying.

My boyfriend is 28, I am 30. He was diagnosed with bowel cancer two months ago and since then things have been a whirlwind. At the time we were in a seven-month-old relationship where we were both leading busy, full lives and slowly incorporating eachother into them (maybe seeing eachother 3 or 4 times a week, talking on the phone most nights). He is amazing, and I felt very lucky that we were together. He's not had anything serious since he split up with a serious girlfriend 5 years ago (they were together six years). He said three months in that it was rare that he really liked someone, so I don't think he took the relationship lightly.

I was starting to get a bit antsy about where we were headed, I think mostly because I’m a words person and he hadn’t said much about it. I really wanted to hear the words ‘I love you’, I guess, because I love him. I haven't said it to him yet, for fear it's not returned. He's the least verbal of any of my boyfriends in terms of affection, though he does treat me very well. And also, I want a kid at some point and don't want to waste too much time on anyone that I’m definitely not going to have a chance of settling down with. I know I know, 30-year-old stereotype!

His cancer is stage 3c – so 50% chance of 5-year survival, heavy stuff). I’ve been pretty dedicated to supporting him. For a while I was able to put all worries to the side – they seemed insignificant compared to, well, his mortality.

I have to admit though that it's been really emotionally draining trying to balance a full-time job and caring for him. To my slight surprise at the beginning, he wanted me at his medical appointments and for me to be the main source of support despite having close family relationships. I think if he could, he’d have me at everything. I realised at that point that perhaps I meant a lot to him. Although an unhelpful ex that I spoke to about the situation just said 'of course he wants a hot girl with him at the hospital instead of his family - it's kind of easier' (or something to that effect), which spun me off into worrying that perhaps my boyfriend is just using me for emotional comfort. That sounds really cruel, writing it down, actually. And the ex that I told (who I now work with unfortunately) did have a real knack for making me feel insecure, I guess. But it still has shaken me.

Recently I have had to draw lines and say that I can’t be there all the time for him (my work was really starting to suffer, I wasn’t keeping in touch with friends and family and I started to feel like my life had fallen apart). This has been difficult for him, and me, and we’ve had a few conversations about when I’ve felt overly drained and responsible for it all, and he has acted a little needy and demanding at times. I think he’s found me drawing lines hard, but I felt like it was best to be honest. I tried to do it in a diplomatic and kind way, but I think he's felt hurt and like he doesn't need those conversations on top of the cancer stuff.

On the plus side, this has meant that we’ve gotten to spend lots of lovely time together, and we’ve both said how much we’ve enjoyed that. I’ve seen his parents quite a lot too – I hadn’t even met them before this, though there were plans in the offing and he’s keen to meet mine (I don’t have the greatest relationship with mine, which is why he hasn’t – nothing to do with him).

Unfortunately, recently I’ve been feeling really insecure, and I don’t feel it’s fair to bring it up with him on top of what he’s going through (chemotherapy right now). I’m worried that he hasn’t said that he loves me. I’m hoping that his actions and the way that he’s wanted me around for him when he’s been so sick means that he does, but just isn’t the type to say it. That’s not to mention the longer term worries around what might happen to him and, if he’s okay, whether our relationship can survive such difficulty as such an early stage.

I’m also worried that he spoke to his ex-girlfriend the other day for the first time in a while. They went out for six years, and had an idyllic, lovely relationship where he was very much part of her (well-to-do) family – something which he loved, and which will never be the case with mine, and seemed to spend loads of time riding horses and hanging out on the beach. Not quite the rushed, London-centric relationship we’ve been having, which is slowly being consumed by a backdrop of hospitals and cancer. Hardly fun, and I’m really worried that he won’t ever love me and the relationship won’t work now this has all come about.

I know this is petty compared to what’s going on with him. But as much as I try and forget all worries just so I can support him and be positive, I wake up anxious from sleepless nights, go quiet at times when I’m thinking about stuff, and generaly don’t seem myself to him which isn’t great anyway. I need a way to put these worries to rest without bothering him about it.

Even though I’m sure you think it’s petty for me to worry about this, do you think I need to worry about him not having said I love you yet? Do you think he might miss his ex-girlfriend and his idyllic life together? They broke up five years ago and he’s said that ‘the relationship ran its course’, but didn’t give a clear answer when I asked if he ever felt sad about breaking up with her – he just said she was ‘super happy’ with her new life. Do you think it’s right to just silently try and quash these worries and not talk to him about it? I think his patience is very thin right now, and the smallest bad thing seems to seem bigger to him as he can’t process information in the same way or be as emotionally generous, or even happy, in the way he used to be able to.

DeanParrish Mon 29-Jun-15 16:06:04

Oh golly, you are both going through a tough time.
I think he has far too much on his plate for the moment to say I love you. What does his actions say? That's what I would judge.
I wouldn't worry about the ex either, he maybe needed to speak to an old friend for sympathy. He might be feeling frightened and isolated and needs as much help anywhere he can find it.
I think you may need support too. Don't look for it from your ex (although he did call you hot).
I hope the cancer dies and your relationship flourishes.

Atenco Mon 29-Jun-15 16:55:34

You certainly have your plate full, don't you, OP. Don't pay any attention to your ex, there is always someone who can make something beautiful sound ugly.
And remember that as a carer you do have to look after yourself first and foremost, otherwise you can't look after anyone else.
Otherwise I just wanted to say that in my experience the boyfriend who most told me that he loved me was the one who was totally inconsiderate of me and the one who refused to say it treated me the best.

Inexperiencedchick Mon 29-Jun-15 18:05:07

Words mean nothing!

And his ex is just a way to get a sympathy.

You don't need his "I love you" expression.

Just be there for him when he most need it.

And please don't share anything with your ex.

And hope, hope for the best.

You love him, that matters the most.

I'm sorry for his condition and for you both going through this.

Please be strong, x

firesidechat Mon 29-Jun-15 18:56:21

Although an unhelpful ex that I spoke to about the situation just said 'of course he wants a hot girl with him at the hospital instead of his family - it's kind of easier' (or something to that effect), which spun me off into worrying that perhaps my boyfriend is just using me for emotional comfort.

I hope you don't mind me picking this bit out from your post. I think that your ex is being ridiculous unless he has been through cancer treatment himself. My husband was diagnosed with cancer 7 years ago and I've been to just about every appointment he has had. I think the last thing on anyone's mind at a time like this is whether the person with them is hot or not. For whatever reason he wants you to come with him and I doubt it has much to do with your looks (not knocking your loveliness by the way) . I hope it's because he loves and trusts you.

Having said all that, 7 months into a relationship is a very short time and it's a lot to deal with and I don't think you should feel to have to do anything. We had been married 26 years when it happened to us and I was happy to do whatever I could at a very traumatic time for both of us. There is nothing to say that you have to do the same.

One more point is the a cancer diagnosis, especially one like your bf has, changes a person. Not always permanently, but I know my husband wasn't the same for quite a while afterwards - more short tempered and preoccupied. Everyday worries didn't even feature on his radar and other things did have to go on the back burner for a time.

I'm not sure what I'm saying really, but I hope your bf's treatment goes well.

Onmyown1 Mon 29-Jun-15 19:21:18

I have stage 4 cancer so I can hopefully advise you on how he might be feeling. Him wanting you at appointments speaks volumes for me. I always ask my sister as I know she has my best interests at heart and I trust her. He might not say I love you as he is trying to protect you and he even might not realise he hasn't said it. The chat with the ex was probably just a chat. I've had boyfriends that I haven't spoken to in 30 years contact me to ask how I am. He might be concerned it's all too much for you. I know I worry more about everyone else than myself, I feel guilty for making everyone worry about me. Speak to him honestly, it seems to me he really does want you there and I think your ex is jealous. Hope everything turns out well xx

derxa Mon 29-Jun-15 19:24:19

I've been through cancer and it certainly sorts out those who will be there for you and those who will not. You seem obsessed with him saying he loves you. Do you love him? Well then tell him. He is very needy at the moment. Who wouldn't be? He's been given a 50% chance of survival. That's not great whatever way you look at it. I was contacted just after diagnosis by an ex-boyfriend from 35 years ago. He phoned and we chatted for an hour. It was the most uplifting thing possible. I've never heard from him since because we are both married.
I hope your boyfriend recovers and regains full health. Don't lead him on if you have no intention of supporting him.

pocketsaviour Mon 29-Jun-15 19:33:54

Although an unhelpful ex that I spoke to about the situation just said 'of course he wants a hot girl with him at the hospital instead of his family - it's kind of easier' (or something to that effect), which spun me off into worrying that perhaps my boyfriend is just using me for emotional comfort.

Right, because when I'm discussing my debilitating bowel disease, the first person I want there is the hot guy/girl I'm banging. Nothing like a discussion of bowel function to get the libido revved up, eh??

Well, I can see why he's your ex. What a shallow idiot.

Gotta be honest, if he wants you at his appointments, and he has a good relationship with his family, he loves you. If he didn't, he'd have binned your off by now. If he wasn't invested, he'd have called things off when he got his diagnosis.

Please take care of yourself as well as him flowers

derxa Mon 29-Jun-15 20:03:22

Apologies OP I was a bit harsh. Hope everything works out. Your bf sounds absolutely lovely. I'm jealous. Good luck with everything flowers

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