Cancer and Relationships


As much as I share on social media, I hardly share anything about this topic online.  Reasons not too morphed over the years.  Now, no longer.  It is with a deep understanding of differences amidst the same desired fundamentals and the value of learning through conversations.

So, in the interest of full disclosure about this chapter of my life, here are some bits about relationships BTS (behind the scenes) upon a cancer diagnosis.  Perhaps we may enjoy some substantive conversations moving forward.

Firstly, what would your expectations be as a partner to the diagnosed? How about as a friend? As a family member? Would you be afraid of judgement for not wanting to stick around?  Would you be more afraid of the pain from losing your counterpart than the joy of spending every last minute together creating memories?  How confident are you with your promise to fight together? And how proactive are you when you humbly learn you don’t have what it takes?  How dignified can you maintain while resentment builds from unmet expectations of your ill counterpart?  If you give and expect something back, like affection, how real is your generosity? How do you fight your own struggle of needing attention and care from your counterpart too?  How do you handle not being the most important source of support as you hope you were expected to be? How do you even speak of struggles together anymore if you’re always undermining your shit as “nothing like what you’re going through”?  How do you hang on to hope and dreams of a future when things are significantly less certain?  How deep inward are you willing to focus on and reflect your outward focus authentically? How do you care for your own mental and emotional health yet not make your counterpart’s cancer diagnosis about you?

These are some questions I asked myself in my effort to understand what it is like for the other person.

Do I know if they even think about these questions? No, I don’t know.

I mean, what do you think goes through the mind of folks who’s had a lot of chemo in their system?

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Seriously though…

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I should probably mention that even staying focused on blogging was a challenge…

It took me an hour to remember one question I wanted to ask my doctor yesterday…

…OOOOHHHH maybe THIS is why returning to full-on-work-mode is not as easy as it sounds…

…Fuck, did I send that email I was supposed to?…

…Now what was I saying?…

I’m referring to this blog bit as “relationship BTS (behind the scenes)” because of the thought process emphasis here as opposed to the actions, and lack thereof, up to date.

Why am I pulling away? Why am I not willing to grant a caretaking role to feed another’s sense of self-worth? What is putting me off? How do I process internal reactions that may seem too aggressive for another’s fragile emotional state? Where do I draw the line between having compassion for the partner and wanting to say “harden the fuck up, I need you to be stronger than me”?  Where do I draw the line between making the effort to outwardly change my behaviour for the sake of the relationship and feeling like a hypocrite for not real? Why am I interpreting their behaviour as such? How do I still be a team player when I feel like a dysfunctional team member or have the conflicting idea that I have to be the strong one for both of us?  And when they pull away, how do I move forward with this disappointment and anger at them for not fighting, which is really me failing to express my expectations? How do I bring up the elephant in the room again, sensing that it’s more difficult for the other person to talk about with the Emily-with-cancer specifically?  How do I demonstrate that while I may be more vulnerable now, I am not fucking fragile? What can I do to assure and comfort them while not wanting to coddle them? That last one is tough, most of us around me are neophytes in the game but even if you have been affected by cancer in the family before, it doesn’t get any fucking easier.

Now, I realize those are important questions and pretty much scream common sense.  Yet, I haven’t practiced this thought process on a deeper level than I do now with the complex box of cancer chocolates, nor have I practiced this with everyone in my life in the past, as frequently as I will be now.

Do you?



My Fighting-Cancer-Fund Aid.  Thank you for supporting me and my quest to live on.

Published by Emily Lola Tan

I've been told that I'm tiny but tough, so I must have gotten SOME things right. On the inside, I feel like a mushy marshmellow who's a hopeless romantic and find corny cute. Writing "About Me" sections had evolved in the past x years of online profiles, currently, it sits at me still hungry for enlightening experiences and insightful traveling, particularly with human connections. My story at full length on the "About" page :) Thank you for poking around!

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