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A concerned person looks up as a house tumbles from their head

Blood Cancer Anxieties: Relationships & Family

In this series, we discuss causes of anxiety for those facing physical illness and its side effects. Phrases in bold are the words of our community members across various conditions on what it’s like to deal with these anxieties.

When you ask anyone what’s most important, they’ll often put family and friends at the very top. Mutual support is an important part of a relationship: you can support them when they’re in need, and they can in turn be there for you. This becomes a lot more complicated when chronic illness gets in the way. It can make it harder to be there for others when you want to be, and harder for them to understand what you need.

Sources of anxiety

Community members mentioned tensions with partners and other family members, their children’s risk of inheriting their condition, feeling like a burden, and much more:

A house falls amongst fears about family such as: can I provide?

“My family don’t understand” / “family will get tired of me”
Some feel that their condition is downplayed by their family, or that they understand some challenges but not others. They may be able to understand physical symptoms or side effects, but be less understanding of the emotional toll. It can be hard to talk to a family member who doesn’t want to face your diagnosis or doesn’t believe what you’re telling them.

“Not being able to provide”
Many community members talked about letting their family members down, especially their children. Being a parent is a big part of your identity, and it’s hard to admit that your relationships might change. One member described “the disappointment on my daughters face when I’m not there for her.” Another added, “it’s really hard to explain to them why, especially to my 6 year old, mom can’t take her to her lesson.”

”The feeling of not being able to provide for my wife. She has to work when she should be retired.”
Navigating romantic relationships poses a different sort of challenge. If you’re a main breadwinner, you might feel pressure from others or yourself to be strong or tough and provide financially. If you’re dating or in a new relationship, there’s a whole lot of other expectations.

Not only do you worry about what to wear or what to say, you struggle with when, if, and how you’ll explain your condition. It’s a hard balance to know how much you’ll share. You may want to be open, but fear scaring them away. This can be especially hard when you’ve been hurt in the past.

Seeking Support

It’s important to keep lines of communication open when you can. Many people described the love and support that comes from sharing their needs with those closest to them. There are times, however, when you may want to vent and connect farther from the pressure of home. Here’s a few ideas for finding support:

  • Communities like ours and support groups and nonprofits for your condition can be full of people who get how hard it is to balance family life.
  • Not everyone is open to family and couples counseling, but for some it can help to gain perspective on the challenges you’re facing.
  • Ask how your loved ones are feeling, and encourage them to seek support if they need it. Making sure they’re taken care of can open communication and ease stress.
  • Read Ask the Advocates, Part 2: Love Life where our advocates share about their relationships.
  • Read Amber Lynch‘s piece on Telling Your Children You Have Cancer and Jim Smith‘s article on Telling Friends.


  • amber.lynch moderator
    10 months ago

    Telling others and asking for help can be difficult after a cancer diagnosis. While it is easy to put it on yourself, sharing can be a relief and bring much needed support.

  • Ann Harper moderator
    10 months ago

    There are so many changes that occur when your diagnosed with cancer. Then there’s the treatment and all the effects from that. It’s tough on the whole family. Luckily most of us have a good support system at home. For those that don’t, I know there are people out there that would live to help. When my daughter was sick I had offers for rides and we got a lot of emotional support. I think for family, we have to remember they are going through cancer with us. Thanks for sharing.

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    11 months ago

    You know it’s really tough for people going through this. We have to keep up with the pace of life, as life still goes on. Sometimes even when people know what you have gone through, they may bring trivial things in conversation, that resonates but is so different now. A person comparing what we go through with a hangnail… is not going to cut it. The first step is taking a deep breath and hang on for the bumpy ride. We got this!

  • Ann Harper moderator
    10 months ago

    A bumpy road it is, but no matter how rough it gets, we have to keep up. Ignoring some people is key.

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    10 months ago

    I couldn’t have said that any clearer…ignoring some people is definitely something to consider.

  • bluchs
    11 months ago

    WOW! Thank You again for such a great article.
    Anxiety, it is a big part of my life now.
    Side effects from cancer and medications are very bad.
    Yes My family and friends are most important to me.
    Cancer does run in my family, my mother and 3 of her sisters, and one of her brothers all died from cancer.
    I lost 3 cousins to cancer.
    So, yes this is a source of anxiety for me.
    My Family, Does Understand, Thank God!
    I do feel anxiety form, not being able to leave an inheritance for my children, I lost all of my property and assets, cash etc. to Cancer.
    This disease cost me over 250K, in the first 5 months, so It does bother me, that I have spent my children’s inheritance, on my fight against cancer.
    ( it is not fair )
    They all tell me it’s OK, they just want me here, with them, for as long as possible.
    I used to seek support, much more than I care to admit, depression is real and it is not fun.
    But Thank You, this venue has helped me a lot, more than I can say here.
    God Bless, All Team Members and Moderators.

  • Ann Harper moderator
    10 months ago

    Cancer takes so much from us, but having lost my mother, I wish money could have saved her and would gladly have given up any inheritance. You’re loved and that’s so special.

  • Doreen Hribar moderator
    11 months ago

    Thanks so much for the feedback. It certainly has not been an easy journey for you, but so glad to hear you have a wonderful and supportive family. We are so grateful you are part of this comunity and we always enjoy hearing from you.

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