Chelsea Curley writes:
My long-distance boyfriend was diagnosed with prostate cancer in February of this year. He's undergoing chemotherapy, and I believe it's helping. However, I have noticed that he's becoming increasingly withdrawn, less talkative, and almost bitter. I want to be of emotional support, but I'm not sure how. It seems that he is intentionally pushing his loved ones away. I try to give him space and time to fully digest his circumstance, but I'm also afraid of him possibly mistaking my consideration as abandonment or indifference.
Any suggestions on how to support him without making him feel smothered? I appreciate any advice you can give. I thank you for taking the time to contact me. God bless.
Your situation is not at all uncommon among patients and caregivers. Sometimes a person with cancer draws inward as they process their diagnosis, treatment and future. They may also attempt to distance themselves in order to avoid seeing loved ones in pain because of the diagnosis.
The way you’ve handled the relationship so far is great. You just need to continue with clear communication that lets him know you’re with him as he goes through cancer treatment. You might ask him what he needs from you — chances are good that he experiences support, empathy and even love differently than you do yourself. Asking him directly offers each of you the opportunity for important conversation.
I would recommend to you a book written by Dr. Michael Barry, Director of Pastoral Care at our Cancer Treatment Centers of America Philadelphia facility. The book is titled The Art of Caregiving, and it is full of wise direction for those in the difficult role of caregiving. I would also recommend that you find a support system for yourself ... somewhere that you can share your feelings and concerns with like-minded people.
And, of course, I would encourage you to pray continually, asking God to give you words and direction in this most important role. He will provide for you and bless you as you care for your boyfriend!
Chaplain Suzanne Leahy
Manager, Pastoral Care
Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Western Regional Medical Center