Testicular Cancer

How it affects family relationships

Relationships within families can change as the result of illness. Some families find it difficult to talk about cancer or share their feelings. One man remembered that when he told his mother about his cancer on the phone she replied, “Oh, you'd better have a word with your father”. Another young man we interviewed said he found it really hard to talk to his parents about his illness, and found it impossible to say exactly what he was feeling.

The cancer diagnosis may have different meanings for different families. One man, for example, couldn't tell his sister about his testicular cancer because both his parents had died of cancer, and he knew she would be upset.  

Some men asserted that the cancer diagnosis was more devastating for their families than it was for them. One man mentioned that his young children had been worried about his illness, fearing he might die. Another man said that he had to find support for his children because they found it so hard to cope with the situation (Macmillan Cancer Support’s website has a helpful section on talking to children).

One man said it was very hard telling family and friends because they became so upset, and he felt that he was somehow 'to blame' for upsetting them. He felt that he had to 'manage' the information that he passed on to some of his family, taking care not to worry them unduly. He found it easier to carry on life 'as normal'. Another man remembered that his family became 'overprotective' when he was ill.

Relatives may feel a sense of helplessness, fear or despair during the period of diagnosis and treatment, but feel that they must present a 'brave face' at all times. 

Some men recalled that family members hid their feelings, trying to be strong for them. One said that his wife hid her feelings until he was cured, and only then did she express her distress. Another man wished he had tried to discuss his illness with other people. He said that he had forgotten that other people were worried too.

Wives and partners may offer tremendous support. One man we spoke to said that his wife put her life on hold' for three months, thinking about his needs instead of her own. Men may become quite dependent on their wives for a while and this can affect long-term relationships. One man said that he and his wife found it very hard dealing with threats of cancer recurrence. However, another man thought that cancer had brought him and his wife closer together.

The brothers and sisters of a young person with cancer may feel neglected during illness because parents are so concerned about the ill member of the family.

One man we interviewed sadly recalled that when he had cancer in 1968 his brother and father didn't visit him when he was in hospital. He could only suppose that they were scared of cancer and since they believed that cancer was genetically inherited, couldn't contemplate the idea that they might one day have the same disease (see 'Ideas about causes'). 

Last reviewed December 2017.
Last updated December 2017.


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