After Being Diagnosed, Life Can Change Overnight


If your spouse or partner is diagnosed with cancer, your life changes. You worry about the future and your days are filled with appointments, tasks, and caregiving.

If your spouse or partner is diagnosed with advanced cancer, your life changes even more radically.

As one man told me, “It all changed overnight.”

His wife, by all appearances, was doing well when a sudden illness brought her to an emergency room. A CT scan revealed that she had cancer that had already spread. Her cancer could be treated, but no one expected her to survive into old age.

They were both faced with practical and emotional challenges.

She couldn’t work, so their income went down. At the same time, their expenses went up dramatically.

Bob Riter
Bob Riter

He wanted to take time off to be with her, but he had to continue working to maintain their health insurance and to have any income.

The emotional challenges were even more daunting.

He told me, “I used to discuss all of life’s big decisions with her. Now, I can’t. She’s so focused on her illness and trying to get better. I don’t want to bother her with my worries.”

He continued, “What I think about most is my life after she dies. I don’t know if I can or should discuss that with her.”

Cancer suddenly trumps everything in their world and in their relationship. “It’s almost like we’ve gone from a relationship of two to a relationship of three — me, her, and her cancer. Her cancer gets the time I used to get.”

He concluded, “Our relationship is still wonderful, but I don’t get to experience joy.”

I feel his pain. I only wish that I had a magic wand to wave to make it better.

To access resources for caregivers OncoLink has compiled a list of websites where you can find the help you need.


Reprinted with permission of the Ithaca Journal.

Original publication date: July 19, 2016

Bob Riter is the Executive Director of the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes. He can be reached at [email protected]

4 thoughts on “After Being Diagnosed, Life Can Change Overnight

  1. My husband has CML and is taking daily oral chemotherapy which makes him sick. I spend my days trying to talk him into eating (he has lost 22 pounds in 3 months.) he also has Parkinson’s and diabetes (insulin dependent.) the chemo plays havoc with his blood sugar and we have weekly visits with a specialist for this. I spend hours trying to get him to take the multiple pills he has to take. I really feel like a nag. We have been married 43 years and now our days are filled with questions of what to eat and when is he going to take his meds. He also sleeps off and on 18 hrs a day. I am tired and worried and don’t know what to do. The doctors say this is normal. Well I hate normal . Don’ t know if this is right place to vent like this but thanks for listening .

    1. Joan, you are welcome to vent here. Your feelings I’m sure resonate with many. There is so much more we need to do than to find cures for cancer- we need to support patients and caregivers who are going through this experience right now. We can’t let all the moonshot talk make people forget there are real folks dealing with this everyday who need love and support. Thanks to Bob for putting these all to common feelings into words.

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