Andy Jackson
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The emotional impact of blood cancer

Andy Jackson
Posted by
18 Feb 2015

Having friends and family to help support you on the emotional and physical rollercoaster that is living with blood cancer is invaluable. However, friend's and family's responses aren't always what you'd expect as we discovered when we asked our supporters on Facebook about the affect blood cancer had had on their relationships with loved ones. Here's what they had to say:

1. Prepare yourself for some surprises 

For many support from friends and family that they assumed would be a given never really materialised, putting a real strain on these relationships and, in some cases, seeing the relationship sadly break down altogether. Caroline Warren's experience was typical of many of the responses: 

For ALL patient Andrew Scaman many friends he thought would be there for him became more distant while others he wasn't expecting to be so supportive came to the fore, making him realise that you don't need a lot of friends just true ones. Andrew wrote:

Andrew's experiences were similar to a number of others like non-Hodgkin lymphoma patient Donna Antrobus who wrote:

2. Blood cancer can make relationships stronger

While many relationships become more distant, others mentioned how some became stronger and more meaning than ever before as they supported each other through the ups and downs and general uncertainty that blood cancer exposes you to. Liz Edwards wrote:

Paul Dodd, who had been going out with his girlfriend for two years when he was diagnosed with ALL, had a similar experience as his girlfriend took him into her home, cared for him and stuck by him all the way. They are now getting married and are stronger and wiser for the experience:

3. Blood cancer can create new relationships

It's ofen said that no one knows what you're going through more than someone who's going through something similar and this was certainly the case for some of the respondents who found new friends after being diagnosed with blood cancer. Erin Allison, whose Dad has CLL, spoke of how her Dad is now part of a 'Cancer Club' that meet up for dinner and meet ups to help each other through treatment:

For non-Hodgkin lymphoma patient Sue Holden Smith meeting someone else who had also experienced blood cancer enabled her to embark in a loving and understanding relationship:

4. Blood cancer can bring people back in to your life

For one respondent, Graeme Elliott, being diagnosed with AML it made the bond between his partner closer and stronger yet it also brought him back in touch with his brother who he hadn't previously spoken to in 15 years! Graeme wrote:

5. Blood cancer can affect your social life

This may sound an obvious one but it's true! Having blood cancer affects your energy levels and this can make socialising more difficult. This can have a knock on affect on your relationships with others as they begin to stop inviting you to things assuming you can't go out, resulting in you slowly drifting apart. CLL Marilyn Hogan touched on this issue when she wrote:

Ultimately everyone's experience is different and it's important to appreciate that people will respond to blood cancer in very different ways. Those that keep their distance will do so for a number of reasons and this does not necessarily mean that they love or value a relationship any less.

However, it's only right to leave the last word to a patient and Joanne Howe Heart's advice provides a pretty balanced view on many of the issues raised. Joanne wrote:

Read the original Facebook post

Do you have any addtional advice or experiences that you'd like to share about relationships? Have your say in the comment box below:



My relationship with my daughter has unfortunately never been the same since our grandson was diagnosed with ALL at nearly 3 years old. I found it difficult to cope with the fact that my daughter was so blasé about the diagnosis, and treated him as if nothing was wrong when he was obviously very sick with the chemo. etc. The younger grandson (only by 17 months ) became very challenging, but our daughter resisted any help and saw our intentions negatively. It has all been such a sad time for us all and has shattered our world . I'm not moaning just thankful to be able to write down how I feel.


A rare form of NHL changed my life 26 years' ago. My husband aged 41 developed this disease, and sadly died 6 months to the day after his diagnosis, leaving me with 2 children aged 4 and 9. At the funeral, I donated money to the Lymphoma Association, which was then run from someone's home. At that time there was very little in the way of support groups of any kind for patients and their families, and I felt very alone. I am pleased to see how the Blood Cancer organization has grown, so it can now offer so much help to patients and their families.

Lucy Simpson

Fantastic blog Andy - my own family's experience of NHL definitely brought us all closer together and made a lot of friendships stronger.