Husband has lymphoma

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My husband who is 40 has B cell lymphoma, He was diagnosed 4 weeks ago and has had no treatment or medication yet. Obviously this is a shock to us both. He has not taken the news well and is being incredibly abusive to me and our son (14). He is drinking a lot of alcohol (60 units last week) and being extremely aggressive. The level of verbal abuse we have to suffer on a daily basis is shocking and distressing. He has been abusive for years but this is now on a different level. I feel trapped and obliged to stay to take care of him as he has cancer, I want to take care of him but am not sure I can cope with his degradation and sheer nastiness towards me- I feel guilt about feeling sorry for myself when he has cancer. None of the doctors or nurses we have seen have said anything about the amount of alcohol he consumes- which he has taken as licence to drink as much as he wants.
He tells me he hates me, I’m not good enough, and that his cancer is my fault - because apparently I have made his life so stressful and miserable - which I have not and it is devastating to hear him shout that at me in such a hateful way. 
Is this a normal  way to adjust to a diagnosis, do others experience this, how do I cope with this level of  abuse in order to protect my son and my mental health, and to be able to take care of my husband? Any advice would be very much appreciated. 


    I am so sorry to hear about your husbands diagnosis; it sounds as though you and your son have both been through a lot for some time.   May I take a moment to ask, how are you coping day to day?  Do you have family and/or trusted friends around you?  Supporting someone with cancer can have a major impact on your life; at times, it can be just as hard for you as for the patient. 

    Of course, alongside the cancer, you have the verbal abuse to deal with, and you mention he can be “extremely aggressive”.  This is very worrying for both you and your son.   Whilst I’m sure the anxiety your husband is feeling at the moment may be contributing to your husband’s behaviour, it’s never OK to verbally abuse someone and it’s important that you look after your own well-being. 

    If you don’t feel safe around him, you may want to consider speaking to someone.  You mention you have spoken about his drinking, but have you spoken to anyone about your husband’s behaviour at all?  Maybe a friend you trust, or anyone who is part of his healthcare team?

    It can really help to talk openly about how you are coping;  I am so glad you’ve found the Online Community and have reached out for some support on the site.  Please know, as well as the Online Community, we are also here on the Macmillan Support Line as a safe place to talk through how you’re coping and access emotional support; we don’t want you to feel you have to cope with this on your own.  The number is 0808 808 0000 between 8am and 8pm every day.

    In addition, your GP, and your sons GP, have a duty of care for your physical and emotional well-being and they will want to help you access the support you need just now.  Please feel you can call 999 if you feel threatened and unsafe.

    Another option for support for both of you, is via your local Social Services teams.  Below are links to Children’s Social Services for your son, and Adult Social Services for you, in the way of a carers assessment.  Someone from the team will ask you how you are coping with caring:  this includes your mental health and well-being.  The links will help you find your local Social Services teams, which should have an Out of Hours Emergency number should you need to speak with someone over a weekend.

    NHS Childrens Social Services

    Carer's assessments - Social care and support guide - NHS (

       I can’t imagine what it feels like to be told that you are at fault; it sounds incredibly hurtful; alongside this, you mention “feeling trapped” which sounds as though this is overwhelming for you. Are you able to get any respite?   I am wondering if there times when perhaps you feel for your safety, and that of your son, and would like to look at options outside of your home?   I’m not sure of your gender, but, if you are female and you need a safe confidential space to get help and talk about how you’re coping, (as well as the options above) you can call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline for free and confidential advice, 24 hours a day on 0808 2000 247. Don’t worry, if your not in a safe place to get in touch by phone, you can use live webchat by clicking this link from 3pm to 10pm Monday to Friday. An adviser will offer information to help you make choices that may help.

    Refuge for women and children

    If you don’t identify as female, please let us know (if you are comfortable) and we will look at other options to make sure you get the best support.

    Also   as your son is just 14, we would like to get in touch directly to offer support if that’s helpful?

    I mentioned above about your well-being:  its so important that you look after yourself at this incredibly stressful time. Perhaps have a look at the links below to see if these organisations are offering the type of emotional support, for you and your son that may be welcome.

    Supporting Someone with cancer   There is a possible counselling option here for you to explore.

    Help to cope when a parent has cancer.

    Regarding your partner, and his feelings towards his lifestyle, I have a few options in mind, but, from your post, it sounds as though perhaps he may not be open to help at this time.   I will post my thoughts for you look over, and maybe offer to him when the time is right.

    NHS Alcohol Misuse

    Macmillan has the offer of free counselling, should he feel that his cancer is impacting the choices he is making now.  He may refer himself for a Well-being Assessment via the link below, or maybe he would like to ring the Support Line to speak to an Advisor and we can help him with a referral over the phone.

    BUPA Free Counselling

    I am mindful not to overwhelm you, as you can always come back to us.  I do hope this information is helpful.  Please do just get back in touch if you need any further support have.


    Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Advisor