Ask Fiona: My boyfriend won't face up to his cancer diagnosis

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her perspective on family dramas, emotional issues and dysfunctional relationships. This week: cancer, solo travel and grief

I'm worried my boyfriend is just hoping his cancer diagnosis will all go away

MY BOYFRIEND has just been told that he has cancer of the lymph glands.

He's taking it badly and when I asked him what the doctor told him, he said he couldn't remember other than that they had caught it early. Consequently, he doesn't know what to do next.

I have tried to get him to tell me more, but he just gets angry and says it will sort itself out. I am worried he is just trying to pretend it will go away, but he needs to deal with this. How do I get him to see he must deal with it? I love him too much to lose him.


FIONA SAYS: Support him and visit his doctor together

Like many people who receive the diagnosis of something serious, your boyfriend is probably in a state of shock. A good indication of this is that he can't remember what the doctor said.

You are right to say he needs to deal with this and, ideally, he should go back to the doctor and ask for an explanation of what he now needs to do. It would be a good idea if someone (perhaps you) goes with him this time, to help take on board everything that is said.

What he needs now is your love and support so, tempting though it is, try not to be too forceful. This is a very common cancer and someone in this country is diagnosed with it every 28 minutes. A good source of help, advice and support is the Lymphoma Association ( and its freephone helpline: 0808 808 5555.

There are all kinds of support groups and allied services too, so do make contact with them. Finally, try to be positive for him and remember that an early diagnosis like this means there is a very good chance that he will make a full recovery.


WHEN we bought our new house three years ago, we quickly made lots of friends and everyone made us feel very welcome. However, over the past three or four months I have noticed that many of those people we thought were good friends no longer seem quite so friendly.

Some have been openly hostile and I can't think what has caused this. My husband thinks it's because they've found out we own this house, whereas most people around here are renting.

I feel hurt and bewildered that we are being treated this way. Our move has been so good in many other ways, and my husband's new job has been a great success, but I am beginning to wish we'd never come here. What has gone wrong?


FIONA SAYS: Ask what's happened

It's difficult to be certain why people have changed towards you, and perhaps your husband is right. Could it be that, by buying your house, your neighbours think you are trying to be better than they are?

Another possibility is that you may have been over-enthusiastic in praising your husband's success and people have seen that as a criticism of them. Either way, good friends are hard to come by, so I suggest you try to speak to someone you think will be willing to talk.

Say you want to put things right, then explain that you value their friendship, but are upset by what you see as a change of attitude towards you. If you know what the problem is, perhaps there is something you can do to improve things.


I HAVE been feeling very down since my wife died and it has taken me a long time to begin to feel that I have the strength to go on. My children have been wonderful and have managed to persuade me to take a holiday to Canada where I will travel around seeing relatives and friends.

As the departure date draws closer, I am becoming very anxious about travelling alone; it will be the first time in 30 years that I've been out of the country on my own and I am, frankly, terrified.

My wife was the one who organised money, visas and passports, etc. and although I know this must seem so pathetic, I am genuinely concerned. I wish now that I hadn't depended on my wife for all those years.


FIONA SAYS: Don't be afraid to ask for help

I think you'd be amazed at how willing people are to help if you ask them, so please don't feel afraid to talk to check-in staff, gate staff and cabin crew. Most people in most countries are generally very friendly and my experience of Canadians is that they are no different.

People you come into contact with at airports, hotels and restaurants will, I am sure, be only too happy to help you – you're a tourist and, for them, you're the reason for their job.

Details such as passport, money and visas can be sorted out in advance, so ask your family for help if you are still uncertain. I would also suggest you look up online details about the part of Canada you're visiting.

It will help you feel more at ease if you know a little about the place and, more importantly, are wearing the right kind of clothes for the season. Finally, if you really are nervous of travelling alone, have you considered asking a friend or perhaps one of your family, to accompany you?


I AM 58 and live alone. I would dearly like to find some way that I can help other people who are trying to cope with bereavement. I know what it's like to lose someone and to have to live through the grief that follows. I would like to pass on my experiences, but don't know where to start.


FIONA SAYS: Talk to cruse bereavement care

It's good that you want to turn your sadness into something positive and I think the best place for you to start is with Cruse Bereavement Care ( This UK-wide charity has many support groups and, like all voluntary organisations, they need help.

My only concern is that in your very first sentence you say you live alone and I wonder if this is an attempt to meet new people and tackle loneliness. In which case, perhaps you could see Cruse as a support group for you, as well as an organisation you might like to work with.

I am sure you will get a warm welcome at your local group whatever your motivation is to be there.

:: If you have a problem you'd like Fiona's advice with, please email

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