Sunday 21 January 2018

Ask Majella: Majella O'Donnell solves your problems

Is my sister using her illness to gain sympathy?

Majella O'Donnell
Majella O'Donnell

Advice on a sister who is recovering from cancer and for a couple experiencing bedroom issues.

Dear Majella

My sister had a very serious form of cancer for the last two years and underwent a lot of tough treatment. During that time our family stepped in and helped with her son who is at school, did her housework and took any pressure off her. She got the all-clear before Christmas. Now she is still expecting my mother and I to do her school runs for her son, supermarket shopping etc - even look after her garden. My wife and I are getting fed up, and I feel she is putting too much pressure on my mother who is near 70. She got used to being taken care of and now she doesn't want to do anything for herself. She is separated and used to work part-time, but hasn't even returned to her job, even though her doctor told her she was able to.


Majella replies: Dear Mick

I can understand where you are coming from but I can also understand your sister's behaviour. As someone that has had cancer I understand what it is like to travel that journey. What you must try to understand is that, just because she has had the all-clear, it does not mean that everything will go back to normal for her. She has been through a major life-threatening experience and she will never be the same again.

It is very strange when you are given the all-clear and everyone thinks that it's all over. On the one hand, everything may be finished as far as treatment is concerned but inside it's probably the first time she has had the chance to truly think about the whole experience.

While you are going through it you don't have time or energy to think. You are just dealing with the process of getting through the surgery and chemotherapy but when it's all over it sinks in and can actually overwhelm you.

Apart from that, your energy levels take a good year or so to really get back to normal. It can also be very frightening when suddenly all the doctors and nurses are no longer there. You can almost feel abandoned for the first time since the diagnosis.

Having said all of that, of course you want your sister to start living her own life again and managing for herself. Maybe you could cut down on the chores you do little by little. You could suggest that she does some of the school runs while the rest of you fill in where necessary. Tell her that you fully understand how hard it must be for her and that you want to continue to support her, but that you are finding it a bit tough doing as much as you are.

Ask your mother how she feels. She may be happy that she is doing something to help. If it is too much for her then you will need to explain that to your sister in a gentle supportive way. Don't be too hard on her. She has come through a lot and she still needs to know that you are all there for her. She will eventually get back into it but it may take a while longer. Christmas was only four months ago. It really isn't that long considering all that has happened.

My new man has trouble in the bedroom

Dear Majella

I have been seeing a really lovely and funny guy for around two months now. We have so much fun together and I really fancy him, more than I have fancied anyone for years. But there is a huge problem which we never speak about. The first time we slept together there was an issue with him keeping it up which I put down to first night nerves and we also had had a few drinks. But now it's more than nine weeks later and it's always an issue. I've tried to speak to him about it but he gets upset with me. I'm trying to be supportive because I do really like him, but it's becoming so frustrating. I'd really like to see where it goes but my friends say I'm just better to end it now. What do you think?


Majella replies: Dear Sinead,

If you really like the guy and you think there could be a future, then I think it's worth trying to work through this problem. There are many reasons why he may be having problems with his erection and talking about it at such an early stage in your relationship must be very hard for him. Put yourself in his position and try to imagine how he's feeling. You say you have tried to talk to him but that he gets upset with you. I suppose it really depends on when you have tried to talk to him and how you've approached the subject.

If you have talked to him just after you have tried to make love then I think that could be very embarrassing for him. He will probably feel like a failure.

You need to pick a time when you are both relaxed but not near the bedroom. Maybe when you're sitting having a nice glass of wine at home.

Tell him what you told me - that you really fancy him, he makes you laugh and you enjoy being with him but you think maybe he's not attracted to you. Putting the focus on yourself is better than pointing the finger at him!

He will probably say that you are being silly or that it's not true and then you can bring up the subject of him not being able to keep an erection. Tell him that you think that maybe you are the reason that this is happening. I think he will then be able to talk about why he can't perform because he will be trying to make you feel better.

If he doesn't want to talk about it then, you will have to say that you cannot see a future in a relationship where your partner is not willing or able to open up to you.

Get in touch

Write to Majella at Dear Majella, Weekend magazine, Irish Independent, 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1 or email Majella regrets she cannot enter into any personal correspondence.

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