This week, we present an article by guest writer Lauren Johnson on the very challenging role of caring for your wife or partner with breast cancer. Lauren is a homemaker who volunteers for the Susan G. Komen foundation. She hopes her efforts will help her loved ones do everything they can to prevent breast cancer. Thanks very much Lauren.
What to Do and How to Help When Your Wife Has Breast Cancer
Unless you’ve been there, it’s hard to imagine how a man would feel after learning his wife has breast cancer. No one wants to imagine his wife developing this terrible disease. For men who are not used to being caregivers, life will change drastically. The best way to be an effective caregiver to your wife is to ask for and accept help from family and friends, and take advantage of support from websites, cancer organizations and other sources.
Demonstrate Your Love
Self-doubt is a common emotion for women after a breast cancer diagnosis. No matter how silly or insignificant it may seem, get into the habit of telling your wife you love her, and reassure her that nothing will change that. Make a point of doing things to show her you love her. When the tables are turned and you do all the things that she used to do, she may feel guilty for not being a good partner. If you’re used to giving her flowers as a birthday gift, break that habit and give her flowers “just because.” Gifts for no “real” reason can cheer her up.
Men Against Breast Cancer
Men can benefit from support resources that are designed to address their needs. Take advantage of helpful guides from MenAgainstBreastCancer.org. They offer helpful guides on a variety of topics, including ways to show support, a list of what your responsibilities as the primary caregiver will be, and simple things to say or do to make a woman who has breast cancer feel better. Look for one of their local Partners in Survival program, too, or start one for your community. And if that isn’t possible, you can do the Partners in Survival program online.
Update People en Masse
The Patient/Partner Project was created by California software developer David Balch, who uses the site to share his experience as his wife’s caregiver while she underwent treatment for breast cancer. Like other similar sites, it offers a venue where caregivers can go to provide information and keep other family members, friends and co-workers apprised of everything that is going on. It allows men to focus on providing emotional support and medical care, instead of having to spend time constantly answering the phone.
Men have a tendency to worry about financial matters. A major medical crisis like breast cancer can easily turn lives upside down. Everything from the cost of going to a doctor to treatment, transportation and medications can wipe an emergency fund out, not to mention money saved for retirement or other needs. Inquire about a payment plan, and keep in mind that hospitals have financial assistance programs or funds to help pay for expenses that aren’t covered by insurance.
Clinical trials may be an option if treatment isn’t otherwise affordable, and many pharmaceutical companies have provisions to help people who can’t afford to pay for essential medications. Look on the pharmaceutical company’s website for more information.
Use your experience to educate other men about breast cancer. The goal of Susan G. Komen’s KoMEN initiative is to recognize and acknowledge the support men provide, but it is also an opportunity for men to spread awareness about breast cancer and to help people understand that breast cancer isn’t a women-only disease.
One of the biggest struggles a man can face in this situation is dealing with his own feelings. It’s easy to neglect your own needs when you are so worried about your wife. She needs you as her support system, and that means you need to take care of yourself as well.
Take time to let out some of your stress and anxiety by doing things you enjoy. Exercise is a great way to alleviate stress. Go for a run or play a game of football with your mates. Even going for a beer with a close friend can help. It can be difficult to express your feelings in a situation like this, but friends can help you work through some of them.
If it’s too difficult to talk to your mates, try to seek professional counselling. A professional is a non-biased third party and can give you a new perspective. A counsellor will help you organize your thoughts and work out your feelings and fears. It’s important to take care of yourself as you and your wife go through this journey. You’ll ultimately be a better caretaker for her.