For better, for worse. For richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health. ‘Til death do us part. Most couples expect the last part to be many years in the distant future. But a diagnosis of breast cancer can change all that. And while only the woman may physically have the cancer, her spouse will be touched by the disease as well.
There are many ways a husband can support his wife when she is in treatment for breast cancer. Words, actions, and just being there are the most important things a husband can do for his wife. Now is not the time for him to hide from such a difficult situation by becoming immersed in work or hobbies. It’s not going to be fun watching your wife being wheeled into surgery or getting sick after chemotherapy. But those are times when just your presence can show her how much you care.
A husband can take an active role in being an advocate for his wife by going to appointments with her, asking doctors questions, and dealing with financial issues. He also can keep things organized by helping to schedule doctor’s appointments, keeping track of medications, paying hospital bills, and checking test results. While all this assistance is good, the husband needs to remember that his wife is not an invalid. Treatment may be difficult, but let your wife take part in activities that she is up to doing. She knows how tired she is, what she can and cannot do, and whether or not she is having a good day. Encourage her to do what she can without pushing her.
Your wife will need an emotional anchor during this difficult time. You can fill that need by telling her that you love her and maintaining the close relationship you had before the diagnosis. Let your wife know that you love her for who she is, not her body type or breast size. If you had date nights periodically before the breast cancer, keep going. But be sensitive to physical fatigue or emotional stress that may prevent her from enjoying your time together.
You and your wife do not have to face a cancer diagnosis alone. Family, friends and neighbors often want to help, but may not know what you need. You can ask for help driving to appointments, running errands, cooking meals, doing some housework, or babysitting the children. Be prepared for different reactions to the cancer diagnosis. Some people step in to help, while others may try to avoid it. You can’t control how they are going to handle it, but you can manage your reactions. Just let them deal with it on their own terms.
By being together through all the appointments, treatment, surgery or chemotherapy, couples can find renewed strength and a sense they can survive and thrive if they stay together. For more information about coping with breast cancer, talk with your doctor or visit the American Cancer Society website at www.cancer.org for a listing of support groups in your area.
For a Physician Referral, call St. Mary's Medical Center at (561) 882-9100.