When your Wife has Breast Cancer

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Marriage vows proclaiming that you will take your spouse “for richer or poorer”, “in sickness or health” and “till death do us apart” seem little more than inspiring words during the wedding ceremony. It is only when an ugly reality like a life-threatening disease breaks in the monotony of married life that the vows are actually put to test. So if your wife has just been diagnosed with breast cancer or if you have been battling it as a couple for some time, here are a few tips on how to cope.

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Listen to her

This is a time when you need to listen to your wife with both ears. She is dealing with a storm of emotions, fears and anxieties and the first way you can help her through this is simply being there with her. If she feels like expressing all the tumult in her mind in words, just hold her hands and listen. Don’t try to talk her out of her emotions or offer immediate solutions. You need not even make verbal replies but merely being present and but mirroring her actions will tell your wife that you are there for her. For instance, if she just wants to sit by the window and look out, go ahead and sit with her. Don’t goad her into talking or telling how to feels but when she does, actively listen to her and pay attention to what she is saying. Merely the feeling of your company and the certainty that you will be there with her on this scary road will go a long way in making her feel better.

Tell your wife that you love her

While you may have expressed your support for your wife in your actions, there is a time when you need to verbalize it as well. And the best way to do this is by mouthing the three simple life-giving words, “I love you”. While silence may be golden in some situations, it is not when your wife is suffering from breast cancer. Your wife and partner needs to hear from you that no matter what lies ahead, you will always continue to love her. Action may speak louder than words and the practical care you take of your wife may signify your love, but verbalizing them in words is equally important. Speaking words have meaning and they are bound to bring your wife reassurance, comfort and the knowledge that she will not suffer alone and can always depend on your love and support.

Accept help

When family and friends come to know that your wife has breast cancer, many among them will ask if they can do something for you and your wife. At such times, don’t hesitate to say ‘yes’. Like most men, you may have balked at stopping for directions when you were lost while driving, but this time accept help from people who actually love and care for your family. Explore all the ways how friends and family can pitch in at this crucial time. While neighbors could sign for packages in your absence or stock up your groceries, parents could help out by looking after your kids. Co-workers on the other hand could send you project updates and resources by mail. And the best part about this circle of support is that the people asking to help need your ‘yes’ as much as you. It gives humans a sense of being able to do something positive about this insidious disease that seems beyond everybody’s control.

Show physical affection

One of the most devastating thoughts to assail women suffering from breast cancer is that they will no longer be attractive as before to their husbands. The best way you can reassure your wife that you still find her lovely and will never leave her is by showering her with physical affection. Hug and kiss her as often as you can. Caress her cheeks or give her a hand a romantic squeeze if you find her feeling down. This is even more important when you wife goes through a mastectomy which involves removal of the cancerous breast. A voluptuous bust is so much part of the popular notion of female sex appeal and indeed the very idea of feminity that a woman losing a breast might feel that she is somehow less than a woman now. At such times,  your gestures of love will help your wife in having faith in your love and instead focus on battling the disease.

Give humor a chance

Everyone knows that that the act of laughing is itself healing. It makes us feel better immediately and helps those suffering to get better. This is for the simple reason you cannot laugh while feeling sorry for yourself. Seeing the humor in any situation brings relief and release. And even though nothing may seem worth smiling about when your wife is suffering from breast cancer, try to look for instances where you can crack a joke or say something funny. It will not only lighten the atmosphere but bring a smile to your wife’s lips and what’s more help you to keep the focus on healing and positivity.

Let yourself go once in a while

Many men find it difficult to cope with their wife’s breast cancer because they think it is unmanly to give into their feelings.  However cancer is a terrible disease and it is only natural to be overwhelmed by feelings of fear, rage, loneliness and helplessness when your partner has it. In such a situation it is better if husbands allow themselves to express their feelings in tears if necessary. “A good cry can make you feel better,” says Marc Silver, author of Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (and Yourself) During Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond , “It can decrease caregiver stress and relieve the tension of all those emotions building up inside.”  In fact a car makes for a good private place to have an outburst when the going seems to get too tough.

Seek professional help

If you find it increasingly difficult to cope with your wife’s illness, by all means explore the option of therapy or counseling. Since your wife and perhaps kids are depending on you for emotional support in this time of crisis, any way which builds your mental strength or helps you to look at the positive should definitely be tried.