Not everyone reacts to hearing that you have breast cancer the way you would expect. I experienced a lot of different reactions, from family, friends and coworkers.
For a variety of reasons, not every husband is immediately supportive. They are in shock as much as you are at hearing the news. I have a lot of friends that have had breast cancer and I witnessed a myriad of reactions from their husbands. Some are in denial and won’t acknowledge that there is anything wrong, and then there are those that stand by their wives every step of the way and are constantly looking for more information to help them to know what to do. Most are somewhere in between.
When I was diagnosed, my husband didn’t really know what to do. He is a good man, but not very good at comforting someone. I think he felt I always took care of things and I would take care of this. And, of course, I expected him to be the “rock” for a while and was disappointed when he wasn’t.
I tried to handle everything myself, and as I look back on that time, I realize that I pulled away in my determination to be strong. My husband thought I didn’t want his help, and so began a vicious cycle. Please, tell people what you need. They want to know, so they can help.
I work in an office with mostly women and I’ve seen several coworkers diagnosed with breast cancer. After my own personal experience, I started putting together a little “gift bag” for my friends. It included a candle, lotion and a humorous book called “Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy” in an effort to lift their spirits. But, my ulterior motive was really to include a book for their husband’s called “Breast Cancer Husband, how to help your wife (and yourself) through diagnosis, treatment and beyond.” It was a way to let their husbands know how to be supportive.
I experienced a very touching moment after I started giving out my gift bags. A male coworker came into my office one day and said he heard I had a book about breast cancer for husbands. He shared with me that his ex-wife was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. He had two grown daughters and wanted to know what to expect and how to help his ex wife and his daughters through this tough time.
I was so touched by his request. He was an ex-husband who wanted to help his ex-wife. I gladly gave him a copy and gained a new respect for him. Sometimes support comes from unexpected places.
Friends are a wonderful source of support. They always seem to understand us, after all, that’s why they’re our friend. Let them know if you’re feeling especially down, you don’t have to feel alone. Spend time with people that lift your spirit. There’s plenty of time to be serious.
If you feel overwhelmed, seek professional help. There are medications that can help you cope. Your emotions will be magnified during this time, so take what you need to take to feel better.
Ask your doctor for a support group or even another patient’s name and number that you can talk to. It’s helpful to talk to someone that has been through what you are going through.
If you know someone with breast cancer, and want to help, just call to say hello and ask “how can I help you?” That way you are leaving it up to them to let you know what they need. Even if they say they don’t need anything, they will be touched that you cared enough to ask.
There’s nothing wrong with realizing you need help. Ask for it. Most people feel honored when you ask them for help. Allow them that gift.