The Husband’s Guide To Breast Cancer: How To Best Support Your Spouse
The National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) Department of Psychosocial Oncology has compiled some support tips based on experiences shared by breast cancer patients and their spouses.
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Dealing with the spouse's emotions as she battled breast cancer and coming to terms with your own emotions can take a toll even on the most "macho"man.
Having these feelings is normal. As a husband, you can admit your fears and, at the same time, sincerely reassure your loved one that she is not alone in her journey because both of you will get through it together. This can help anchor emotional security which will be helpful in recovery.
One of the important things that husbands can do after the diagnosis of breast cancer is to quickly educate themselves about cancer. There are hundreds of useful websites to source for background information. Checking with her doctors would help you gain more accurate insights that are specific to her condition. You can also obtain more information on breast cancer treatment at the treatment center that your loved one attends.
If your wife is undergoing a mastectomy, with or without reconstruction, you may want to go online or consult with her doctor privately to check out how it is going to look like after the operation. Preparing yourself may reduce the shock of seeing the wound for the first time, thus decreasing the likelihood of making a face that can be easily misinterpreted as rejection.
SET THE MOOD FOR LOVE
Physical intimacy is an important component in a marriage. Women with breast cancer, especially those who underwent mastectomy, may feel very insecure about their femininity and/or have low libido during treatment periods. It is not uncommon to hear breast cancer patients express fear their husband will leave because of how cancer has affected their intimacy.
Breast cancer does not mean that the sexual aspect of your relationship is doomed. If you are feeling in the mood, check with her how she feels. She may feel differently about her body after treatment. During sexual intimacy, encourage her to tell you what she is comfortable with and what she is not. It will show that you care for her and respect her body.
Communication is important. If her major erogenous zones prior to her illness were her breasts, having a mastectomy or even a lumpectomy can reduce arousal. Help and encourage her to explore different parts of her body to take the pressure off. If she is not ready for intimacy, a simple hug or a backrub can help maintain the connection, letting her know that it is alright and that you still love her.
It is impossible to do everything. You need a break too. Let her know and recharge by occasionally going out with your friends, or just veg out in front of the TV.
* Constance and Daniel are fictitious persons made from composites of experiences shared by breast cancer patients and their husbands.