Western statistics reveal that nearly seven out of ten marriages touched by breast cancer do not survive and ultimately lead to divorce. With the incidence of breast cancer increasing in young Indian women, this problem will soon be evident here as well. In fact, during my tenure in Bangalore, I did come across a few patients who were deserted by their families after their diagnosis of Breast Cancer.
Although there is no magic formula for a couple to weather this difficult period, but some of these points can help husbands support their wives during their Breast Cancer treatment.
- Stand by her during the treatment & tell her that you ‘love’ her
In a marriage or any intimate relationship, silence is not golden. The strong silent type need not apply for the position of husband, lover, best friend, confidante and supporter of a woman with breast cancer. Your bride, your wife, needs and wants to hear from you. Actions may speak louder than words, and you may take all the right actions, but speaking words brings comfort, reassurance and knowledge of your inner feelings. She cannot read your mind. Being there for her is more than physical or economic security. Words have meaning. And the three most important words in the English language at this time, at this moment, when together you are facing her mortality, are: “I love you.”
- Involve her in the decision making
It is not easy for a lady to deal with the diagnosis of breast cancer. Often it has been seen in India that husbands and family members make clinical and personal decisions on their behalf. Although these ladies appreciate some of the decisions but they would love to be part of others, which involve their future.
A simple example is deciding between a mastectomy & breast conservation surgery. Family members err towards the side of mastectomy but in reality a lot of young patients actually want breast conservation surgery. It always helps to consult them in private and then take a collective decision.
- Go to Her Appointments
It is not what you do when you accompany her to treatment, but rather the act itself that speaks volumes to her. It also gives you some sense of empowerment. You are more than a helpless spectator cursing the damned disease. You have joined the battle.
- Sometimes humor helps
Funny, it does. There’s even a study to prove it, by psychologist Sharon Manne of the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. Couples who laughed at cancer coped better with the stress of treatment. We know that the act of laughing is itself healing. It makes us feel better and helps us get better.
- Continue to enjoy as a couple – she is NOT invalid
Treatment can be grueling and tiring, but you both need to live your life as fully as possible. Continue to enjoy what you enjoy individually and as a couple, particularly the latter. Don’t let cancer put an end to your personal and social life.
If you follow these simple steps, you can also become a Proud Husband of a Breast Cancer Survivor
Dr. Rohan Khandelwal
Consultant, Breast Oncosurgeon
W Pratiksha Hospital