8 Ways Spouses Can Be Invaluable to Their Wives with Breast Cancer
Learning that your wife has breast cancer can really rock your world. It’s common for spouses to feel powerless and helpless in the face of their loved one’s diagnosis. For simple support, friends and relatives can step in with hugs, meals, and other types of help.
But there are some things that only a spouse can do for their wife. Learn some ways you can help your sweetheart fight cancer.
Be Her Advocate
Breast cancer treatment can be complicated, involving surgeons, oncologists, radiation specialists, and other medical professionals. Be your wife’s advocate. Make sure that important information doesn’t get lost moving from one office to the next, ask questions about care, and help her evaluate treatment options. Remember, it’s her body and her decision to make when it comes to treatment, but you have an important role as a sounding board and champion.
Encourage Her to Seek Support
Although you are her greatest supporter, make sure your wife doesn’t try to rely on you alone. Breast cancer support groups, religious circles, and individual therapy are all available options that can allow her to work through the emotional and mental challenges she’s facing. Being able to talk about her experiences with people who’ve been there but aren’t intimately related to her is incredibly helpful. Don’t forget to seek support for yourself as well: you can’t be her lifeboat if you’re going under.
Organize Her Stuff
A major illness generates an amazing amount of paperwork, even if much of it is online. Let her concentrate on healing while you organize and keep track of bills, prescriptions, test results, appointments, medications, and insurance claims. If you have children, take over managing their schedules as well. All of your wife’s mental and physical energy needs to go toward getting well.
Pick Up the Slack
About that mental and physical energy: she’s probably not always going to have much of it. Depending on her treatment and her body, your wife is likely to experience some radiation- or chemo-related fatigue. While she’s recovering, show your love by picking up the slack and taking over some, or all, of her share of the household chores. You’re going through a lot, too, and it’s OK to let some things slide a bit. But at a minimum, the dishes and the laundry need to be washed, and a tidy environment will give her one less thing to feel stressed about.
Have Some Fun
It’s so easy to allow your lives to become all about her diagnosis and treatment. Don’t let that happen. Remind her that she has a life worth living outside of her illness, and give her something to look forward to when she’s recovered. But keep it low-key, and be mindful that much of her energy right now is going into healing and fighting the cancer. Easy, fun things you can do together include watching a movie (either a matinee or a video at home), playing a card game, or working on a puzzle together. You can read to her from her favorite books or magazines if she’s too tired to read. Keep your sense of humor, and look for stories and jokes that will liven up her day.
Tell Her That She’s Beautiful
Breast cancer can strike at the heart of a woman’s self-esteem. Only you can assure her that she is always beautiful to you, whether she has one breast or none, or if she’s lost her hair to chemo. Show her with words and actions that she’s still your girl, the love of your life, and a magnificent woman.
During treatment, your wife may lose interest or energy when it comes to sex, but that doesn’t mean you have to live like roommates. Be patient with your wife, but maintain your physical connection with back rubs, cuddles, hugs, and kisses. Hold her hand when you go to appointments with the doctor. Be aware that chemotherapy can induce menopause, and sex after your wife’s treatment may need to include lubricants and new positions. Look on it as a new adventure, and don’t be afraid to ask her gynecologist for advice.
Be Her Rock
Your wife may be surrounded by friends, family members, and other supporters, but no one can be her absolute rock in the way that you can. Go to as many of her appointments as you are able, tell her every day that you love her and find her attractive, and be present for her as she goes through treatment. You can be the stronghold she leans on until she can stand on her own again.
Don’t let yourself feel that there is nothing you can do for your wife as she undergoes treatment. No one else can be her rock, her sounding board, and her cheerleader like you can. With your support, your wife can focus all her energy on the fight, and you can strengthen your relationship and your marriage.