Breast cancer husbands

Breast cancer husbands
By: Jeff Cunningham
October was breast cancer awareness month. Earlier in the month Tiffany Sisson reported on a variety of topics related to this devastating disease and women. But as I watched those stories, I thought what would I do as a husband to help my wife if that nightmare happened to us. What I found is there is no easy answer to that question. But I did find a couple who found their own way through a tough time.
Right after Connie Eichorn had a mastectomy, she and her husband Butch celebrated their 34th wedding anniversary. That was almost a year ago. Breast cancer was a diagnosis that caught Connie and Butch by surprise.
To say it's been a learning experience is an understatement for both of them. Chemotherapy left Connie with no hair. One of Butch's first lessons, a sense of humor helps.
It's been a year of doctors appointments, chemotherapy and surgery's. And through it all Butch was right by his wife's side, learning sometimes words aren't necessary to say I love you. Butch became adept at being a liaison between Connie and the outside world running interference when she wasn't up to talking to the many friends and family that wanted to show support.
Connie and Butch say they have learned a lot through this battle with breast cancer. 34 years of marriage can't prepare you for the bad news, but it can help you understand what you already knew, you lean on each other and love can conquer all.
I exchanged e-mails with a man named Marc Silver who wrote a book called Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife Through Diagnosis, Treatment, and Beyond. Here are twelve tips he offered to help:
  1. Shut up and listen. To her complaints, her stories, her fears, and her feelings.
  2. Don't be a 24-7 cheerleader. Sure, in theory it's good to look on the bright side. But studies show that women who express all their emotions cope better with the stress of treatment.
  3. Follow her lead. You can share your views about treatment options, but she's the boss.
  4. Be her appointment pal. Unless she strenuously objects, go with her to doctor's appointments whenever possible. Ask how you can be most helpful: by keeping track of her questions, taking notes or taping the session, or just holding her hand.
  5. Ask for a to-do list. That goes for household chores as well as cancer issues.
  6. Don't be afraid to joke around. Laughing at cancer is one way to lessen the stress you're both feeling--as long as your wife doesn't take offense.
  7. Take a break from cancer. Whenever possible, get out of the house--for an overnight trip, a dinner out, a movie. Or rent a DVD if your wife isn't up to an excursion. You'll both feel better.
  8. Keep intimacy alive. Even if your wife's not in the mood for sex because of surgery, chemo, or radiation, she might love a back rub or a foot massage.
  9. Flowers. They work wonders--something lovely in the midst of a not-so-lovely time.
  10. Recharge your batteries. ^ With your wife's OK, do something you enjoy--shoot hoops, ride a bike, play poker.
  11. Find a confidant. Pour your heart out to a friend or call the Y-ME breast cancer hotline at (800) 221-2141. It has husbands on call.
  12. Be prepared for a New Normal. After treatment, even if your wife seems OK, she may still be worried about recurrence or just not feeling herself. Show a little empathy.
There are also a couple of local support groups you can contact:
One is the "I Can Cope" support group which meets the third Wednesday of every month at 14 Doctor's Park Suite A. For more information, call 573-331-5853.
The other is the "Breast Cancer Support Group," which meets on the third Thursday of every month in the Healing Arts Conference Room on the first floor of the Healing Arts Center at Saint Francis Medical Center. For more information, please call 573-331-5357.
Both groups are for patients and their families. The support groups offer patient education as well as support.