Supporting a breast cancer patient
Marc Silver, author of ‘Breast Cancer Husband,’ on sharing the news with family, adjusting to the changes and the best ways to provide comfort.
How do I deal with the news?
Your wife needs husbandly support. The worse thing you can do is go into denial. It may be a human reaction, but it’s a selfish one. None of us want to become caregivers — but if your wife is feeling lonely and bereft, and she needs comfort from the one she loves.
How do we tell the kids?
If there is the slightest bit of uncertainty, wait to be sure before you break the news. Lay out the facts to them but place more emphasis on the good prognosis. Kids can tell if you’re lying, so be honest with them. Update them on the situation each week.
What do I do when she goes bald?
A man doesn’t expect his wife to have a shiny scalp. Many women find it harder to lose their hair to chemo than breasts to surgery. A bald head is an instant cancer giveaway, the size of her cleavage isn’t. Your wife should be OK to walk around the house without her wig. If you’re a “Star Trek” fan, tell her you now love her even more bald.
Are there restrictions on intimacy?
“Can we have sex during chemo?” That’s an awkward question to ask an oncologist. It’s possible to maintain intimacy during chemo. The loss of physical touch is huge, and if you pull back she’ll think you no longer find her attractive. There are other ways to connect intimately other than sex. You can cuddle, hug or give her a massage.