Your partner has a big job ahead of her: to become a breast cancer survivor. You have a big job, too: to keep your home together and be the rock for the family. You’ll need support, so that you don’t fall victim to depression, a common risk incurred by family members caring for a cancer patient.
Where can you turn? What exactly should you expect to experience as your partner navigates her fight with cancer? And when will you be able to think about yourself and your needs again?
One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her life. For many, the first symptom is a breast lump. But for some, it is flakiness around the nipple or an underarm lump. Thanks to better screening tests, many breast cancers now are detected early, when they are much easier to treat.
Y-Me is a partner match program that supports partners of breast cancer patients by offering a peer counselor who had the same experience you’re having. The counselor will understand how overwhelming shouldering your partner’s needs can be, and will help you navigate your emotions. Once your partner is on the mend, you can volunteer your services as a peer counselor.
Although you may not want to burden your partner with talk of your own feelings and emotions, communication can help you comfort each other. Your partner may be worried about possibly losing her breast and not being attractive to you. She may feel guilty about not being able to contribute to household duties, or that she’s neglecting the children. Discuss what systems you’ve put into place to reduce her burden of day-to-day activities, and improve the quality of family time.
Depending on the age of children, you can assign them some extra household chores. Just be sure not to overwhelm them with duties, and allow them to continue to participate in activities outside the house. Schedule outings for the entire family to enjoy if your partner feels up to it. If she isn’t strong enough, board or card games with the whole family will allow the children to feel that even though their mother is ill, good family times can still happen.
Enlist extended family members or friends to help with the children, whether it’s driving them to school or giving them some time away from the house and their mother’s illness.
Remember to take time away for yourself. Ask for someone to stay with your partner and recharge and relax with an activity that’s just for you.
You have a difficult job ahead, but don’t feel the need to do it alone. Reaching out to others for help will keep you strong for your partner and allow her to concentrate on beating breast cancer.
Written by: Gloria Attar, RN
Published on Oct 19, 2012
Updated on Mar 22, 2013
Medically reviewed by George Krucik, MD