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Healing strategies – tips that often work

  • Get to grips with the subject – research it. As men, we like to get a handle on problems. That means you need information and there’s plenty available. Look at all of the links on this site. Read, research, get a better understanding of what breast cancer is. Gather information about treatments, doctors, and complementary therapies and about what resources and services there are to help you.
  • Don't assume. You can’t assume the woman you love will provide the sort of facts that will give you the tools to help adjust. You also can’t assume that the woman you love will take in or understand everything her medical support team tell her. She is under significant stress. Make sure you go to appointments with her, and run through everything that was said again afterwards.
  • Discuss your findings with her. Make sure both of you know what is going on.
  • Be the organised one. Keep a calendar of appointments and treatments, deal with financial and insurance issues. Keep track of the kids' routines and family matters.
  • Go with her to the doctor – (if she wants you to). You can provide support and you may be in a better position to make sense of information provided by doctors. Many women report feeling so shocked during hospital visits that they can’t take everything in. Take a note pad and ask questions if you don’t understand.
  • Ask for help with practical things. Friends and family really want to help and will be grateful for a specific request like picking the kids up from school or making a meal to take home. Advice from men who have been through this experience is not to be 'proud', and say you can handle it. Accept all offers of help – it helps friends and family to deal with the illness if they can actively help. Help might mean asking a friend to call every couple of days, for example.
  • Take time out to be with her. Be around. Take time off work. Cut down on other activities to be with the woman you love. You may feel it’s not fixing anything, but it’s helping make it better. Asking for help from friends and family will free up your time.
  • It’s OK to have fun and try to keep your life as normal as possible. Use humour and laugh when you can. Maintain a social life. Have a holiday. Adapt, don’t switch off.
  • Resume former activities as soon as possible but be aware that after completion of active treatment, women often feel the pressure to ‘get back to normal.’ This can cause distress or anger as they feel that their experience has been trivialised. In effect, the goal posts have shifted. You can still play the game, but the rules are different. By accepting that things are different, you can take the pressure off the woman you love and yourself.
  • Think ahead. Help prepare for hospital stays by organising books, CD's, DVD's, or other items to make her stay more comfortable. Give her extra hugs and assurance. Take the kids out so she can rest.
  • Be realistic about your financial situation. During treatment, there will be new expenses to meet and there may have been a drop in family income. Don’t feel guilty if you’re finding it tough. Communication is the key. Talk to employers and see what can be negotiated. Employers can’t offer to help if they don’t know what you are facing. Raise the issue with your doctor. There may be benefits you’re entitled to. Also let your colleagues know what you are going through. They can be a source of help and support.
  • Celebrate treatment anniversaries and victories. Acknowledge that she will be stressed around key anniversary times. Don’t ignore this, do something special to mark the date. Celebrate victories too.