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Typical feelings

Here’s a list of typical feelings other men have described about their reaction to learning the woman they love has been diagnosed with breast cancer. If it’s on the list it’s because many men in your situation have mentioned it. You’re not alone.

  • Feeling guilty? Wondering what you did to bring it on? There’s no cause for the illness which makes it hard to understand.
  • Frustrated at not being able to fix the situation?
  • Unprepared, shocked, disbelieving?
  • Worried about your own ability to cope with the loss of your partner’s breast?
  • Isolated? You may feel very alone when the woman you love is in hospital and find it hard to ask for help.
  • Feeling moody or lacking in energy?
  • Experiencing gnawing fears behind your controlled exterior?
  • Difficulty in concentrating, disrupted sleep, appetite changes, loss, sadness, powerless?
  • Difficulty in coping with the emotional and physical distress felt by the woman you love?
  • Worried and guilty about finances?

It’s never easy to discuss your feelings. You may not know what to say and you may not want to seek help for yourself when you believe the major support should be for the woman you love. Most men find it easier to put their own needs on hold. While it’s tempting to try to protect her by not expressing your feelings, or by trying to be positive, it’s important that the woman you love knows how you feel.

Fear of death

Cancer is a life-threatening illness, not a death sentence. But the issue of mortality is there and should be acknowledged. A sanitised view, that everything will be OK like thinking positively is considered the right thing to do, but isn’t necessarily helpful.

  • Acknowledge your fears. You may fear the cancer itself – that it may come back or that the woman you love may die. You might be concerned about dealing with her emotional changes or you might be concerned about whether she’ll be able to have children in future. These are all natural feelings.
  • Share your fears with your partner. Although this can be difficult, it can be very helpful for both of you. Most women are touched to hear their partner’s concerns, and hearing that you’re scared too can open communication about issues you’re both finding difficult.
  • Focus on quality of life, not on quantity.
  • Ask for help. Get professional help if you need it, talk to someone, talk to each other, try speaking to your doctor, minister, priest or other spiritual advisor.