Welcome breast cancer sisters, family and friends. We hope to make this chapter of your life a little easier, treatment less difficult, help families cope, provide inspiration and guide you to a new place of strength and purpose.

10 Tips For Breast Husbands & Caregivers

©Brenda Coffee. All rights reserved.

When it comes to cancer, most of the attention is focused on the patient or survivor, but have you ever thought how hard it is to be the caregiver? In many respects it’s as difficult as being the patient. I know what it’s like to be a caregiver. When I was 36, my late husband was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. Being a caregiver is a tough job. You don’t need a resume to get hired, and you are hired for as long as you are needed. You may not feel adequate or appreciated, but caregivers are the unsung heroes of cancer survivors and their families. While this message is aimed at all caregivers—life partners, significant others, friends and family—much of what I’m about to say is aimed at men. Caregiving doesn’t come naturally to most men, but it is a skill that can be learned, so listen up while I give you “Caregiving 101.”

“Heroism, at its essence, is when a man does that which is not fun, pleasant, safe, or fraught with
potential rewards. It is man doing what is necessary, under the existing circumstances, and doing it for no other reason than because it is the right thing to do and without regard for the consequences to himself.” 
James Coffee

My husband, James, would be the first to say fear and anger are heavy burdens, but deal with it. “It’s time to cowboy up,” he would tell you. “This train is taking off regardless of whether you are scared and ticked-off, so you need to get through this the best way possible.”

Just be there: Take her to every doctor’s appointment, lab, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Ask her doctors the hard questions and remember them, because she may be too scared, scattered and drugged to remember them.

Buy a notebook and write down both of your questions. Take the notebook with you to each doctor’s appointment. Keep asking questions until you understand the answers. Ask when the lab results, biopsy, etc. results will be back, and don’t be afraid to call the doctor if you haven’t heard anything.

You don’t need all the answers. Just hold her hand; hold her, and listen to what she says. Acknowledge her fears, and your own, but don’t feed them. Sometimes just saying “I hear you,” is enough. When my fears got the best of me during treatment—usually the umptieth time I expressed the same doom and gloom outcome—James would say, “Stop it! You don’t know that,” or “We have no evidence of that.” Did I mention “cheerleader” as another requirement of being a caregiver?

Make sure she eats low-fat nutritious meals, nothing fried, fatty or greasy. Many grocery stores have nutritious, prepared takeout salads, fresh fruits and vegetables, chicken and fish. It may be more expensive, but her body needs these nutritious foods to help battle the cancer and the effects of surgery, anesthesia, chemotherapy and radiation.

Ask friends and family for help with meals, childcare and running errands. They want to help you; they just need you to tell them how.

Cancer is a disease that affects the whole family. It’s not unusual for each member to feel angry, isolated and totally overwhelmed by the diagnosis. Talk to each other and seek counseling for you, your wife and children.

It may be a good idea to visit with your children’s teachers. If they are aware of your wife’s breast cancer, they can help with any related behavioral and learning problems before they get out of hand.

She will be low on energy, the kind that lays you flat, unable to get out of bed. Don’t be alarmed if she can’t get out of the grocery store without help. Encourage her to exercise. It promotes lymphatic drainage, helps rid our body of unwanted toxins and fluids, relieves depression and reduces stress.

Remember, this is not about you. It is about getting your wife and family through this crisis with love, support and optimism. I know you have a full-time job, and being a caregiver is a lot to ask, but she will not have the energy to do the usual things for herself. You are the hero, and she is fighting for her life. Help her. Rescue her with all the love and consideration you would want if you were in her place.

I’ve been in your shoes. I wish you, and your family, health and all good things you summon into your life. May God wrap you in His protective light and love.