How Men Understand and Process a Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Marc Heyison Health Guide
  • One of the most important things I have learned in the last 15 years as a breast cancer advocate is that men do care. This may or may not seem obvious to you. It is important to talk about perceptions of men as caregivers, especially because a lot of what the media says about men running away and leaving their loved ones during the crisis of facing breast cancer is not entirely accurate.


    Please do not misinterpret what I am saying. Yes, there are men who leave their wives and are horrible breast cancer caregivers on an individual basis. There is no excuse for that in my mind. I am in no way minimizing how painful and horrible a burden that must be for the women and families who are confronted with that level of cowardice.

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    But, if you were to make a generalization, it is that men do care and are there for the women they love in the face of crisis. As I travel and speak to different groups throughout the country, as the president of Men Against Breast Cancer, I am touched and amazed by the caring, loving men that I have seen step up to the plate and be there for women with breast cancer. I am moved to tears by so many of the stories I hear and have witnessed how this horrible disease has brought out the best in men.


    What I mean by "be there."


    The phrase "be there" has different meaning for everyone. There is no all-purpose guide to how to "be there" because each family and each situation is different, as it is in life in general.


    The one "be there" that is universal is to make sure your loved one knows you love her. This means she understands that you will be by her side every step of the way. From there, all things are possible. I wish I, or anyone, could offer you a list of finite things that would make everything OK. But, no one can do that. Everyone has different needs based on so many variables, including age, family, age of children, work, and socio-economic factors, just to name a few.


    How Men React to Breast Cancer Diagnosis


    As men, of course, after the initial reaction of fear and helplessness we want to "fix it." It is so hard to come to grips with the fact that we cannot fix this. But, we can be there for her, which goes a long way towards fixing the needs of the breast cancer patients. Letting her know how much you love and care for her is so critical during all stages from diagnosis and treatment to recovery and beyond.


    Whether it is holding your wife's hand during chemo treatments, telling her how beautiful she is, making dinner, sitting in a comfortable silence, or even crying together and talking about your fears with her, there are so many ways to be an effective caregiver. There is not just one way to be a good breast cancer caregiver. But, being good flows from being able to communicate and work together as a team, as you have throughout your life together. Only now the regular season is over and you are playing for the championship, meaning you have to step your game up and do even better.


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    I know you can all be effective caregivers because I have seen it happen. It is natural to have some doubt; we all do, but once we take that leap of faith that we can do it, it comes more naturally than you would think.

Published On: July 31, 2007