Male Caregiver Tips for Helping a Loved one with Breast Cancer
In my last SharePost on men supporting women with breast cancer, I discussed how it is vitally important that men be there for the women they love, which is about as obvious as something could be. Of course, we must be there without fail in every way possible for the women we love.
However, one aspect of breast cancer caregiving that is often overlooked is that you cannot be an effective caregiver unless you yourself are prepared to be one. What does this mean?
As with the rest of your journey with breast cancer, there is no dress rehearsal. You have to do what is appropriate in real time, based on your loved one's condition and circumstances. Here are some tips to help you make the best of the situation.
Do What It Takes to Keep Yourself Healthy and Fit
Maintaining a proper diet makes a difference in helping you to have the energy, both physically and emotionally, to be an effective caregiver. Additionally, of course, stay off the alcohol and any other artificial means that you think will help you "escape" for a little while. Chemical-induced respites will not help in the long or short run.
As you have no doubt heard countless times....exercise, make it part of your day like brushing your teeth. Even if it is for 15 minutes, do it. You and your family will reap the benefits that exercise and a proper diet will provide. This doesn't mean that you have to turn into Jack Lelane, but you do need to pay special attention to your well being as well as your loved one. After all, if you are not there for yourself, how can you be there for her?
Make Time for Fun or Relaxing Activities, and Don't Feel Guilty About Them
In addition to exercise and diet, there are other ways to help relieve stress in which you should feel no guilt. I know, as guys, we feel guilty if we do something that brings us pleasure while our loved one may be bedridden as she deals with the side effects of chemo.
I am not saying or advocating that you go about your merry way and make this all about you. Again, your loved one's situation will dictate what is reasonable to do. If you need to be at home or the hospital then that is where you should be.
For example, you may be in a weekly golf or poker game. Well, instead of playing every week maybe you should play every other week, once a month, or nine holes. The point is you need this time for yourself to recharge. This also doesn't mean you just load up the car and say, "honey I'll be back." Part of your responsibility is to make sure that it is appropriate to have this activity and that she is not alone for the time you are gone.
These are just a couple of examples of how to support yourself as a male breast cancer caregiver; again, your situation and what you do to relax will vary.
Whatever you decide to do, you need to decide as a couple and talk it over with your wife and make sure it is OK for all parties. Here again is where your situation dictates what is appropriate.
Talk Things Over and Seek Support When Its Needed
Share your thoughts and feelings open and honestly and you will at the same time bring the two of you closer because of the open lines of communication. Your wife will appreciate the fact that you talked about this issue and did not make a unilateral decision.
Also, as men, we are sometimes hesitant to reach out for help and talk to someone about our fears and concerns. A great sign of strength is to recognize that you need someone to talk to, whether it is family, friend, clergy, or mental health professional. Your emotional wellbeing in some ways is more important than your physical wellbeing. So go ahead and reach out. Remember you will be helping everyone.
Confucius once said, "He who wishes to secure the good of others has already secured his own." For you, that means you and your wife know that she is the most important part of your life, along with your family. The bottom line is that your primary obligation is to your loved one and family, but you must not neglect your wellbeing. Part of your daily routine must be some type of acceptable release for yourself -- even if it's just reading a paper or magazine.