One of the first bits of advice my nurse gave me after diagnosis was that my husband and I should take as much time alone as possible because “Breast Cancer” is hard on a marriage. At the time, I had no idea about the statistics involving men leaving their wives after breast cancer diagnosis. Her comment shook me up emotionally because I already had insecurities that stemmed from my father abandoning our family as a child. I decided to use her advice to be pro-active and took every situation I faced to God in prayer. As I prayed, God gave me peace and showed me how to overcome each hurdle that I faced.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7 (NIV)
Men are not mind readers! If you need the man in your life to do something for you, even if it’s just to listen, you should ask or tell him so. Men are very different from women, so we can’t expect them to think the same way as we do! We are also very good at placing expectations on them. How are they supposed to fulfill these when we don’t let them in on our little secrets? Communication is the key!
My husband’s mother suffered with cancer for many years. For Rob, my diagnosis was a nightmare come true. I spent two years in treatment and for the first year, Rob buried himself in his work as a means to cope. Many men have been taught that it’s wrong to show emotion, making it difficult for them to express their feelings and also uncomfortable when women do. So instead, they stuff them down and avoid situations that may cause pain through escapism or addictions.
The best advice I can give you is to be understanding and patient. I know it’s hard. It’s especially challenging to not allow anger to fester or take it personally. Remember, this doesn’t just affect you. When you give your husband the freedom to sort things out, he’ll more than likely step up to the plate. And when he does, you may find him more supportive than you ever thought possible. In the meantime, pray, think positive and be thankful for all the blessings in your life. When we concentrate on the positive aspects, the negative elements lose their magnification. Concentrate on the wonderful qualities in your husband and he’ll be drawn to you, rather than away. God will be there for you when you feel lonely. Just reach out to Him. Tell Him how you feel and what you need. He cares about you and wants to bless you. During the time that I didn’t have Rob’s full moral support, I got to know God in a more intimate way. For this reason alone, the pain I experienced was worth it. God always placed people in my life to encourage me and filled the voids where necessary. He’ll give you the strength you need to get through the hard times if you look to Him. Now when I have an appointment, or need to talk, Rob is right there by my side. He’s such a wonderful man! If you’re one of the fortunate people that has a supportive spouse, partner or friend, celebrate that and express your gratitude!
This summer while surfing the web, I discovered Suzette Lipscomb’s Breast Cancer’s blog. She’d created some controversy over a previous comment she’d made about going through breast cancer alone within a prior posting called “Stand by Your Gal During Breast Cancer Treatment.” Several men misunderstood what she meant. This prompted a counter posting to pay tribute to all the men who have stood by the women in their lives during treatment starting with, her own husband. Her blog is encouraging. Breast Cancer diagnosis doesn’t have to put a strain on a marriage, it can also strengthen it. Here’s part of what she says:
“One of the things that I am most grateful for is that he has never made me feel in any way less of a woman or less attractive — less anything for that matter. He treats me exactly the same as if I never had breast cancer. He sees me for me, and not me connected to the cancer. If I could choose how I would like anyone to view me, this is it.
He also understands that my body has gone through significant changes during two bouts of breast cancer and a pregnancy. He comes to doctors’ appointments whenever I ask, allows me to make all my own treatment decisions, offers support when I want, and for me, most importantly, forgets that I had breast cancer in between.” Read the rest here.
Sometimes, people can’t seem to work issues out for one reason or another. If that’s the case, whether it’s your husband that chooses to leave or you decide that you’re better off without him, God promises to be your husband.
“For your maker is your Husband – the LORD Almighty is his name – the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.” Isaiah 54:5 (NIV)