How one husband learned how to be a better caregiver to his wife during her fight against breast cancer.
In her fight against breast cancer, my wife, Marsha, was sliced with a scalpel, poked with needles, and infused with chemicals. I quickly learned that a husband cannot take the pain away, no matter how badly he may try. I also realized also that there’s a learning curve to caring for someone who is in pain. These are a few tips that I learned from my experience on how to be a better caregiver:
- Do as you’re asked. The best thing I did for Marsha was to follow her orders. I fetched water, found the ginger candy she craved, caressed her feet. If you can’t obey, at least get out of the way: Susan Taylor felt better if she moaned after chemotherapy. At first, her husband, Vern, tried to stop her (it’s very hard for a husband to watch his wife suffer), so eventually Susan would just send him out of the room.
- Prepare to be unpopular. Once I actually added to my wife’s pain. Marsha couldn’t stand one more excruciating neupogen injection to boost her white blood cell count. But a nurse and I convinced her to stick out her arm. I felt guilty. But looking back, Marsha is glad she didn’t become a chemo dropout. I hope I made up for it, too, by reminding her to ask doctors about mysterious aches and pains when she’d sometimes forget to mention them.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. The $70 tab for Lois Hazel’s post-chemo massages made her husband, Dale, nervous, especially with Lois out on disability. But seeing the boost they gave his wife, he never let on about his financial worries: My attitude was, we’ve been behind before. We’ll get caught up.
- Try a little empathy. Rolfe Tessem, the companion of journalist and breast cancer survivor Linda Ellerbee, held her and rubbed her back through the side effects of chemo. Other women told me how grateful they were when their husband simply held them, instead of trying to cheer them up. Says Ellerbee, That brought us together in some small ways that turned out to be not so small.
Marc Silver is a husband, father and published author. You can purchase his book, Breast Cancer Husband, on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. He is currently working on a new book with his daughter for teens coping with a parent’s cancer.
Written by: Marc Silver, author of Breast Cancer Husband (breastcancerhusband.com)
Article Originally Published in: Pain Solutions Magazine, Fall 2009 (modified 2017)
Photo Credit: Yuiti, courtesy of Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos
If you or a loved one has had a mastectomy due to breast cancer, read What is Mastectomy Pain Syndrome (PMPS)? for helpful information.