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Getting through breast cancer together

Find the Right Doctor

Work with a doctor who you trust and with whom you’re comfortable. “Find a doctor who makes you feel as if you are part of a team — one who exudes knowledge, confidence and honesty, but also listens and makes you feel empowered. We were truly blessed to have that in Dr Gabriel Sara, who actively encouraged our travels and, most importantly, worked with us on a treatment plan that gave Laura a remarkable quality of life for those six years,” Bill explains.  

minimize stress

“While your wife is obviously bearing the brunt of this, these are going to be very stressful times for you as well. Do what you can to alleviate that stress, whether it is playing ball or some other form of exercise, playing a musical instrument or hanging out with your kids or friends,” says Bill. “Finally, don’t be a martyr. If friends or family offer help with meals or other things, accept it.”

Live Your Life

Life doesn’t stop just because you’re experiencing changes. “As long as your spouse feels up to it, go out for dinner, to movies or shows, or to visit with family or friends. It was not uncommon for Laura and me to stay in Manhattan after her treatments for dinner and a Broadway show. Of course, also make it a priority to travel — whether it be a weekend getaway or a more elaborate trip,” adds Bill.  

travel if possible

Bill emphasizes that traveling can do wonders. “The planning and preparation took our minds off medical issues and gave us something to look forward to. Knowing that we would be going away in a few months made it easier for her to cope with the side effects of the more difficult rounds of chemo — there was always light at the end of the tunnel,” Bill recalls. “Once away, we were like romantic newlyweds again, exploring new places, relaxing, and enjoying meals alone, with family members, or with friends. We came home refreshed, ready to tackle the next round of treatments, and looking forward to planning our next trip. Most importantly, Laura always felt great when we were away.  To put it in her own words: ‘I felt like a normal person, not like someone battling a disease.”’  

Be Prepared

As tough as it is, Anne asserts that you should prepare for the worst. “Expect that each test may yield bad news. Anticipate every side effect of your treatments. Clear your calendar of responsibilities.  If you are ready for each possible negative, then you will likely have many small victories along the way,” she says. And during that time, husbands should be there for their wives and change along with them.

“I do think it’s very important for husbands to modify their behavior to suit their wives’ needs. If she wants to be a ‘control freak,’ then support her decisions while gently offering guidance. If she wants to abdicate control, then step up with certainty,” suggests Kirby. “Breast cancer is a life-changing event for everyone involved, but no one is more important than the person who has been diagnosed. It has to be all about her.”

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