Getting through breast cancer together
Although breast cancer is primarily a woman's disease, she doesn't have to face it alone. Fighting the disease as a couple is an experience in itself, and can only make you and your husband closer and your bond stronger. Here, couples who know give tips on how to get through the difficult experience.
Be There for Her
Anne and Kirby Best battled breast cancer together and have since co-founded DryDreams Sleepwear, which manufactures sweat-wicking sleepwear for women and men. A full 100 percent of the proceeds benefita cancer research organizations.
As they look back, they say husbands must remember a few important things when their wives have breast cancer. "A husband should know that his wife is facing a paralyzing fear of the unknown. Initially, you just picture the cancer growing and winning, and that fear begins to subside only as each medical milestone becomes a reality," Anne says. Soothing words from Kirby during this time, for instance, let Anne know that, not only was he on her side, but he also wasn't going anywhere. "This made an enormous difference in how I was able to tackle the treatment and the aftermath. So husbands, let your wives know you're there for them in every way," Anne adds.
Bill Parness' late wife Laura inspired him to establish a program in partnership with St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital in New York called Laura's Journeys, which encourages and facilitates recreational travel for patients dealing with cancer or other serious chronic diseases. 'Your wife needs you now more than ever," he advises. "Make yourself an active partner in her treatment plan and, if possible, go to all appointments. But also, be there for her psychologically. Make her feel that she's still the most gorgeous, desirable woman in the world. Buy her flowers regularly and, when you can, jewelry or some other trinket that will make her feel special.
"Of course, there will be some days when it's best to just get out of her way. Still, going the extra mile for your wife truly can make a difference and will be appreciated. The best rewards during those years was finding little notes in my dresser drawers from Laura saying how much she loved me," Bill recalls. "To this day, I unfold those notes and smile."
Divide and Conquer
Anne and Kirby say picking roles and focusing are important. "Right away, we recognized that it was important to determine what we are each comfortable with and more skilled at handling, and stay within those zones. We developed a divide-and-conquer approach. I was the medical researcher and primary interface with the doctors. Kirby took charge of all insurance matters and was the 'imparter of information.' He told people I had breast cancer and, during the yearlong treatment process, he sent email progress reports," Anne recalls.
"The last thing I wanted was to have Anne lose her focus on the battle at hand by being immersed in the red tape surrounding a diagnosis, so I acted as the point person in all insurance and financial decisions. And while on an emotional level I felt we were both diagnosed, I knew it was important that I remained clear-headed when it came to the paperwork and reaching out to our circle of friends about Anne's progress," Kirby adds.