If you have just had the diagnosis it goes without saying that it is a very nasty shock. It is quite normal to find yourself thinking about little else for some days, and to feel that somehow you and your family have been picked on, through no fault of your own.
You may also feel that you are alone with this problem. Start thinking about other people you know who have had cancer in the family, and maybe you could give them a ring and tell them the news, and tell them also how you are feeling. It is important to talk to other people and not bottle it up. If you wish, feel free to drop me an e-mail , and tell me as much as you wish.
More important is how you relate to your wife about this. Bear in mind that in many cases the patient may have guessed what the problem was before she got the diagnosis but, to avoid worrying you, she may have kept it to herself. In my case it was unfortunate that the time she was told was one of the very few occasions when I was unable to go to the appointment with the consultant with her, so Abigail had to tell me when I came home.
If you feel alone (which many of us will) she will feel it even more so. For us men there are two possible responses -
- this is a female problem which I know nothing about, so I won’t get involved, or
- this is a family problem and I am going to get fully involved.
I favour the second, and said to Abigail that we were going to tackle this as a team (as we have with most other challenges in family life) and that, as far as possible, we would treat it as ‘our’ cancer. I wanted her to let me get involved as much as possible, and I am sure this was the best way forward.
Of course at this stage we don’t know what we are letting ourselves in for. We are trying to find our way in a fog, because we probably have very few facts to go on. There are so many variations of cancer, and of breast cancer, so even the doctors may not yet know which way your case is going to go.
They may line up some immediate general treatment, while they arrange for a battery of tests and scans, and possibly a biopsy (taking a small piece of material for analysis) so that they can make a fuller assessment of your case.
Fight the temptation to think the worst at this point, and when you talk to friends make them understand that you do not yet know the likely outcome. There are still too many people around who assume that the word cancer means a death sentence. This is no longer true, and you must hang on to that.