Some insights  from Sue’s husband, Bruce Robert George Ennis.

A word for the Caregivers………

The caregiver for someone diagnosed with breast cancer is a critical role and comes in many forms.  The assumption, sometimes, is that it is automatically the husband but I have spoken to folk where it was, among many people, a child, sibling, parent, partner and good friend.

I asked Sue if I could supplement her website with some comments for the caregivers.  While the caregiver is not the one dealing with the disease, it can still be a very traumatic experience.  How they handle the situation can significantly alter the effect it has on the patient.  So I will share some of my experiences in the hope that what I did – and the mistakes I made – might help someone who is put in the unfortunate position of caring for someone diagnosed with breast cancer.

Receiving the News

Sue is very strong willed and makes up her mind quickly.  She had already fully prepared and had accepted the fact that she had the disease long before the actual diagnosis.  I handled things a little differently.  Partly the scientist in me and partly denial meant I didn’t accept that it might happen.  I wanted to see the diagnosis.  I didn’t want to accept that something as potentially tragic as this might happen to the woman I adore.  By the time we got the news I began to realize that I had not provided the full support that I could have.

Following the diagnosis a friend loaned me a book for those giving care.  It was very informative but one message jumped out loud and clear.  With everything going on associated with the disease and diagnosis, as tough as it may seem, the caregiver must never lose sight of the fact that it is not actually them with cancer.  It went on to outline that we all respond differently and we as caregivers must do our best to align with how the patient is handling it.

My refusal to accept that it was cancer certainly gave Sue some positive thinking and hope at times.  However, it did not demonstrate to her that I was aligned with her, empathized with her situation or understood the potential severity of how this could affect our lives.  I had missed time that I could have been researching the disease, trying to better understand the support role that I could have been playing.  Had I researched the subject, I might have found the book and read that I needed to understand that it was not me being diagnosed.  That I had a key role to play and part of that was to align with and understand Sue’s approach so I could provide appropriate support.

It’s not that Sue’s or my approaches are right or wrong.  We are all different in handling difficult situations.  It is essential though that the caregiver demonstrate understanding for how their potential cancer patient is handling the news.  Of course it all comes down to communication and not making assumptions that you are doing the right thing.  Talk to them until you understand and they know that you do.

Needless to say, the diagnosis really hit me – big time.

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