As we are once again in the midst of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I can’t help but think about all of the issues that become a part of a breast cancer diagnosis. And as part of the awareness that I believe that is often forgotten or ignored is in the arena of understanding the importance of a patient’s support system and how that cancer diagnosis affects them, too. I have often thought about my cancer journey from a point of view that is different from my own.
“While it is perfectly understandable that the attention and focus is on the person who has cancer, we can’t forget about or ignore their family members.”Barbara Jacoby
I am so grateful for the wonderful doctors that took care of all of my medical needs from diagnoses through surgeries and all of the follow-up treatment and care. However, I can’t help but remember my husband and all that he gave to me throughout the experience and although I have remained with no evidence of disease for over a decade, I will never forget the impact that it had on him.
For me personally, I truly don’t think about it very much any more. But, I am extremely concerned that the children and spouses and closest family members are given little if any support when they are given the news about a breast cancer diagnosis of a family member. I remember how I felt when my father and my brother were both diagnosed with cancer and there was absolutely nothing that I could do to help or make a difference. There wasn’t anyone with whom I could talk about it and since I lived 3,000 miles away from each of them, it was difficult to even keep up with what was going on as each of them went through his journey. And when my sister received a breast cancer diagnosis a few year ago, all of that frustration returned!
I watched how my cancer affected my husband. I read the emails that I get from those whose family members are diagnosed with breast cancer. And each time I read one of their messages, I am further moved to find a way for them to receive help. But, the husbands or partners have never written to me about how they are feeling or what they might do to better cope with the situation. .
While it is perfectly understandable that the attention and focus is on the person who has cancer, we can’t forget about or ignore their family members. I can’t begin to imagine how I would have felt if I were 12 years old and I found out that my mom had breast cancer. Of course, we never spoke of cancer or any other medical conditions when I was that age so if I had learned that anything was wrong with my mother, I would have been devastated. And if she had had something that might be life threatening, I don’t know what I would have done. I know that I would have pitched in and done everything that I could around the house to make things as easy as possible for her but I know that I wouldn’t have known what to do about the emotional aspect of that with which I was dealing.
It seems to me that we are more than overdue in our health care industry in not only dealing with the mental toll that breast cancer takes on the patient but also what it does to the patient’s closest family members. They need support and help and such help and services should be made available to all of them. A child needs to have someone there to help them at a time like this. A husband or partner needs to have immediate access available when they are given such news. And I personally think that Breast Cancer Awareness Month is the perfect time to bring this issue to the forefront and to start working on some new plans to provide for the psychological support that is needed not only for a patient but also for those who are in their immediate sphere. I believe that everyone will be better off for this help both in the short term as well as in the long run.
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.