As we are once again looking toward Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I can’t help but think about all of the issues that become a part of a breast cancer diagnosis. But, there is a part of the awareness that I believe is often forgotten or ignored and that is having an understanding of the importance of a patient’s support system and how that cancer diagnosis affects them, too.
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 have often thought about my own cancer journey and how I am so grateful for the wonderful doctors that took care of all of my medical needs from diagnosis through surgeries and all of the follow-up treatment and care that I still receive. However, I don’t think many days go by when I don’t think about 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 believe that he is still concerned that the cancer will return. And I know that he is not alone.
For me personally, I truly don’t think about it very often anymore. But, I know that I am extremely concerned that the children and spouses and closest family members are given little, if any, support when they receive 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 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.
I watched how my cancer affected my husband and I would get emails from those whose family members have been diagnosed with breast cancer. And each time I read one of their messages, I couldn’t help but note that I never received a single message about how they were 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 even 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 do 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 to not only deal 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 approaches to provide for the psychological support that is needed not only for patients 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.