Many readers have told me that they could not believe what a monster Brad was throughout Joan’s ordeal with cancer! Brad and Joan are husband and wife characters from my novel, A Child of God. Before writing their scenes, I did research on the topic of Cancer and the Importance of Support and I was disheartened to see that there are many cancer patients out there who are really suffering from lack of spousal support. Conversely, in my own community I have witnessed husbands and wives who were totally amazing in their loving, compassionate efforts in caring for their spouses with cancer. I can only give praise to the numerous men and women I have known who were such devoted caregivers. I am sure that this is often the case in all economic or demographic areas, but sadly there are some people in every group who do suffer from lack of support.
I have read several accounts about husbands who were completely unsympathetic to their wife’s condition, but there are also many reports of wives being unsupportive to husbands who were undergoing cancer treatment. Some wives expressed the fact that a cancer diagnosis turns their spouse’s world upside down as well, and the stress from that may make them appear unsupportive. Below are examples of what some cancer patients have said about this issue.
Angela feels that guys who often aren’t emotional become extremely scared and are suddenly bombarded with emotions; because of that they often shut down to get through it. She suggests to others in that situation that you talk to your husband; let him know your needs, but respect that he needs to turn off sometimes. She does stress however to make sure that you do tell him when his shutting down makes it harder than ever for you.
Bethany says that what women perceive in men as cold indifference is often a man covering up his fear. Some men are afraid if there is even the slightest crack in their veneer that their terror will come pouring out. She also believes that most men are not emotional and sensitive in the same way that women are. Even in this modern day many men still feel that they should be the strong partner and do not want to be seen as being soft or weepy so they hide their true feelings. She feels that men like that are so invested in putting forth a strong façade that they have their breakdowns in private.
Kirk, whose wife was going through cancer treatment, explains that guys like to be problem solvers. He found it very frustrating that he couldn’t solve the problem; he couldn’t make the cancer go away.
Elaine tells us that her husband was loving and compassionate during her treatment, but that she was the one who was pushing him away because she had so much anger in her after the cancer returned.
Michael understands how it feels to be totally rejected when you are at your lowest point. One week after he was diagnosed with cancer his wife of twenty years left him!
The majority of the female cancer patients agreed that communication between spouses is vital. The most common advice they gave was to tell your husband exactly what you want. Don’t think that he will automatically know or understand your needs. Many agreed that in most cases he won’t. Some expressed the fact that men are not perfect, so don’t expect them to be faultless as they are also under a great deal of pain and stress.
I was amazed at the strength of character many spouses still possessed when they did not receive the support they so badly needed from their partner. In some situations their lives were dramatically changed, but many of the cancer survivors said that they are now much stronger and more empathetic because of what they had endured.
There are of course other extremely sad situations, but fortunately there are many other stories in which spouses are compassionate, loving caretakers.
If you are involved in cancer in any way, I would love to hear from you. Please click “Leave a Comment” (below this blog) to tell your story or share your feelings about this topic.
Best wishes, Karen