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The Male Perspective: Caregiver Burnout

By Judd Lewis Parsons

(Page 1 of 2)

Your wife has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. 

Welcome to one of the hardest experiences you and your wife will ever go through. Nothing can truly prepare you for this. But, if you and your wife face this with the right attitude, it can become (as incredible as this may sound) one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever share.

When your spouse is diagnosed with breast cancer, your life is going to change. Some husbands choose to gloss over their wife’s problem. Other husbands jump right in and take a very active part in the decision-making and healing processes. Finally, there are the husbands who are a combination of both. They may leave the decision about the treatment up to the wives, but they are there for emotional support. 

When I first heard the news that my wife had cancer, it was if I could not inhale-only exhale. The news was devastating beyond comprehension. The first question that crossed my mind was would I still have my best friend in a year or would she become another depressing statistic? After a few hours, I was able to snap back to reality and begin to help my wife face her fears.

Because of the type of cancer and the size of the mass, she was scheduled for a modified radical mastectomy in two days. We did not have time to get a second opinion, but we were able to ask some other oncologists questions about what was going on and felt somewhat comfortable with our decision. 

However, if you and your wife do not feel comfortable for any reason with a doctor’s diagnosis or prescribed treatment, definitely seek another opinion and ask as many questions as you deem necessary. There is no such thing as a stupid question when it comes to the health of our loved one.

After the surgery is over and the healing begins, you may get more overwhelmed than you ever could have imagined. You will need to be there to help your wife do things that she can no longer do alone. Things that were so simple for her, before.

If you have the joy of having children, as we do, the work that you do never seems to end. Combine this with still having to go to your regular job, and you will soon find that there is no time in the day for you. When this cycle continues for an extended period of time, you can reach the edge of an emotional cliff. You may suffer emotional exhaustion, or as the professionals call it, caregiver burnout.

What seems to make things worse is that people are constantly asking in-depth questions about how your wife is doing, but few, if any, about how you are doing, when people did ask me how I was doing, I almost felt selfish or as if I was complaining when I told the truth.

You should not feel selfish. When people ask how you are doing, be honest. Being honest helps to cleanse the emotions that are built up inside.

 

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