Author: Breast Cancer Care WA Counsellor Aileen McCaul
For many of our clients there is often another person in the shadows who is also struggling or suffering as a result of a breast cancer diagnosis. This may be a parent, sibling, friend or partner.
The social supports that people have make such a significant impact on women’s experience of their breast cancer. As a counsellor I’ve come to understand the importance of family and friends who support these women. This is why we too want to be able to contribute to that support network, and not just for the women but for the partners of our clients too.
When your partner is diagnosed with breast cancer,
“…you don’t admit you’re devastated…you focus on being a tough, tower of strength. You support the woman you love and don’t show, or worry about your feelings. This is how guys are supposed to act, right?”
(Australian government, Cancer Australia website).
For many people, having their partner diagnosed with breast cancer can cause enormous stress. We know many men will put their feelings aside as they focus their efforts on trying to best support their partner. Often in doing this they will neglect to care for themselves, they can become withdrawn from family and friends and end up quite isolated. We are very aware of the difficulties many men will face and want to be able to bring them out of the shadows, adding to their social support and provide a respectful non-judgmental space where they can come and share their experience.
We started our support group in 2015 for partners of women with breast cancer at our Cottesloe office. This group is facilitated by myself and registered psychologist Kevin Hanavan who has a great breadth of experience in facilitating groups for men. What has been striking about this group is the diversity of experience and wisdom shared. It has also been very moving to watch men support one another in an atmosphere that is of mutual regard and acceptance. We encourage anyone whose partner has been diagnosed with breast cancer to come along and be a part of this great group.