9 Ways to Support a Spouse With Breast Cancer

Treatment for breast cancer leaves most patients feeling tired and more in need of support than ever. For their loved ones, stepping up to help and anticipate what a patient needs can be crucial to recovery. 


couple supporting each other
Rob and Julia Campbell/Stocksy United

There will be times when you both feel like crying. Go ahead. But make sure you're the one handing out the hankies, not your patient. She needs an emotional anchor, and you're it whether you like it or not. Sometimes not saying anything is better than saying the wrong thing. But if you're there, advocating and organizing, your actions tell her that you care, even if you don't have the words to say it.


Though she may be a fighter by nature, a woman with breast cancer is often in no shape to battle hospital bureaucracies, insensitive doctors, thoughtless nurses, or anyone else, especially you. It's your job to take her side and ask the hard questions, pound the receptionist's desk when you're being ignored, and act in her best interests. Even the best medical care personnel get too busy or preoccupied. And when that happens, you need to act to make sure your patient gets the care she needs.


Maybe you're not a born organizer. But you can keep track of doctor's appointments, medications, prescriptions, hospital bills, test reports, and the hundreds of other pieces of paper that a typical treatment sequence for breast cancer generates. Not all of these papers are important, but you don't want to lose the ones that are. And your patient will be relieved not to have to keep track of them herself

Act Normal

Whatever is normal for you, that is. Cancer doesn't mean the world has to grind to a halt. If you and the patient have normal routines and things you enjoy doing, try to keep them up to the extent possible. But always be sensitive to physical fatigue, emotional stress, or other reasons for not doing things you used to do and give into the needs of your patient.

Be Honest

Most people today would rather hear the truth about their medical condition than a sweetened-up lie. This doesn't mean being needlessly cruel, however. When you both face the same facts together, whatever they are, you can act together and stay together through the treatment.

Ask Friends for Help

The two of you don't have to do it all by yourselves. Friends, neighbors, and relatives are there to be asked for help. Not all of them will, but you will be surprised at what some people will do if you just ask them. Seek their help in driving to appointments, staying with the patient while you're at work, or doing errands you ordinarily do but don't have time for anymore.

Expect Reactions

Everybody has a different attitude toward cancer. Some people will get up and run away if you try to tell them what's wrong with the patient. Others will cry, get angry, or ignore the whole situation. You can't control their reactions, but you can control your reactions to them. Don't volunteer the information that your patient has cancer without a good reason. On the flip side, don't try to make it a deep dark secret either. And let the people you tell deal with it on their own terms.


Whatever your spiritual beliefs are, understand that those beliefs are a part of the situation too. You and the patient will need a lot of resources to win, more than you can muster up on your own. Don't neglect your spirituality in this fight. It can connect you with the source of your greatest strength.