October is Breast Cancer awareness month. A breast cancer diagnosis or other chronic health condition can wreak havoc on the body. Health issues can deplete the mind, body, spirit, and yes, even your marriage. Doctors appointments, treatment options, financial strain, and impaired health are excruciating on the person living with a chronic health condition and can also affect the spouse in many of the same ways. Fear of the unknown and significant stress over difficult health situations can sometimes be too much for a couple to navigate successfully. Having resources and tools in place to maintain your sanity and your marriage can ensure you and your spouse not only survive whatever condition might be thrown your way, but that you also thrive on the other side of it.
Getting Support For Your Breast Cancer Diagnosis
A breast cancer diagnosis can bring about a variety of emotions. Fear, sadness, grief, hopelessness, and anger are all natural reactions to such heavy news. Understanding this is normal and learning how to process through these emotions, both individually and as a couple, can be helpful in maintaining a healthy mindset throughout the process. Find a counselor or spiritual advisor you trust to help you and your spouse work through what you're feeling. Learning how to navigate the emotions and respond to your spouse in an emotionally healthy way can help to maintain and strengthen your bond. Join local support groups in your area for others with breast cancer, or breast cancer survivors. This may not only open up doors to other resources, but it can bring hope and reassurance to your situation.
Re-addressing Responsibilities & Priorities
When one spouse is sick or injured it can turn a marriage upside down. Most couples establish relationship responsibilities early on. When a spouse is no longer able to maintain their previous responsibilities due to breast cancer or chronic illness, the other spouse will have to pick up the slack. Often times couples are already out of balance with responsibilities, with one spouse taking on more than the other. When this is no longer a viable option, it may leave the spouse picking up new responsibilities feeling highly overwhelmed. Prioritizing things in your lives can ease the burden for both spouses. Don't be afraid to put things off that aren't necessities. Ask for help from friends or family when you need it. Pride has no place in this situation. You may burn out if you don't accept help that is lovingly offered to you.
Reduce social obligations
Reduce or re-arrange financial obligations
Re-evaluate priorities in and outside of the home
Re-addressing responsibilities and priorities are an important step in navigating the new normal of life while battling breast cancer. However, establishing expectations ensures that needs and desires are not only addressed, but that they are being met. Outside of daily routines, it is important to understand other changes that may occur. Learn about the physical changes to her body that may happen due to treatments or surgeries. Understand her physical limitations. Learn as much as you can about her wishes and desires so that you can meet her in her hour of need.
A breast cancer diagnosis typically means lots of doctors visits, potential surgeries, treatment appointments, and recovery time. Understanding the time involved in getting well again is important when dealing with obligations, especially with your employer. Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) is a great tool to utilize during times of health crisis so that you can provide care for your spouse while also maintaining your employment, and often times health insurance. Work with your employer on adjustments to your schedule and provide as much notice as possible for upcoming absences. Whether your spouse admits she wants you at every appointment is besides the point, being present is the ultimate act of love in situations such as this. Your spouse needs you and your employer should be compassionate enough to understand this. But, if they are not, make sure you have established legal protections, like FMLA, to fall back on.
The process of battling a disease such as breast cancer can impact stress levels exponentially. It's important to maintain your sanity and continue to incorporate things you love to do as a couple as part of your daily lives. Therapy can help, support groups can help, but deciding to walk through this journey in the most healthy way possible, together, will determine whether or not your marriage can sustain the ups and downs of the process. Adopting stress relieving practices such as yoga or meditation into your daily routine can help exponentially. If you practice in a faith or religion, now is the time to press in.
A breast cancer diagnosis can be terrifying. The what-if's can become all consuming. There is hope! Be present in the now while focusing towards the future. Remember why you got married in the first place. If life has pulled you apart over the years, this doesn't have to equal defeat. It can actually be a place of reconciliation.
Breast Cancer Resources
Max Factor has been practicing family law for over 25 years. While we do support clients through the divorce process, our hope is that marriages never end. We understand how precious life can be and that time is fleeting. We encourage every couple going through this battle to remain optimistic about their future. And we are with you in winning the fight against breast cancer!