Real Men Wear Pink: How to Support the Ladies in Your Life

A senior man and woman participate in the "It's in Our Hands" breast cancer awareness campaign.If a woman in your life has been diagnosed with breast cancer, you – as a husband, partner, relative or friend – can play an important part in supporting your loved one.

Last year in the United States, more than 250,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer, according to estimates from the American Cancer Society. And the men in their lives are learning to be caregivers and to provide essential support during treatment, which could include chemotherapy or a mastectomy.

There are many physical, emotional and psychological challenges ahead, and offering support is vital. Here are a few suggestions from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the American Society of Breast Surgeons Foundation:

  • At doctor’s visits, take notes because the amount of information might be overwhelming; keep a calendar of appointments and track all medications.
  • If she’s having a mastectomy and/or reconstruction, the surgeon will likely show her before and after photos during a consultation. Go with her to the appointment so that you’re both prepared for the procedure and the recovery process.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the doctor or nurses any questions.
  • Be aware that fatigue is a common symptom for many cancer survivors following treatment, and it’s not the same as ordinary exhaustion.
  • If she has a mastectomy, bring something to the hospital room from home, such as a framed photo of family or pets, to help cheer her up.
  • At home after a mastectomy:
  • Use a clipboard to keep track of the dates and times of medications and keep a daily log of the output from drainage tubes.
  • Use your cell phones to communicate via text if you’re in different rooms (or walkie talkies).
  • Body wipes are super handy to help her with daily bathing because she can’t shower with drain tubes (or help her with sponge bathing).
  • Find clothing, such as button-down shirts or shirts that zip up in front, that don’t require her to lift her arms.
  • Accept gifts, like food, and any help when people offer.
  • Use humor and gratitude as coping strategies.
  • If you have kids, try to keep things as normal as possible at home.
  • Realize that sometimes you can’t do anything to help with her pain, but just be there for her and love her.
  • Get support for yourself by confiding in or venting to a close friend or support group.