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Wellness Someone I Love Has Breast Cancer (Part 3)

Someone I Love Has Breast Cancer (Part 3)

Someone I Love Has Breast Cancer (Part 3)
By Kathlyn D'Souza
October 27, 2017
Breast cancer is a plague that affects 1 in 8 women all around the world, regardless of race, age or health condition, but this month we get up close and personal with the loved ones of those affected. The final part of our breast cancer awareness series features the effervescent and bubbly Dr Azura of Beacon International Specialist Centre, as she indulged us in a helpful, eye-opening chat regarding spousal involvement and the stress that comes with diagnostics.
Dr Azura Rozila Ahmad, of Beacon International Specialist Centre.
Dr Azura Rozila Ahmad, of Beacon International Specialist Centre.

What is your advice for partners who have just found out about their loved ones’ diagnostics?

“It’s important that they listen to what’s going on, and how it’s affecting their wives or partners. They need to give themselves time to process, as the information is just too heavy and can be a bit too much. They’re there to play a supporting role, which is so important for the patient. It is also important that you do not rely on one source. Multiple researches can help in formulating a decision plan, which is a big process. And as far as partners and spouses are concerned, listening and facilitating is a huge task. They will be taking on more roles as well, not just to take care of their partners physically as they take treatments – but they take over household duties, parenting, keeping everybody together. They are very much involved.

“The woman’s diagnosis is the partner’s diagnosis as well. From the beginning to the end, the partners are involved. They go through the same feelings as the woman does – the shock, the unpreparedness, difficulty in coping, changes on how you spend your days worrying, struggling, adapting. It’s not an illness that just affects one person.”


What are some of the backlashes that you’ve received from the partners?

“By the time they come to me they’ve very much already been pre-empted by other doctors. Cancer is a disease where you see you a lot of doctors as you navigate through the health system. Some cope better and some don’t at all. They’re never angry – they’re always in denial because they’ve done everything properly, eating healthy and such but they’re not sure why this happened. There are some partners who are completely quiet and withdrawn out of shock, stunned and unable to process the information. Some of them don’t even want to go into the clinic because they cannot cope. It’s just such a big thing, trying to discuss what’s going on. It’s important that patients have a second pair of ears, though.”


“The woman’s diagnosis is the partner’s diagnosis as well. From the beginning to the end, the partners are involved. They go through the same feelings as the woman does – the shock, the unpreparedness, difficulty in coping, changes on how you spend your days worrying, struggling, adapting. It’s not an illness that just affects one person.”


 

What do you recommend loved ones do to cope with the stress better?

“We just have to let them know that it’s acknowledged, that it’s okay that they’re not ON all the time or strong all the time. We can help them acknowledge that whatever they’re feeling is okay. There’s the worry that comes with the uncertainty, not knowing if they’ll get better. Of course, we do hope for the best and the hope that it won’t come back. But many people have their own way and time of coping, but talking to someone really helps – they can talk to their friends, best friends or people over the Internet, where they can remain anonymous. In a way, this is an area that is not well-researched or discussed, and there are evidences that husbands or partners find coping difficult. They’re not there as the background, but part of the process. It’s a huge change for them as well. They don’t voice it, because they think the priority is not with them, but about the person who has the illness. It does however also affect them on all levels.”


What’s the important thing when it comes to loved ones when it comes to accepting?

“Think about how to make it work. There will come a time when you need to change given the unpredictability of the situation. Make plans, which involves getting information, exploring options, seeking understanding of disease. You need to believe in the treatment of breast cancer. Things have changed, outcomes are better. To put things into perspective, in the 1950s perhaps only 1 in 4 women will be alive. These days however, 3 out 4 women will be alive. Treatments do work. You need to believe in that and support them to get through it. It may take a bit of a leap of faith because there is no guarantee that everything is going to be hunky dory anyway, but if you keep moving, you know you’re going to see results.

 “You also need to show that you care and that you love them. There will be changes in the patient’s body image and they will suffer from confidence and self-esteem problems. There will be problems in intimacy of course, but you need to adapt, in time.

"At the end of the day, you also need to take care of yourself. It’s OK if you have a certain way of coping to these reactive emotions such as taking time to see your friends or shut off, to keep your sanity. And it’s alright. People have their own caves, and they need to be somewhere to recharge. Life works in a miraculous way, and it’s a teaching opportunity, I believe – it teaches patience, strength, spirituality, selflessness … and of course, don’t give up.”


"At the end of the day, you also need to take care of yourself. It’s OK if you have a certain way of coping to these reactive emotions such as taking time to see your friends or shut off, to keep your sanity."


 

This marks the end of our breast cancer awareness series. You may read parts 1 and 2, of best friends Aliza and Hiba, and of husband Redza and his wife Farah here:

Someone I Love Has Breast Cancer (Part 1)

Someone I Love Has Breast Cancer (Part 2)

Photos: Shaffiq Farhan
Art Direction & Styling: Syahlia Albina Sari

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