Steve and his wife, Melanie, had only been married for four months when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. This is how they coped.
The first scan came back clear
Melanie was diagnosed in early 2010.
She had found a couple of small lumps, and so a mammogram was arranged at a local breast clinic. It came back clear.
Still, Melanie was very worried, and I felt a second opinion was required – so we pushed and pushed for one. Eventually, a doctor saw us and organised a scan.
It was later discovered that Melanie had three areas of cancer in her breast. She had lost her mother to breast cancer only six months earlier, and so was understandably in pieces.
There were lots of decisions we had to make
We were given the results and were told a nurse would come to see us in what they called a ‘quiet room’. We sat all afternoon – four hours – and eventually were told the nurse had gone home!
Melanie was distraught, I was angry.
Nevertheless, I picked up a leaflet from Breast Cancer Now and rang the Helpline.
Just being able to talk to someone was so good.
We went back to hospital the next day and met the consultant, who repeated the bad news and asked Melanie: ‘What would you like to do next?’
Eventually, Melanie felt the best course of action was to have her left breast removed. Sadly, we didn’t feel much support throughout the entire process.
I learnt new things about her through her treatment
However, a surprising positive was that our relationship grew stronger.
I suppose it grew because this beautiful wife of mine was so damn positive in her attitude to what was happening to her, I quickly realised the woman I had met and married was immensely strong. I loved her even more for this.
There were dark days, though – days when Melanie did not like her new shape, or her new wigs during the treatment. There were days she told me she was worried I would ‘go off' her, as she put it, but I told her that I had not married a shape – I had married a person that I loved.
Emotions were fraught
During her treatment, chemotherapy followed by a month of radiotherapy, Mel was up and down. We couldn’t fly to go on holiday, but we managed a weekend by the coast. We needed the break – and it worked, to some extent: our spirits were lifted.
Melanie then decided to have reconstruction. It didn’t go exactly to plan, and she spent three weeks in hospital.
Supporting Melanie was hard. It was full on. I was always judging her mood to make silly suggestions of things we should do. I never once told her what to do, though. I suggested, encouraged, cajoled, and told her I loved her more than ever.
I shopped with her for new dresses: the cut on the front was so important so as not to reveal scarring. But she struggled with this and felt sad because her body dictated to her more than ever what she could wear.
It took work from both of us
So, as a partner, what do you do?
You always try to encourage her.
You help, but never dominate.
You bite your tongue when sometimes it gets to you.
You constantly remind her that you love her.
And four years later when you are on a beach in Ibiza and she strolls down the beach in a bikini, you cry your bloody eyes out.
I know that I am lucky to be waking up to my wife every day. She is never taken for granted; she is loved and she knows it.
So, to any husbands out there: if your wife is going through breast cancer, let her know she is loved.
If someone you love is dealing with breast cancer, we have some tips and information that might help you.