Breast Cancer Diagnosis – Common Challenges For Partners

Breast Cancer - Challenges For Partners

The following article comes from Breast Cancer Network Australia’s Wish I Could Fix It  booklet, one of the many free, helpful and informative booklets offered by BCNA.

We know that a breast cancer diagnosis can significantly affect partners. Women often tell us that they feel shock, disbelief, fear and uncertainty. As the partner of a woman diagnosed, your feelings can be similar. It’s normal for partners to feel overwhelmed and to experience a whole range of emotions: shock, numbness, uncertainty, fear, helplessness, sadness,anger, depression or anxiety.

Following are some of the common challenges you may face, and tips from other partners that may help you cope with these challenges.

We found taking things back to basics helped, for example, finding our love and remembering why we are together. We went on dates and on the good days during chemo we made plans to take full advantage of Liz being well. – Scott

Common challenges for partners

  • Not being able to fix the situation Both you and your partner will probably feel distressed about her diagnosis
  • However, after a woman starts her treatment she will often feel a bit better because she is doing something. You, on the other hand, may feel like you are unable to do anything and this may leave you feeling frustrated. It can be especially hard if you are the type of person who likes to fix things.

As a man, when something is broken you immediately want to fix it, but when it comes to the most precious thing in your life, your partner, you can’t, and that’s very distressing. –  Jacques

Things that may help

  • Going to medical appointments with your partner with a list of questions and writing notes that you and your partner can read later. Prioritize your list so the most important questions are at the top, in case you run out of time.
  • Reading about breast cancer with your partner.
  • Asking your partner what you can do to help her. Suggest she write a list for you. The list can include things such as driving her to appointments, or just listening to her when she needs to talk.

My partner drove me to appointments and took notes. He arranged for the house to be cleaned and walked the dog. – Christy

I would encourage Ann to make each treatment decision based on the information she had. Seeing Ann exercising her will by choosing to confront her future choices was empowering for her. – Andrew

Feeling like you have to be strong for her

  • Partners tell us they often find it hard to know what to say, and some think that they need to always stay strong and ‘put on a brave face’.
  • Saying things like ‘you’ll be fine’ or ‘try to keep positive’ may not be helpful. They may actually make it harder for your partner to talk to you about how she really feels.

Men try to be supermen, but you realize in this circumstance you can’t be.You have to sit back after a while and just be Clark Kent. – Steve

There is a huge expectation on our partners that they have to stay positive, and my husband was overwhelmed sometimes. – Kylie

Things that may help

  • Listening to your partner and letting her talk about her fears and hopes for the future. This will help her feel she is being heard and understood.
  • Talking to your partner about how you are feeling.

Things to avoid

  • Feeling like you need to fix the situation – women often just want someone to listen.
  • Saying things like ‘be positive’, ‘keep your chin up’ or ‘you’ll be fine’.

Jane wants more of my emotional support – something that I find hard to do but something I am slowly starting to learn. – Clive

My husband gave me lots of cuddles and reassured me I was still beautiful. He filtered the phone calls when I didn’t want to talk. He drove me to doctors’ visits, hospital and treatments and stayed with me. This was good because you feel a bit vulnerable and you don’t always take in all the information. – Tonya

Breast Cancer Network Australia’s website includes detailed information about breast cancer treatment and care. It also has information for partners of women diagnosed with breast cancer.

My Response to “I Wish I Had Breast Cancer”

In Response To I Wish I Had Breast Cancer

Kerry Harvey

By Holly Bertone is CEO & President of Pink Fortitude.

This has been weighing heavy on my heart since the story went viral in the cancer community.  Kerry Harvey, 25, the star of a UK pancreatic cancer awareness campaign said, “I wish I had breast cancer.”  She only has several months to live, and has been bombarded with outrage from all over the world, including death threats.  The goal of the commercial was to raise awareness and money for research for a very deadly form of cancer that does not get a lot of attention.

As a breast cancer survivor, I do agree that this ad may appear insensitive to fellow breast cancer survivors, and anyone who has had their lives devastated by breast cancer is certainly entitled to be upset.  If you have lost a loved one to breast cancer or if you have breast cancer, those six words spoken by Ms. Harvey are certainly ones you don’t want to hear.  But hear me out.  No cancer is good.  None of them.  I wouldn’t wish any cancer on anyone.   From what I understand, pancreatic cancer is one of the most painful forms of cancer, combined with a high mortality rate.   If you had pancreatic cancer, would you wish for an alternative?  If you had pancreatic cancer and only months to live, would you sit around and stew in your own misery?  Or would you have the courage to stand up and fight like Ms. Harvey?

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, a dear friend who was going through treatment for ovarian cancer made a similar comment.  She said that breast cancer was like the popular cancer sorority to be in because of all of the pink and awareness and campaigns.  She said that all of the other cancers take a back seat to breast cancer when it comes to research and money and awareness.  There is a lot of truth to what she said, however when I was bald, missing part of my breast and going through early menopause, I certainly did not feel like a popular sorority girl.  But because of all of the awareness and research given to breast cancer, I am alive today.

God blessed me with an early stage and non-aggressive form of breast cancer.  Because of my cancer, I have total clarity in life with what I am going to do as a result of being a survivor.  I have used this opportunity to be vocal about awareness and prevention and I host a large fundraiser every year in my home to support various breast cancer organizations.  Would I have wished for breast cancer?  Of course not.  But I can’t change the fact that I am a survivor.  I can only control what I do every day to try my best to inspire other survivors.

I know this ad has angered a lot of people.  Do you know what cancer is the worst of all?  The cancer of hate.  For the haters out there, hate on cancer, not on the person.  If you are going to take the time to comment or tweet, take the time to be kind and support a cancer organization.  Or take the time to do something nice for someone who has cancer.  Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with this controversy, use your voice to inspire your community of fellow cancer survivors.  We’re all in this fight together.  We need to support one another.  We need to love one another.  We need to find a cure and end ALL cancer.

Holly Bertone Breast Cancer Authority Blooger

Holly Bertone is originally from Waynesboro, PA. She holds a Master’s Degree from Johns Hopkins University, a Bachelor’s Degree from Elizabethtown College, and is a Project Management Professional (PMP). Holly is the CEO and President of Pink Fortitude, LLC, a company dedicated to promoting inspiration and positive self-esteem to cancer survivors and ALL women.

Vegan Spinach Salad Recipe For Breast Cancer

Spinach is one of the healthiest foods we can eat. To support a plant based diet for breast cancer prevention we offer vegan recipes once a week for Meatless Monday. We ask you to support your local organic farmer when you purchase the ingredients for this recipe. Enjoy!

Spinach Salad


1/2 Bag Organic Baby Spinach Rinsed

2 Organic Plum Tomatoes Cut Into Wedges

1/2 Avocado Cubed

1/2 Cup Organic Broccoli Florettes

1/2 Cup Organic Cauliflower Florettes

Handful of Sliced Mushrooms

1/4 Cup Drained Mandarin Orange Sections

Tosh in Your Favorite Nut ( Walnut,Pine Nut,etc…)

spinach salad


2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinigar

1/2 Tablespoon Frontier Organic Garlic Powder

1/2 Tablespoon Dulse Flakes

1 Teaspoon Pink Himalayan Salt

1 Teaspoon Kelp & Cheyenne Seasoning

Breast Cancer Yoga supports healthy lifestyle choices such as a plant based diet and regular exercise for breast cancer prevention. We hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do!

Diana, Dawn & Desiree

Breast Cancer Yoga

Diana RossAbout Diana Ross:  E-RYT 500 restorative yoga teacher, survivor that cares and founder of Breast Cancer Yoga. Diana is making a difference with Breast Cancer Yoga therapeutic products designed to support you emotionally and physically during breast cancer . We want to give you the attention and personal service you need so please email us at if you have questions.

My Story of Survivorship, and Change

Christine Taylor Breast Cancer SurvivorBy Christine Taylor

I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was thirty-two.  At the time, my idea of what it meant to have breast cancer only had one ending.  Just a few years before I my diagnosis, I had watched helplessly as my young aunt fought her battle and, ultimately succumbed to her disease.  That is how I thought my story would end too, and I was terrified.

The turning point for me happened when I was going in for a biopsy of my lungs. A nurse was checking my wristband at the hospital and said, “I had breast cancer eight years ago.” Then, my mother’s friend shared that she was eight years out of treatment. The woman fitting me for my wig had breast cancer ten years ago, and my amazing yoga teacher is over twenty years out.  Everywhere I went, I met someone with a wonderful story of survivorship. The care, compassion and words of hope that they gifted me with were exactly what I needed to realize that I could have my own story.

I wanted to look into a young girl’s eyes many years from now and be able to offer the same hope and support that so many women gave me when I needed it.  As a newly diagnosed patient, I was driven to find the best modalities and the best practitioners that were suited to work with a woman with breast cancer who is holistic minded.   As I built my team of caregivers, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to take what I have learned share it with other women?”

So, I went back to school to become a certified holistic health coach.  Now, I specialize in helping women with cancer in all stages of treatment and survivorship.  I work with them, not just through diet and exercise, but also through recognizing the importance of caring for their mind and spirit. I introduce clients to the tools that helped me such as Reiki and guided meditation yoga and more, and refer them to the best practitioners and teachers.  My aim is to empower people to take responsibility for their quality of life and for their health moving forward through simple and sustainable changes that are easy to integrate.

I believe that we are all together in this journey and that our gifts and talents become amplified when we face life’s challenges.  It is up to all of us who have come through a painful experience to use what we have learned to make the trip a little easier for those who come after us.  Sharing your experience is one of the greatest gifts you can give to the world.

Christine TaylorChristine Taylor is a Holistic Health Coach, and a student of Reiki. She lives in Hampton Bays, NY

Growing Your Own Hands

Robin Dilley Grow Your Own HandsBy Robin B. Dilley PhD

This is the first in a series of four on Growing Your Own Hands after the diagnosis of Breast Cancer. You can find a version of this story at
One of my favorite stories to use as a psychologist is the story of the Miller’s Daughter. This story resonates in so many ways with those facing breast cancer and other life threatening situations. This story echoes the many multi layers of emotion throughout the journey with breast cancer, especially that emotion where it is normal to feel as if our bodies betrayed us. The story is an old Grimm’s fairy tale and it goes like this: A miller came upon hard times. He was approached in the forest by a strange character and was told, “If you give me what is behind the mill right this moment, I will make you a rich man.” The miller thought to himself, “There is nothing behind the mill except an old apple tree”, so the Miller agreed. But, to his surprise, it was his daughter that was behind the mill.
So, when the time came, a struggle ensued between the strange character and the miller’s daughter. The daughter used spiritual symbols of that era to protect herself. She drew a circle around herself and the strange character could not pass through the boundary of the circle to acquire his prized possession. Finally, the strange character said to the miller, “Look I am going to take back all of your riches that I have given you unless you cut off your daughter’s hands.” The miller, being a selfish man, did just that.
The miller then turns to his daughter and says, “With my riches, I will build you a castle and take care of you in every lavish way.”
The daughter responded, “No thank you. I will go out into the world and trust the goodness of others.” And so her mother bound her daughter’s handless arms and she left her father’s house for a journey she chose after a traumatic event happened to her. Life as she knew it had came to an end.

  • A struggle ensues.
  • Things are not always as we think they are.
  • We have to rely on our inner resources .
  • And develop spiritual connections.
  • Life as you know it has come to an end.

Over the next seven years, the daughter grew her own hands. When facing all of the struggles of treatment, fears of death, and the constant roller-coaster of emotions that sometimes drown us, there is still that place deep down inside of us that we can access and move forward to write the next chapters of our lives. And by doing so, we grow our own hands again in ways that we never have could imagined.
Once we receive the diagnosis with breast cancer, our emotions go into shock and we are faced with very important life-changing choices. It is important at this time to rely on the goodness of others and build a support system. Ideally, one of those people should be a “research director” who can take the information from the pathology report that gives you the map the oncologist and radiologist will be using to offer you the best treatment options available to you at this time.
Your path report will tell you what type of breast cancer, what stage, what grade, etc. Each one of those foreign words can be researched online to help you better understand what you are facing. By having a good research director on board, s/he can forward you information worth looking at and discard the hundreds of articles that you do not need to know at this time.
From there, create a list of questions for your oncologist and radiologist. There are no stupid questions. And in the emotional turmoil that you are in, you may need to ask the same question over and over until you understand the ramifications of what you are about to go through. It is important to feel that you have choices and that you are a vital part of your own treatment team. There are many oncologists out there, so give yourself permission to shop around if you don’t like the responses you are getting from yours. You may not be able to control the fact that you now have breast cancer, but you can make lots of decisions along the way.
Blogger: Robin B. Dilley PhD

Why is Our Breath so Important in Recovery?

"Sun Moon Breath" With Rochelle Donnino

“Sun Moon Breath” With Rochelle Donnino

“Close your eyes and gradually bring your breath into your mind’s awareness. Experience each inhalation as it draws fresh energy in; feel the exhalation emptying you, carrying away fatigue, stress and unnecessary thoughts. Let your breaths flow softly, and smoothly from one into the next without hurrying or pressing between breaths. Now breath in, and breath out.” Diana Ross

We hear from time to time this familiar saying ”take a deep breath” when we become stressed, anxious or over excited. Ever wonder why? There are so many reasons as to why. Taking a full, deep conscious breath has been known to settle us down when we are nervous or upset.

How we create this internal calm is to tune into your breath, consciously. The immediate result of tuning into your breath is the ability in obtaining control of your emotional state of mind. The positive potential results in facilitating recovery from surgery, and beyond is the ability to calm your nerves, and invite relaxation. The immune system benefits as well to proper breathing cycles. By conscious breathing we bring the mind/body/spirit state into balance and the nervous system runs with maximum efficiency. Balancing the breath serves to maintain and equalize the complete breath cycle. The goal of the inhalation and exhalation is to be identical in volume and duration thus creating the natural flow of the breath. This natural flow brings the quiet mind with it. Concentration will be higher during this equalized state and invite a meditative mind. A meditative mind cannot happen until the breath is brought under control. You see now how vitally important the breath is in wellness and how it heals.

Habitually we resort to unconscious shallow breathing and clearly do not utilize our true lung capacity creating uneven inhalations and exhalations. In the beginning if the airflow is unequal, do not be concerned. It is a natural phenomenon, and you need not resort to any other method; just continue to practice breathing with awareness. Therefore an equalized airflow through both nostrils should be strived for. Also in the beginning the effects of the breathing practice may not be felt right away, but after a few sessions the results will show itself. It is only through practice that we begin to master so don’t get discouraged. In practicing breathing techniques (pranayama) the mind will become still, and the breath will become even. The energy we normally spend engaging and processing the world around us begins to bend inward and we see it with more clarity.

The importance of training the breath becomes a powerful tool in managing stress, fear, and anxiety. It assists in restoring energy and calming the mind, so we need to breath with greater awareness. The breath is an amazing vehicle in that it is always present, and effective at every level of self inquiry and acts both as preventative as well as restorative. Once we bring an awareness of the breath into the moment, where it is most needed, we can then improve our quality of life. We can enjoy quiet moments of meditation: we can enjoy our be-ing.

Breast Cancer Yoga has a two breathing CD series “Breathe With Purpose, and Breathe for Health and Wellness.” It has breaths that are easy to learn. You are guided the entire time, breath by breath.

Diana Ross, E-RYT500, CYT, Certified KaliRay TriYoga, Founder of Breast Cancer Yoga

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