Any coping strategies for the anxiety?

Hi - my 32 yr old wife was diagnosed with BC in Jan. We have a 3.5yr old and a 9 month old so it has been very difficult. My wife has been fantastically strong (at least on the outside). She is due for a mastectomy and lymph nodes removal on Monday. I wasn’t coping at all well and went to the GP who prescribed anti-depressants. I decided not to take them because the next day we got the results of the CT scan/bloods which did not indicate that it had spread to anywhere else in th body. I was therefore feeling a lot more positive.

The past few days though I’ve slumped again…not helped by the fact that we’ve all had gastroenteritis. But I’m finding I can’t sleep again; I have taken Kalms and Bach’s Remedy Relief. I didn’t want to take Amitryptelline because I’ve found that I still wake at 3am feeling very anxious…but then I’m a zombie the next day. Anyway…they haven’t helped.

I haven’t been to any support groups (I have 2 I could go to that are monthly…but they’re both on the same day/time) but I have dipped into these BCC forums and the MacMillan forums…but I don’t know if it helps me. I do feel a bit more positive when I hear a good news story but then my heart sinks when I hear bad news stories.

If anyone has any tips that might help me cope a little better, it would be appreciated, because the last thing I want is to increase the burden on my wife who must be going through hell.

A BC diagnosis hits everyone hard and my deep sympathies are with you. Everyone approaches this sort of thing differently - my hubby and I found that reading all we could about it, and talking about it was really helpful - even going through the worst case scenarios, then at least all the deepest anxieties had been voiced. I also found counselling very helpful around managing the anxiety associated with waiting for test results. If this is your kind of way I appreciate that it can be very difficult to find the time when you have such young children needing your care and attention. I don’t really have any advice, just empathy, but try to use all childcare/cooking offers of help from friends & family to make more time for you to spend with your partner.
Wishing you all the best.

We were the complete opposite to Meggy! We have found that taking a day/a step at a time is really the only way for us to cope happily. We deal with problems when and if they arise-reading about all sorts of terrors/failed treatments/ghastly side effects, seemed to us to be counterproductive, and wasteful of time which could be more usefully harnessed to staying as well as possible-both physically and emotionally. I don’t think this means we live our lives in denial (not that this would be an option with my secondary diagnosis)-rather it keeps us focussed on the part of the treatment/illness which needs our attention at any given point.

Neither my hubby nor myself has needed counselling nor anti depressants. But many find both very useful, so I would urge you to take the medication prescribed-if only for the short term, as you will have a lot to do in the next few weeks so your wife can recover as quickly as possible. Incidentally, the surgery itself is not as painful/limiting as it may sound. I had a mastectomy on a Thursday-and was helping prepare Sunday lunch a few days later! She will however, have to be careful about lifting (or should I say, “not lifting”), the baby. Best wishes to you both.

Thanks to you both. I realise that people have different coping strategies and my wife is patently a stronger person than me. I do like to talk to others (especially those that can empathise rather than just sympathise), whereas my wife tends to put on a brave face.

My mother tends to take tablets whenever possible, but I prefer NOT to if there is an alternative. The reason I didn’t take what the GP prescribed was for a number of reasons:

  1. I had one the first night and I was dreadful. Although the side effects warning did say that it would get worse before it got better, I know it was largely because I was fearing the worst.
  2. If they do affect my reasoning etc, then I may be less of a support to my wife.

I’m not saying I won’t take them, but for now, I’m trying to manage without. I was hoping the Kalms and Rescue Remedy (that my mum sent me!) might at least help me get a decent night’s sleep…but no joy!

I know everyone’s journey is different, but when I hear people say "Luckily…it wasn’t in my lymphs…’ or that cancer tends to be more aggressive in younger women, the more dark thoughts plague me.
My mood swings from hour to hour - never mind day to day.

First of all, I want to say how sorry I am about your wife. There is no good time to have cancer, but having very young children to cope with must be extremely hard for you both.

There is a vast difference between being anxious and worried about your wife, which is understandable, and being clinically depressed. Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand and if you are clinically depressed, you need proper treatment. Kalms and the Bachs remedies are OK if you are a bit jittery before an exam etc but won’t touch depression. The treatment protocol for people with moderate to severe depression is antidepressants with a talking therapy such as cognitive behaviour therapy or counselling. Your doctor has prescribed a tricyclic antidepressant which have far more side effects than the newer SSRI antidepressants which wont make you tired. It would be really much better to go back to the GP, tell him about the meds he has given you and try something else. Now is not the time to be stoical and try to fight off depression without help.

Hi Brooktop

As well as the support you are receiving from the other forum users you may find it helpful to read the BCC booklet ‘in it together’. This booklet has been designed specifically for partners of people diagnosed with breast cancer and has information on the emotional and physical effects. If you would like a copy or to read this on line just follow this link:

I hope you find this helpful.

Kind regards

Sam (BCC Facilitator)

Hi there

I hope you don’t mind me chimimg in.

I was diagnosed nearly 2 years ago and I think it’s harder for those watching/on the outside than on those actually going thro’ it. I was very close to my dad who had cancer/chemo etc the year before my diagnosis. I found that unbelievably hard and had panic attacks etc etc. I really couldn’t cope with it. Six months later I was diagnosed. I coped but my hubby found it very hard. It’s harder to see someone you love going through this than it is to go through it yourself.

Just give your wife time and love and you can do no more. My hubby (for example) has given me a back massage every night for the last two years - that to me is true love! (Not everyone’s idea I’m sure)Whatever makes your wife happy and more comfortable is the order of the day and you’ll soon be ‘on the other side’. Sometimes I wonder if it really happened to me!

Mal x

Dear Brooktop

I admire your courage to come onto a website that is used predominately by women. You will find lots of help from this site.

I’ve had to use every coping strategy I could find as my breast cancer was 4 years misdiagnosed. Basically, my GP was incompetent and I’m actively taking things further. I’ve had to cope with a late diagnosis + the pitfalls that come with it which haven’t been easy.

I haven’t really got one answer for you because we are all different but my advice to you would be to try everything and find out what you feel suits you best. In other words, experiment. I’ve tried counselling, clinical psychology, anti-depressants, EFT (emotional freedom therapy), NLP, healing, support groups, meditation, yoga, and a whole load of other weird and wonderful stuff which I sometimes didn’t understand. I’ve found great strength in support groups, listening to healing music, meditation and yoga. I used to read a lot and, for me,knowledge is power. I’m not reading so much these days but I do find being a selective reader helpful.

You may also like to know that when my cancer was found it had reached stage 3b. The cancer was in 15 of my lymph glands. I can remember my oncologist saying it was almost at my collar bone. Whilst this was very frightening for me, I have survived 5 years with good health and to date I’m not aware of any cancer. I had an appointment with my oncologist yesterday and all is well.

I wish you and your wife well.


Dear Brooktop, I was just 39 when I was diagnosed with BC and had chemo followed by a mastectomy. It had spread to my lymph glands too. That was in 1989…and 21 years on I am still around. My husband was wonderful when I was going through all the treatment and had to look after our 2 daughters who were 7 and 14 at the time. It wasn’t until I returned to work that it finally caught up with him, all the stress and coping through that summer. But we both got through it and although it has been a difficult at times. Our daughets are now 27 and 34 and I never thought that i would be around all these years later. I just wanted to give you a wee bit of hope that there are people who survive the disease and go on to have many years together. One day at a time is what I always say… If I can help in any way…just ask. love Val

Hi brooktop, my OH is ver much like you, I don´t know how long you have been together but we have been together 21yrs although never married, i´m 42yrs and my OH is 59yrs old. He has always been my brick, whatever my problem he´s always sorted it, until now! it´s not something our partners can protect us from, and I know by talking to him, this has effected him so much. Your not Superman, same as we are not Superwoman and I know with him when i was in pain, he was so frustrated and it hurt him so much this hurt me more than the pain.

Then someone suggested that we both keep daily diaries, at first I thought and he did what aload of rubbish but hey you give anything ago, so we did, and still do, it´s not for anyone else to read, not for your partner unless you want her to read it, you put all your thoughts, emotions ever feeling you have down on paper, or in our case on computer.
I don´t know why but we have both found this helps tremendously, it´s like your off-loading all the crap, but not offending anyone.

Maybe worth ago for you. Good luck, and your always welcome here. Love Teresa xxx

Gosh…where do I start? Thank you SO much for all your kind words and reassurance. Being a bloke, I do try to analyse a problem, weigh up the options after research and then decide on a course of action. It’s situations like this that I really struggle with because there’s very little I can do regarding the outcome of it all.

I’m not an overly emotional person ordinarily, but my wife and children are the most important things in my life. 2009 was a difficult enough year: my wife was made redundant 2 months before she was due to start maternity leave and then the day after our 2nd was born she fell and dislocated her kneecap and had a small fracture. My 2 weeks paternity leave was spent looking after my wife a toddler and a newborn. That put the biggest strain on our 8 year relationship…but never to a make or break point if you know what I mean. Just the week before she found the lump, I remember feeling how happy I was that we’d come through 2009 and how blessed I felt. Little did I know…

I don’t generally consider myself a ‘glass half empty’ person; in fact - I generally have a (possibly niaive) attitude that things work out for the best. The only good thing that I can possibly see coming out of this is that we’ll be stonger/closer as a couple - as some highlight in the partners booklet (which I found useful). However, all the positive stories do give me hope and many people tell us that we’re in the best hands at Nottingham’s Breast Institute.

I was a bit wary about posting in a predominantly female forum and that’s why I posted in the ‘partners’ section. I have as many female friends as male friends so discussing feelings has never been a problem for me. In some ways, my wife could be considered more ‘stereo-typically butch’ than me if you know what I mean. She doesn’t often talk about her feelings…but it seems to be working for her through this ordeal.


Teresa’s idea of off-loading your worries in writing is a good one. For me, that has been on this website. The support has been incredible and I truly do not know how I would have managed without these lovely people. Yes, they are mostly ladies who are, or have been, going through the same, but occasionally men use the site and contribute just as much. I am sure you will find it invaluable whenever a new situation arises and you want information, or to have a rant. It really is cathartic.

Try not to read too far ahead. Just take the information you need at any particular stage. Some of the stories are truly scary and, hopefully, will never be relevant in your wife’s case.

Like you, my husband enjoys analysing a problem to come up with a solution, but sometimes there are no immediate solutions and just being there for each other is what is needed. I know that being the supporter can be even worse, as my Mum had bc before me and I felt so helpless at the time. As others have suggested, it is important that you look after yourself, both physically and emotionally, so that you can be there for your wife and children.

It must be incredibly difficult with small children and I hope you have lots of support from family and friends. Make sure you take advantage of it. When people offer, they really do want to help. If they don’t offer, then ask. Don’t feel too proud.

I wish you and your family all the best.

Love Ann x

Hi Brooktop

My husband as been absolutely wonderful throughout my journey and I am so pleased your wife has a loving partner to support her.

My poor husband is the one that always has the tears on my bad days (which are few) but when I get a chance to offload and have a wee sorry for myself cry I always feel so much better afterwards. I would not have that support without him as no-one else would do.

And try and sometimes focus on the funny side of things - I was feeling low today and read the on a brighter note thread. A laugh always helps.

All the best for future treatment and as everyone says don’t be afraid to shout for help and take all you can get. My husband and I planned a lovely holiday at the end of treatment after I had a chance to recover and it was lovely to look forward to and gave us a chance to get off the planet for a while. I know that is difficult with young ones but perhaps you could start planning some treats.

Love Anne xx

Hi Brooktop

Just another quickie about medication. Like someone else mentioned there are many different anti depressants out there with less side effects. I, like you, don’t particularly like taking tablets but if you are getting into a bad sleep pattern and it’s effecting you through the day why not ask doc for a few sleeping pills just to help you get back into routine.

Anne xx

Thanks Anne

The doctor prescribed Citalopram which is an SSRI. The jury is still out on whether I start to take them. I have good days and bad days…and that includes the sleep. The previous 3 nights I’d taken Kalms and Bach’s Rescue Remedy and woke up after 3 hours and then struggled to get proper sleep again. Having said that, I did have gastroenteritis and was feeling down.

Last night I slept better and was only woken by our 9 month old crying about 5am (that’s good for her!). I was feeling a bit more positive last night and decided not to take anything.

My wife has tended to be the one that has gone into our youngest to calm her because:
a) she’s a very light sleeper and a fly breaking wind would wake her!
b) I’m at work Mon-Fri (hope that doesn’t sound sexist because I wouldn’t swap for the 24/7 role of housewife)
c) Even if do wake up and try to sort Rosie, she tends to insist on taking over if the dummy insertion doesn’t work immediately.

HOWEVER…all that is now going to have to change - post surgery and during chemo. So sleeping tablets aren’t really an option. Even with half an amitryptelline tablet I’m a zombie until dinner time. That’s why I was hoping Kalms or Rescue Remedy might help.

I think one of the things my wife is going to struggle with is accepting help from others…especially if it means overnight guests.

Hi Brooktop

I think good idea to wait to take SSRI’s but don’t hesitate if you really start to struggle. I have only taken Prozac once when my mum was ill and only then for 4 months but they certainly got me through a bad patch so I wouldn’t knock them. I know there are women on the forum who benefit greatly from them. I only meant an occasional sleeping tablet if it gets you back into your pattern wouldn’t want to take them regularly.

So hard for you all with young children but you will get there. Just take it one step at a time, you will all be amazed at how it flies by. Your wife sounds like a wonderful person and we all want to keep our lives as normal as possible, so getting up with baby is typical. Hopefuly she can nap during the day when baby sleeping but I do hope she accepts help with your other wee one when tired. Now is a time when you find out who your friends are but please, please take care of yourself. Your health is very important too. Hope you all over your gastroentetiris. Glad you feeling more positive today and hope you get more of these.

Love Anne xx

Thanks Anne - I take all that on board and the tablets are by the side of my bed (in a drawer away from our 3.5 (going on 9!) yr old) ready to be called into action.

My wife, her mother and sister are so strong…or at least outwardly, because I know we’re all going through hell on the inside.
I feel very humbled by their ‘can do’ attitude. They also seem to be able to continue laughing about things, yet I almost feel guilty if I laugh about anything…and I know that is wrong. Ordinarily, I’ve always prided myself on my counselling skills (maybe that’s why I do have female friends). I’m just rubbish at taking my own advice!

Paul x

Hi again Brooktop, Please keep posting on this thread to let us know how you and your lovely wife and family are doing. We are there to hold your hand and listen to your worries and concerns. Some of us are even on the site in the wee small hours if you cannot sleep! I wouldn’t be so well if it wasn’t for my wonderful husband. We have been together since we were 17 and have been married for almost 35 years. Our life has been difficult at times but you are right this whole thing has brought us so close together and made our marriage stronger for it. I love him so much…but he is a shy man with little words…but the small things he does for me , show me just how much he cares…like making the evening meal if he thinks I look weary. You just need to be there for her. Try not to get ahead of yourself and take on more than you are able…as I said before…one day at a time…Val

At the moment my wife is under no illusion how much she means to me…but she would always want me to do more round the house/with the kids :slight_smile:

I do cook for us quite regularly though. Curries and chillis are my speciality…

Hi Brooktop

I am being treated at Nottingham Breast Institute too and just wanted to say that I have found them to be brilliant. They seem to have the latest everything and the most expert doctors and surgeons. My breast care nurse has been invaluable on the end of the phone (and in person) and I’m sure that your wife’s breast care nurse will be happy to talk to you too if you need to. They also have a support group at which partners are welcome, although this may not be your thing.

Everyone is different but my coping strategy was NOT to read up on everything as I found this to do more harm than good - I could not stop thinking about the scarier aspects, especially in the middle of the night when I could not sleep. So in the end I stuck to just reading the leaflets they gave me and talking to the nurse. Me and my OH also found ourselves making (sometimes quite tasteless) jokes about as much of it as possible, so don’t be afraid to laugh, especially if that’s what your wife is doing.

Accepting help from others can be hard but is really necessary - especially with such small children. I have no children and can’t imagine how hard it must be to try to keep life normal for them while dealing with everything else.

Incidentally I was prescribed Citalopram a few years ago (nothing to do with BC). At the time I was very resistant to the idea of taking antidepressants, but I did find that they cleared my mind and helped me to see the wood for the trees, and to sleep better. On the flip side, they also made me feel a bit dizzy and spaced out for a few days until my body got used to them - but not to the extent of feeling like a zombie. (I tried Kalms and rescue remedy as well,and they did absolutely nothing for me at all.)

And do keep offloading on here! There is always someone who will understand. I feel for all the partners/friends/relatives out there who are being towers of strength. Mine has been brilliant (foot massages on tap!). He too likes to analyse the situation and find a practical solution, which of course can’t be done here. I have been so conscious that he has been freaking out too, and needs to have time out somehow.

Best of luck to you and your family. xxx