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Support available for husbands of women with breast cancer

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It isn’t just the patient that can be devastated by a diagnosis of breast cancer. Sometimes it hits spouses hard, and experts say they might need support, too.

It might just need to be administered differently.

“Your life is going along with all of its normal ups and downs.

“And this is just such a different world that you are suddenly introduced to that you just need to kind of normalize a little bit,” said the Rev. Jeff Flowers, the director of chaplains for Georgia Health Sciences University.

“You need some outlet to be able to say, ‘Help me understand what is going on and what I need to do to try to come to grips with it.’ ”

The Rev. Hank Flowers, the director of pastoral care at University Hospital and no relation to Jeff, has run a men’s support group in con­junction with the Pink Mag­nolias breast cancer support group, although sometimes few, if any, men show up regularly for it.

“The good thing was a lot of men who had been there for a while could share with them, ‘Here’s what you are going to go through, here’s the path you are probably going to take, here’s the medicines’ ” he said. “And kind of walk them through their journey, which made it so nice for them, particularly if they were younger men with younger wives.”

There can be a feeling of frustration and helplessness, Hank Flowers said.

“The sad part is we men have got that fix-it mentality and all of a sudden they discover this is something they can’t fix, something they are going to have to deal with and walk with their wife,” he said. “We men sometimes have a tendency to run away from intimacy and it is a very intimate time of their life, too, because of what their wife is going through. It is out of their control.”

Men seem to have two kinds of questions, the immediate and the more philosophical, Jeff Flowers said.

Sometimes it just means learning to bear with it and finding a way to get through it, Jeff Flowers said.

One husband told him life seems to begin again after each clear checkup.

“His expression was, ‘Now I can breathe again,’ ” Jeff Flowers said.

And along with the frustration, there is often good news to share, he said.

“There are lots of people celebrating cures and remissions and life beyond,” Jeff Flowers said. “Everyone who beats it, that is a wonderful story.”

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