Being a Care Partner is difficult—mentally and emotionally. It’s especially true when being a Care Partner of someone living with ovarian cancer.
There is a lot of support online and locally for the women affected by ovarian cancer. However, there’s usually not a lot for the men who are taking care of them. Those Care Partners, and their support needs, are often overlooked.
For me, this became very apparent at the annual walk my wife and I attend for our local ovarian cancer organization. It was our third year there and I noticed that all the men in attendance were just kind of standing around while the survivors were all talking, hugging, and greeting each other.
Just like the survivors, the Care Partners have a common bond, but that bond can be overlooked because as men we tend to remain silent, almost unseen.
Seeing these other men not knowing what to do and looking lost led me to start an online support group for men who are Care Partners for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer. My goals with this group are for these “silent survivors” to:
- Have a place to connect with other men going through the same thing
- Get to know other men from their area
- Connect and meet each other
We keep it casual and try to support each other, share experiences, and talk about what our partner is going through. Occasionally, some of us who live near each other will even meet up and grab a drink or a meal together. It’s important to just get out with others who understand what you are going through and won’t bombard you with all those questions you hear from everyone else. It’s a safe space.
The Care Partner needs to be able to get away from the situation and occasionally to refresh themselves. They need to find a local group of other Care Partners or some friends who will be able to help them have fun and get their mind off all things cancer for a few hours.
One of the most important lessons I learned as a Care Partner is that I cannot hesitate or be too proud to ask for help. You should take people up on offers of help when they come up. You don’t need to do it all on your own.
So, if someone offers to bring a meal—let them. If someone offers to do laundry—let them. If someone offers to clean—let them. If they offer to stay with your loved one so you can go out for dinner with a friend—let them.
Being a man doesn’t mean you have to be strong all the time. And being strong doesn’t mean being silent. You have the right to be heard and connect with others who know what you’re going through. You need to get out of the house for more than work and grocery shopping. It’s important to remember that Care Partners need a break, too.