5 Tips for Male Caregivers

Do you have a go-hard caregiver in your life? When people think of someone caring for them, a woman probably comes to mind first. However, there are a lot of men that support us through our breast cancer diagnosis and treatment but they are sometimes overlooked. This post gives tips on what to do to show him your appreciation or when he  starts to burnout.

Forgetting Men Caregivers

Breast cancer surgery and recovery was hard on me. The pain was excruciating and almost unbearable because of my intolerance of strong pain killers with opioids.

I suffer from side effects within 1-2 minutes of swallowing most pain pills. I begin to feel nauseous and then vomit violently, my head spins, I start to sweat heavily and eventually pass out into a sick sleep. So I spent time switching between taking pain pills and taking Tylenol, which really didn’t help to ease the pain at all.

My husband, DJ, was the best caregiver that I could ever ask for. I have no idea how I would have made it to where I am today without his love, attention, and care. When I could not stand up straight (yes, pain pills are that bad for me), he would hold me up. When I could not give myself a bath or shower, he would carefully bathe me, clean my surgical wounds, and dress me in clean pajamas. When I would cry, he would be there to wipe my tears. He even emptied my Jackson-Pratt drains (yuck!) and kept the chart of drainage measurements up to date for my post-op doctor’s appointment.

5 Tips for Male Caregivers

  1. If high blood pressure management is an issue, check out this new study about how a haircut or beard trim at the barbershop can help.
  2. Most men would probably not prefer this option, but group meetings can be very helpful.
  3. Tell your caregiver to find at least one hour every day for himself. For the entire hour, he should not do anything for anyone but himself (unless there’s a life or death emergency).
  4. Gift them a gym membership to work off stress, anxiety and keep that heart healthy. Or suggest that he goes out for a walk and a breath of fresh air.
  5. If he wants to drink a beer or two, let him. It’s not just you going through breast cancer; he is, too!

                                 In Sickness cropped-breast-cancer-ribbon1.jpg

I remember the first time I gained the courage to look at my body after having a unilateral mastectomy (meaning that only the one breast with cancer was removed). My body looked deformed and lopsided and I felt a deep pain of loss in my heart.

But DJ just unbuttoned my pajama top, unstrapped the tight surgical bra (be prepared for the tight bra, ladies), took a look and said, “Oh, it’s not that bad!”. I thought he was feeling sorry for me and did not want to hurt my feelings and I broke down crying again. But as he bathed me while I cried, he said to me, “When I told you in sickness and health in our wedding vows, I really meant it”.

As a Black woman that grew up without a father and surrounded by mostly single mothers, I really had no idea of what to expect in a marriage. And having been a single mother myself, I spent a lot of time praying that God would place a good man in my life for both me and my son. I had no idea that He would send me a man that would really love and take care of me unconditionally, in sickness and in health.

Caregiver Burnout

DJ held everything together while I was in recovery. He cooked dinner, made sure the boys did their homework and kept the laundry and dishes clean. He still jokes around that he is my personal Uber driver because he is always driving me around to so many doctors appointments. 

caregivers for breast cancer

With everything going on with us dealing with breast cancer, I had no idea that DJ was not feeling too good. And he would never mention it to me anyway, especially since Black men are notoriously known for not going to the doctor. In fact, I had been talking to him about getting a physical before cancer took over our lives and he’d always put it off until later.  

I guess being so busy managing my appointments, taking care of our boys, picking up prescriptions, and simply making sure that I was okay was taking a toll on him. About a year after my breast cancer diagnosis and mastectomy, he confessed to me that he’d been having dizzy spells and wasn’t feeling quite right. So now it was time for me to take care of the caregiver!

After a complete physical, the doctors found that his blood pressure was high, which most likely causing him to feel light headed. He was prescribed heart pressure medication and his pressure was normal at his follow-up appointment.

Most caregivers don’t have enough time to think about themselves. They just plunge headfirst into the deep end and do what needs to be done. This situation was a reminder that high blood pressure is a very serious health concern in the Black community and that caregivers must take care of themselves so that they can take care of others.

Ladies, even though we’re going through one of the toughest challenges in our lives, we must remind the men in our lives to take care of themselves. If your husband, father, or male relative or friend is planning to be your caretaker, remind them to take some time off to take care of themselves. 

Sidenote: While I was writing this post earlier today I heard the news that Bad Boys’ Hip Hop Artist Craig Mack passed away just yesterday from heart failure. While I do not know the specifics of his health, this is yet another reminder to get our Black men to the doctor!

RIP Craig Mack. “Flava in Ya Ear” Video posted below for us old school Bad Boys fans!


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