A woman holds hands with a dotted outline of a man, a broken heart overlayed on them

The Unspoken Truth

Last updated: November 2022

Author's Note: This is an article written from the perspective of the author. This article focuses on heterosexual couples, and men leaving after their wives are diagnosed with MBC.

It is sad but true that many men leave their wives after their wives have been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. Whether it is due to the fear of cancer or the change in the wife's appearance, there are many factors contributing to why men choose to leave.

For those men whose wives have stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, the heart-wrenching fear or the thought of watching someone they love deteriorate right before their eyes can prove to be too much to bear.

I remember when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, the doctor asked my husband if he was going to leave. My husband said, "No. I didn’t marry her for her breasts." He then told us seventy-five percent of men leave.

Fear of cancer

One of the main reasons men leave after a mastectomy is because they are afraid of cancer. While it is true that cancer can be a scary diagnosis, it is important to remember that many women who have had mastectomies do not go on to develop more cancer. In fact, the vast majority of women who have had this surgery are cured of their cancer and go on to live long, healthy lives. If your husband is leaving you because he is afraid of cancer, it is important to try to talk to him about his fears to see if there are ways to assuage them.

Appearance

Another reason a man might choose to leave after a mastectomy is that he is uncomfortable with the change in his wife's appearance. While it is true that a mastectomy can change the way a woman looks, it is important to remember that many women feel just as beautiful after the surgery as they did before. I recently spoke with a woman who hid her entire diagnosis and surgery from her husband. I asked her how she did it, and she said, "He’s always on business trips, and he’s gone six months out of the year." She said she has never been totally nude in front of her husband, and he wasn’t a breast man, so she was able to pull it off. I just grabbed her and held her, and she wept. I knew how heavy of a burden this had to be on her.

Lack of intimacy and sex

One of the unspoken truths about men leaving after a wife has a mastectomy is that they often feel like they're losing the intimacy and sexual connection they once had. This can be a difficult thing to adjust to, especially if sex was an important part of the relationship. Chemotherapy and radiation can also take a toll on your body, making it harder to feel desirable or sexy. And sometimes the woman rejects intimacy because she can’t wrap her head around this new disfigured body of hers.

Side effects of chemotherapy

What many people don't realize is that chemotherapy can have some pretty serious side effects. For example, it can make you feel nauseous, tired, and weak. It can also cause your hair to fall out. And in some cases, it can even lead to depression. If you’re usually the upbeat, happy partner, and then you fall into a depression, it can be very hard on a relationship.

Overwhelmed

For some men, it's simply too much to handle. They're not used to seeing their wives sick and in pain. They're not used to dealing with all the doctor's appointments, the hospital stays, and the chemotherapy treatments. It's all just too much for them, and they can't take it anymore.

I call it the unspoken truth because more often than not, men aren't as forthcoming as women are about health issues. I've known many men who become silent when their wives become ill. Men, by their very nature, like to fix things. But what happens when there's an issue that they can't fix? Some men become angry, some become withdrawn, some roll up their sleeves and fight with everything that's in them to support their wives, and some simply choose to walk away.

The truth of the matter is fighting the battle with cancer can be a very difficult situation for all parties involved.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The AdvancedBreastCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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