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Breast Cancer Impacts Partner's Mental Health

Depression, mental issues common in men during wife's battle with breast cancer

Barry Carpenter

The 33 News

October 13, 2010

PLANO, TEXAS

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A breast cancer diagnosis turned Jim and Stephanie Payne's tranquil life upside down.

Stephanie remembers Jim trying to process startling news.

"You know, Jim's hand is sweaty, I wonder why his hand is so sweaty and then he almost passed out in the exam room," Stephanie said.

Jim was stressed out a new study in the journal Cancer indicates he's not alone.

Researchers followed 20,000 men who's partners had breast cancer fand ound that men who's partners died of breast cancer were four times more likely to have mood disorders--including depression and panic attacks.

Baylor-Plano oncologist Dr. Manish Gupta recalls a patients husband died of a heart attack during her cancer fight and while it's unclear if her cancer played a part--he says when men internalize feelings it can be unhealthy.

"Sometimes the woman will cry and the man sometimes doesn't know what to do and you can see they sometime become distant, they want to show their emotions, they want to sometimes cry with them but they don't and they pull back," Dr. Gupta said.

Jim decided to do what he calls man up and went to a therapist which helped him get through the toughest of times.

"There were definite moments when I had my private little cry party by myself--off away with her not seeing," Jim said. "It was just very difficult to watch all that."

Jim said the therapy helped him be there when Stephanie needed him the most.

He was there for every doctors appointment and chemo treatment.

"I need to be strong for her and in order to be strong for her I need to be too," Jim said. "There is nothing wrong with getting a little bit of assistance to kind of help you sort things out."

Stephanie said the therapy helped Jim be her rock.

"You know, he may not be going through this physically with me but he is going through it emotionally every step of the way," Stephanie said.

Her cancer was in remission but it came back and now she's facing a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction.

Jim's therapy is again coming in handy.

"It's okay to feel angry," Jim said. "There is nothing wrong with feeling angry about this."