What you need to know:
- If I didn’t do it for her, then who is going to do it?
- I believe that she would have done the same for me.
For six years, Geoffrey Mwangi, 54, has been his wife’s primary caregiver.
His 49-year-old wife, Eunice Nyambura, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014. As the illness progressed, it left the left side of her body paralysed and today, she is totally dependent on her husband.
Geoffrey’s day typically begins at around 5 am as he wakes up to make her breakfast.
“After this, I start preparing myself to hit the streets where I work as a hawker. I have to look for someone to take care of her while I am away. There are times I’m forced to stay home with her, which means I don’t get to earn money on that day.”
“She can’t take herself to the toilet which we share with more than five other families, which means I have to leave a bucket next to the bed in which she relieves herself, thus I have to come back and clean.”
Whenever he has to take his wife to hospital, he carries her on her back to the bus stage, only using a wheelchair when they get there.
“If I didn’t do it for her, then who is going to do it? I believe that she would have done the same for me.”
Harun Mwangi’s story
For Harun Mwangi, his wife’s presence has only remained a distant memory. Harun’s wife Rosemary Wangu died in late October last year after she lost a three-year battle with breast cancer.
He quit his job as a salesman to take care of his ailing wife who had been wrongly diagnosed at first and confided to bed.
Harun diligently took care of her, the house, and their children.
“She depended on diapers which I had to change often. I cleaned and dressed her wounds.”
He adds that depending on other people for their sustenance dealt a huge blow to his ego as a man.
But that was nothing compared to the emotional vacuum that the whole ordeal left him.
“I had to deal with the pain of helplessly watching my wife waste away, as well as seeing the fear in my children’s eyes as they tried to come to terms with losing their mother. I don’t think I will ever recover from this.”
According to Peter Nyette, Counselling Psychologist/Trainer at Amani Counselling Centre & Training Institute, society has socialised men to believe that seeking help and or showing their vulnerability is a sign of weakness.
“Many men eventually develop psychosomatic symptoms by choosing to remain "strong" and bottling up feelings and emotions. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness, rather it is a sign that a person has an issue and they want to resolve it so that they remain strong.”
He says it is important for male caregivers to understand that they can't carry caregiving burdens alone.
“On matters that touch on psychology, male caregivers need counselling as much as females do.”
For men who mostly are not comfortable about opening up to other people to seek help, he says, self-talk and personal reflection on the consequences of their keeping issue to themselves ought to be a starting point, followed by professional support.