A Book About Breast Cancer, and more…
Sometimes the gift of a book can help someone you care about gain the information and perspective necessary to get through a tough time. What if that tough time involves a dad, brother or friend who doesn’t quite know what to do when breast cancer attacks someone he loves, whether mother, sister, wife or daughter?
A good choice might be to give him a copy of John W. Anderson’s book Stand by Her: A Breast Cancer Guide for Men.
Learning the Hard Way
Learning the right ways to give support during cancer treatment may not come naturally for a man, but Anderson’s book can make the process easier. During the 31 years prior to its publication, Anderson learned more about breast cancer than anyone except a doctor should have to know. He lost his mother to the bewildering disease in 1988 following her 10-year battle.
Thirteen years later, Anderson’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer despite no family history of the illness. Another year passed, and his younger sister was in treatment for breast cancer. Over the years, the author as also watched two friends fight breast cancer. Somewhere along the way, he realized that he wanted to be a resource for other men trying to support mothers, wives, sisters and daughters through the illness.
From Black to Pink
Anderson assigned colors to each chapter of his book. The first chapter is represented by black for the darkness of first feelings following the diagnosis. The last chapter is pink for the cheerful feelings that accompany arriving at the 5-year remission mark. Along the way, Anderson explains what to expect about surgery, chemotherapy, radiation treatment, reconstructive surgery and the years of worry afterward about whether the cancer will return.
The book combines anecdotes from Anderson’s and other men’s experiences on the sidelines of breast cancer. It arms readers with information about research and resources as well as strategies for handling the medical, psychological and emotional surprises that arise when providing support.
Listening, Loving, Laughing
In particular, Anderson emphasizes listening well from the moment of diagnosis. Instead of trying to take over and solve the situation, he suggests that as caregivers, men need to be prepared to reflect women’s emotions. This may involve validating anger or laughing during lighter moments.
Men need to follow where these emotions lead rather than minimizing, ignoring or reacting to them in a way that stirs conflict. Anderson indicates that it is the woman’s illness, so the woman has a right to her feelings.
In the case of a husband and wife, reassurance also means reaching out with affection and intimacy if and when the wife is ready.
Positivity and Appreciation
Men can help surround the woman who has breast cancer with positive influences — a support team of friends, doctors, and people with similar spiritual beliefs. Anderson says that when possible, male caregivers need to remove any people who make the patient feel negative.
Everyone within this support group should strive to help the patient see that a happy ending is more than likely if the breast cancer was detected early. Whichever hand the patient has been dealt, her supporters should reinforce the preciousness of the here and now.
Remember that when you give this kind of book to a friend who is troubled about the illness of an important woman in his life, you help him to stand by her and you stand by both of them.