John W. Anderson has stood by his mother, wife, sister, and his mom’s
closest friend as they battled breast cancer. His new book, Stand by Her: A
Breast Cancer Guide for Men, published in time for National Breast Cancer
Awareness Month, details these experience, and all that he learned by being on
the frontlines of this battle with four of the most important women in his
From when to stay quiet, shave your head, or grab a beer with a buddy to get
out of what he dubs "Cancerland," Anderson spoke to WebMD about how men can
help the women they love face breast cancer.
Breast Cancer: Me & the Girls
When breast cancer hits home, it's personal. WebMD shares stories and
advice from women who know what breast cancer is like firsthand.
Zunilda Guzman, 39, had both breasts and ovaries removed after learning she
had breast cancer and a high-risk gene.
Cerceo, 51, had both breasts removed even though she didn’t have breast
Diane Morgan, 71, offers advice on what friends should and shouldn't do
when someone has breast cancer.
“I had written a screenplay that became a Lifetime movie called Four
Extraordinary Women, and realized that this really shouldn’t be the end.
The Lifetime network is targeted for women, so a lot of guys wouldn’t see the
movie. There are few books about what men should do when a loved one is
diagnosed with breast cancer. I realized I could write a book that targets all
men and all different types of relationships – mothers, wives, sisters, and
Your wife started breast cancer treatment the same day your mom died from the disease. How did you feel that day?
It was awful. Breast cancer has always had a weird synchronicity for me. My
dad had my mom’s funeral on St. Patrick's Day, and 21 years later, I found out
that they were publishing this book on that same date.
What did you do to express solidarity when your wife began treatment for breast cancer?
We had a head shaving party when my wife started to lose her hair from
chemotherapy. I went hairless, and then let it grow back along with hers. For
my sister, I mohawked my hair.
What is the best piece of advice you can give a man who is watching a loved one battle breast cancer?
Listen to her. Hear what her needs and wants are and ask how you can help.
Do not force your agenda on her. React, don’t act. If she shuts you out, let
time take its course. She is processing and dealing with heavy stuff. Show
patience and humility. She is the commander-in-chief.
How can a man stay positive for a loved one if he is scared?
Get away from Cancerland. Whether golfing or having beer with a friend, you
need a reprieve. You can’t be on all the time. You also need to be honest about
what you are feeling. Be open and talk to a friend or family member. Guys tend
to hold it in and say ‘I'm OK or I am doing fine,’ but they are torn up inside
and have nowhere to go. When I needed help, I turned to my guy friends so I
could download what I was going through. This is why we are launching an online
forum in conjunction with the book so guys can anonymously discuss how they
feel when a loved one has breast cancer.