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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Man's Guide to Breast Cancer

Author John W. Anderson shares insights on how men can stand by women with breast cancer.

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.

Your mom lost her battle with breast cancer. How are your wife, sister and mom’s best friend, Caryl?

They are doing great. My wife is now coming up on her ninth anniversary. My sister has been cancer-free since 2002, and Caryl is coming up on 30 years.

Is there still a lot of anxiety around follow-up testing?

There is always worry, but worry becomes less and less as each anniversary passes. It sure feels better when tests are negative and you get a confirmation that all is well.

What did you learn from each of these “Four Extraordinary Women” as they coped with cancer?

My mother taught me about strength. When she was diagnosed, the doctors gave her three to six months to live. Her youngest child was 5 or 6 at the time. She said ‘I am not gonna die. I am going to get my last kid through high school.’ She willpowered it, and got him through junior year.

My wife taught me about selflessness. When she was first diagnosed, she apologized to me because I would have to go through it all over again. She was always concerned about how I was doing and how our kids were doing, and was a great wife and mother even though she was going through a difficult time. She also taught me the value of doing your research. She dug deep and got a lot of second opinions.

My sister taught me about spirituality. Her spiritual strength and ability to deal with obstacles was inspiring.

Caryl taught me how to be a better caregiver. She was there so much for my mom that it gave me groundwork for when my wife and sister were diagnosed. My mother and Caryl went over the top and moved into each other’s houses when each of them was diagnosed with breast cancer.

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