October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In this issue, you can read about the personal journey of Robin Chesler, my beloved life partner, and others in confronting and beating this dreaded affliction. For this brief treatise, I would like to take you through a man’s experience and outlook when dealing with breast cancer.
The emotional effect of a breast cancer diagnosis on any man who loves and cares for the women in his life is profound. Robin’s diagnosis was the second time in my life I faced it. Our family lost my mother to breast cancer when she was only 47. Frankly, I still carry the emotional scars and an underlying resentment from that loss. My mother was cheated out of so much of her life. This loss, however, prepared me for what we would face with Robin’s diagnosis. I was also helped by the knowledge that treatment and survival has improved significantly during the ensuing years. Still, very big questions, challenges and opportunities immediately presented themselves.
- What do I say? This may seem like a simple question, but it’s not. She has just had her life threatened. Saying it’s “gonna be okay” is certainly not enough. She needs your own admission of fear and then an honestly supportive assurance that “we are in this together.”
- Next, you darn well better mean it. The surgeries, follow-up medication, chemo and/or radiation if necessary, debilitate your woman physically and emotionally. She may also be afraid that you may love her less if she survives but carries the wounds and scars from the experience.
- Men are more likely to suppress emotions and not share their concerns with others. Women, by and large, are the opposite. They are far better for it. Encouraging and not resenting her need to pour her heart out to others is very important. Be by her side when she wants you there and turn her loose when she needs that too.
- Bonding with her survivor sisters in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk has been a very uplifting experience for Robin. She raised more than $2,500 in 2015 and as I write this letter is well on her way to raising even more in 2016. I walked with her team and was bursting with pride when she went up on the stage at last year’s event flashing her incredible smile.
Well, here we are two years later and what I have to say to Robin and her survivor sisters is…“Go Girl!!”