31 Days of Impact – Day 18, Jack Anderson

The story of breast cancer is the story of people. Learn about Komen’s impact and work in the fight against breast cancer as told through the eyes of breast cancer survivors, researchers, community health workers and advocates. Read more stories.

John (Jack) Anderson, Virginia – Co-Survivor, Author

“Breast cancer calls for full-scale war. It’s game on, every morning, every night, ‘round the clock, every day, every week, every month, every year, for years to come.”

“The battleground is her body, mind and spirit—as well as your body, mind and spirit.”

“Once you enter Cancer Land there is no turning back, so buck up and start following your leader, your loved one; she is the one who presides over all things that happen in Cancer Land.”

You’re a guy; and someone very close to you, right this minute, has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Or maybe she’s undergoing treatment. Maybe she’s in remission. She could be your wife, your mother, your sister, your girlfriend, your daughter, grandmother, aunt, cousin, co-worker or a friend. But the reality is that the long arm of breast cancer has reached into your world, and a woman in your life, someone you love, needs YOU.  What the heck do you do?

When my mom, Anne Anderson, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1978, I didn’t have a clue. To cope with what was happening, I started writing a book—a book that took twenty-one years to complete. During that time my wife, my sister and my mom’s best friend were also diagnosed.  And my mother lost the battle she so valiantly fought.

The lack of resources for men, to help us understand how to process and talk with the women in our lives about breast cancer and breast health, struck me as profound.  My book Stand By Her became an answer.

“I have breast cancer.”  “It’s malignant.”

If you’re like most guys, hearing these words sends you into shock. You can’t breathe. You’re scared, mad, panicked— and it’s all happening at the same time.  Here are a few lessons that I hope will help you catch your breath as you navigate that first leg of the journey.

Follow, Don’t Lead
Everything that happens with regard to her treatment is up to her, not you. She is Commander-in-Chief of everything when it comes to breast cancer. So it is vital that you follow, not lead what happens.

Just Listen
Sometimes you need to stop talking and just listen to her. If she wants to laugh, laugh with her. If she wants to cry, comfort her and don’t minimize her fear. Watch for her emotions and follow where they lead.

Laughter is the greatest healer of all. It will get her, and you, through the crazy times that she is going to face with her breast cancer treatment. One of the best things you can do for her is to make her laugh.

Show Your Love
Hold her, kiss her, hug her. Get her little gifts. Compliment her whenever you can. Make her feel good about herself as a woman.

Thirty years ago, when Nancy Brinker promised her sister Susan G. Komen, who was dying from breast cancer, that she would do everything she could to find a way to put an end to this devastating disease, the world was a very different place. In the past three decades, the breast cancer movement has given birth to scientific research and lifesaving awareness that have definitely changed the game.  Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a time to mark how far we’ve come and to acknowledge the work that still needs to be done. I’m in the fight for the long haul, and if someone you love is diagnosed with breast cancer, I hope you will be too—and that you won’t be afraid to Stand By Her.

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About the author

Susan G. Komen has written 342 articles for Susan G. Komen® | Blog

Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure®, we have invested more than $1.9 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.