Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Male Perspective

It's easy and understandable to get so wrapped up in a breast cancer diagnosis that you lose sight of those around you, those that love you.  As focus turns inward, it's sometimes difficult to recognize breast cancer's reach to family members, especially our male family members. Our sons, brothers and husbands who get the lucky job of standing on the sidelines waiting for updates, judging our reactions or just holding our hands while holding their breath.

In a post written by my first guest blogger, I'm proud to share the memories and perspective of a son who lost his mother to breast cancer and whose sister (me) is also living with the disease that steals so much from so many. To my brother, David.  Thanks so much for writing.  I know it wasn't easy.


Guest Blogger


Thanks for asking me to guest blog for you. I have written twice, so far, pieces that seemed appropriate for posting as I was writing, but when I look at the conversation you are having with your readers, I see that what I may have thought I had to say on the subject of breast cancer could never be relevant. It’s not even close.

What you say in your blog and what you exchange with the brave ladies who follow you, for whom by the way, my respect and admiration grow with every comment, is so very different from anything I could think of, or feel, or say. The thoughts you are all sharing with each other seem to … matter.  They matter to your lives, to your days, to those moments that you need this support to deal with all of this.  I couldn’t tell you anything that would rise to the level of being even remotely helpful.  I think it’s because the “living with it” is what your blog is really about, and that’s the barrier I can’t cross.

When Mom was fighting breast cancer, I know I didn’t get it. I probably would say I never appreciated the danger she was in, or what she was going through.  I can’t recall if she and I ever spoke about her fears  - or even if she had any. I was older than you, but still young myself as far as being able to deal with serious issues like this. And if I did keep my distance from her, maybe that was the reason.  I do know that I continued to expect her to be that same strong person she always was.

That sounds okay up there as words on a page, but it meant that I never thought for a moment that she needed me to be different.  So I don’t remember being terribly sympathetic. (Sons can be very selfish - and hard on their mothers, and I live with some guilt about that)

When she was first diagnosed it was easier for me to ignore the presence of the disease.  While she long battled I, as you know, finished college, got married, moved away and started a family and a business. With all the focus on my life I can’t tell you I remember thinking much about what Mom was going through.

But now you’re going through it too. Before you started your blog I had this fear that cancer’s second act in our family would find the brother in Act II playing the same role as the son from Act I. Namely, a man who just doesn’t understand what it’s like to live through the disease and was more afraid of it than supportive.

When you were first diagnosed I may have known more about the disease than in Mom’s time, I may have had more facts, but I still didn’t get “living with it”.  Your blog helps me understand what the difference is.  All this thinking about you and Mom and breast cancer and how I behaved as a son, makes clear the things that as a son I didn’t do for Mom, (and yes, I live with guilt about that).

But memories come back a little bit at a time, so there have been a few things that your blog has helped me remember that I may have done right.

The most important thing your blog does is let me in.  I’m in there with you.  With every entry I can tell you that I get it, and I am with you, and hopeful for you, and proud of you.  I see how you are handling it and I am not afraid to be supportive. You have made it easy.  Thank you for that.

I still can‘t tell you a damn thing, though.

So what?- where the son in Act I was afraid, the brother in Act II is more supportive but the role doesn’t come with any speaking lines.

Son ... Brother ... I hope I don't have to be in the two remaining roles a man can play. I hope I don't have to be the husband.  And I pray that breast cancer will be a curable disease before I have to be the father.






16 comments:

  1. Now it's David's turn to make me cry...and realize (not that I didn't already) that the writing gene runs in every branch of this family. David, that was straight from the heart and so powerfully written.

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  2. I loved reading a brother's perspective! It makes me wonder what my brother's thoughts are. He was hit very hard by my mother's death.

    David, I know that if your mother was anything like my mother, you have nothing to feel guilty about. She would not have wanted her breast cancer to get in the way of you living your life. I'm betting she was very proud of you for your accomplishments.

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  3. Okay David, I cried. Let yourself off the hook. It's okay. We women are stronger than we look and we get it; we really get men. There is a difference between a boy and a man. You're a man now and you're there for your sister. That's all. Just be there. :-) hugs to you, Lisa

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  4. David, This is an amazing post. It's a genuine gift of yourself to your sister as well as to her readers. Thank you. I am touched you mention us and that you read our comments! I, too, have lost a mother to cancer. I have a brother (and two sisters). I have learned guilt is pretty pointless. You can't change the past and I'm sure you did more for your mother than you realize. It sounds like you are an amazing support now to your sister, that in itself would make your mother proud. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. We so seldom get to hear the male perspective. Stacey is lucky to have you as her brother!

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  5. Beautiful writing. I love seeing a brother's thoughts on his sister's blog. Just yesterday my brother told me how amazing he thinks my writing is and that even his girlfriend, who I have only met once a year ago since they live in another state, is completely hooked on it. To hear that our brothers are proud of us is truly SUCH a wonderful gift. And my own brother handled my mom's battle with cancer in a very similar way, but it never, even for a second, made my mom feel badly towards him. He's her son. And the way that he is here for me and my dad today would ultimately make her happier than if he were that person for her. Moms are selfless :-)

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  6. Wow David this is absolutely incredible to hear all this from your perspective. It makes me think of my own brother. I think I will send him this to read because I know he struggles over what to say and how to be supportive. And sometimes I take his silence to mean he doesn't care, but this post reminds me that this simply can't be true. Thank you for daring to be so honest.

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  7. Blow me away! What a compassionate piece, David. Erase your guilt about how you responded to your mother's cancer. You were young and being young, you didn't get it. That didn't make you right or wrong, just young. But now that you "get it," I see you are a strong and wise man who's not afraid to express himself. Bravo! I love you, and I don't even know you.

    Brenda Coffee
    BreastCancerSisterhood.com

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  8. Thank you all for letting me feel that even when the men in your lives play a tiny part, it … matters.

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  9. Hi everyone, I was hoping you would find David's post interesting, but what I didn't count on was the amazing comments you'd write to him. I should have known. Thank you for letting him know how much his post meant to you, how important it is to share the man's point of view, which so often gets overlooked and that yes, it matters.

    And I agree, I am one lucky sister, but I knew that long before breast cancer entered our lives and not just for David, but for my oldest brother, whom I hope will share his thoughts as well. I know he has some.

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  10. Oh dear....David you have me in tears! You should know that there is no right or wrong way to live or support a person with cancer. Your mother didn't expect you to support her in a certain way. Just knowing that you loved her I am sure was enough. I am the mother of 8 children. Each has a different way of reacting to situations. I recognize their abilities and their inabilities to handles situations as their uniqueness. Your mother treasured her son and knew you better than you knew yourself and how you would be able to live with what she was going through. She would want you to be kind to yourself now and know that you did the best you could at the time. The guilt is because you have more information now, are older now and hind sight is 20/20. Love that young man of yesterday and set him free of the guilt. That is the best gift you could give to your mother.

    Blessings to you,
    Shelley

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  11. Beautiful. So beautiful.

    I can't add to what's been said already.

    With gratitude,
    Jody

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  12. There is a good mix of comments on my being a brother who has found a way to be supportive to my sister with your sweet reactions to my feelings because I could not do that before for our Mother. For you ladies who mentioned your brothers, first I hope your relationship with them is at least as nice as Stacey’s and mine has, as she alluded to, always been. Second, if they have any confusion, or “fear”, I hope you will follow up like, Anna thought she might, and let them know how easy it really is for them to cheer you on from the sidelines.

    For those of you whose comments have been supportive to me, thank you. I expect by now you have, or if not when you finish reading the next sentence I bet you will, turn to those around you and tell them all what you have told me, because it will matter more than you, or they, will ever know.

    Perhaps because of all of your words to me over these past few days, particularly Shelley, it occurred to me that I may no longer have that brief feeling of regret, and I might be able to feel the way the rest of my family does, that I could feel as close as they do to our Mother, the next time the cardinal flies by.

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  13. Hey Cousin David,
    I just read your blog. You really did a great job putting into words so many of the things I have felt and still feel. Having played the same part as a son losing his mom to breast cancer, I was touched by a lot of the things you said...especially the part about carrying the guilt. I had just graduated college when I found out about my mom and 7 months later she was gone. I never wanted to admit that there was any chance I would lose her - what son ever wants to let in those thoughts. So I quickly created a life outside of my home just to get away from the reality of what was happening, and when I was home I spent a lot of time locked away in my room, afraid of the truth. I wish I could go back and say the things I want to say now, I wish I could know her as a mature adult and not just as a scared son. But I try and let myself off the hook because I know I only acted that way because I was so scared. I look back and think of myself as a different person. Now I am a strong and confident man because of everything I have had to go through in my life, and in some weird way I like to think that was her final gift to me. Thanks for helping me sort out some tough feelings.

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  14. Wonderful post - I applaud you for highlighting this often un-talked of part of the breast cancer experience.

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  15. Oh, lordy. That's made me cry. And smile. And want to say please don't be guilty. I don't think any of us are ever happy enough, after our parents are gone, that we did enough for them. It was so lovely to read your words.

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  16. Beautifully written. I love the honesty. And ironic, since my 11-yr-old son asked me just yesterday if his chances of getting cancer are greater because I had it. I hope he grows up to be as insightful and honest as you.

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