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.
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.