What’s Your Story Worth?
Susannah Breslin has started a blog titled “Letters From Husbands Of Breast Cancer Patients”. I had previously wished Susannah well in an email and a blog post. In a reply a few days ago, she asked:
“Interested in writing an anonymous letter?”
Looking at the blog, I see:
By submitting to Letters from Husbands of Breast Cancer Patients, you grant The Letters Project a perpetual, royalty-free license to use, reproduce, modify, publish, distribute, and otherwise exercise all copyright and publicity rights with respect to that information at its sole discretion, including incorporating it in other works in any media now known or later developed including without limitation published books. If you do not wish to grant The Letters Project these rights, it is suggested you do not submit information to this website.
It joins a peculiar list of “Letters” blogs:
The Letters Project includes Letters from Johns, Letters from Working Girls, Letters from Men Who Watch Pornography, and Letters from Men Who Go to Strip Clubs.
I wish Susannah complete success in her cancer battle. And I will no doubt continue to enjoy her writing on Forbes. But I have no interest in participating or supporting “Letters From Husbands Of Breast Cancer Patients”. In fact, I hope it fails.
Speaking from experience, there is a definite need for male support people – husbands, fathers, brothers – to tell their stories about helping their wives, mothers, and sisters fight breast cancer. But not anonymously. The stories I found most encouraging came from those attached to recognizable people. They had names. Many of them I met in person.
During the course of my late wife’s 10 year battle with breast cancer, I discovered and developed a robust network of supportive males. We toiled for the most part in the background, finding support, as males typically do, within our own network. Support groups for “individuals supporting cancer patients” were overwhelmingly presented from female perspective as caregiver. Presuppositions and assumptions of males as detached, unresponsive, and clumsy were prevalent – sometimes offensively so. Agenda driven women were particularly perplexed by my ability to go beyond mere hand-holding and were simply dumbfounded to learn I’d accompanied Janet through each of her 55 chemotherapy treatments, countless doctor’s visits, and stayed nights at the hospital for three major surgeries. Hand-holding. Hell, I held her body steady as she retch for seemingly endless hours after chemotherapy and ineffective antiemetics. I held her body steady dozens of times as the doctor punctured her chest wall to drain off a liter of fluid from her lungs at a go. And I held two jobs to help get the best medical treatment – conventional and experimental – possible.
“Letters From Husbands Of Breast Cancer Patients” joins some rather odd company in Susannah’s Letters Project and the context does little to position men in a particularly favorable light. “What’s it like to be the husband of a breast cancer patient? EMAIL your story. All the letters and their authors will remain anonymous.” How audacious and presumptuous that a woman should self-insert as the gatekeeper for stories from husbands! And that those hard earned stories shall be anonymous, handed over to become someone else’s property for future profit.
I encourage husbands, fathers, and brothers of any cancer patient to tell their stories. Do so where you can place your name on it. We’ve earned that recognition the hard way. These are our stories and we own them. No need to sulk into anonymity for having experienced moments of doubt or fear while participating in an ordeal that was only ever going to suck in the end. I’d wager there was a good measure of courage and silent strength expressed along the way. The pain, insights, and growth we experienced are ours and are to be celebrated, not sold for less than a song.