From Chicken Soup for the Breast Cancer Survivor's Soul


The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering the attitude of his mind.

William James

“Grandpa, do you hurt?”

“Grandpa, do you want something to eat or drink?”

“Do you want a pillow to sit on so you’re comfortable?”

“Where does it hurt, Grandpa?”

I have been a male breast-cancer survivor for nine years. Many people don’t realize that men can contract it. When I was diagnosed and people found out I had cancer, most assumed it was some other form—lung, liver or skin.

I received support from many people: my wife, children, church family, friends and coworkers. The support of the grandchildren was especially wonderful to observe. All our children live at least one day’s drive away, so I didn’t see them often until I had begun treatment and lost all my hair. I continued to work through out my treatment, so I was able to visit our children and grandchildren as I traveled to their cities.

One of our sons and his family did come to visit us after I had started chemotherapy and was bald. His son, about three, wanted me to play with him. As we played with the small cars and trucks, he would reach over and remove the baseball cap that I wore and rub my bald head, then replace the hat and continue playing. I don’t know why, and he didn’t say anything, but maybe it was his way of soothing a sick Grandpa.

I also visited our other children and grandchildren on a business trip to their cities. Before I arrived, I called the parents and told them they should probably talk to the children before I got there and tell them I was now bald and why. It happened the same way with each family: When I arrived, we would sit and talk about normal family things, but not sickness. However, the minute that both parents were out of the room, the grandchildren asked considerate questions. If a parent returned, the conversation returned to school, birthdays or Grandma. I think children are the best examples of caring and support. They aren’t afraid of asking questions or of being embarrassed by questions that an adult may hesitate to ask.

I think the best way to show concern and support for a cancer patient or survivor is to ask the question that’s on your mind and offer help or assistance. It is the responsibility of the survivor to be open and willing to talk about the illness—then others will be more comfortable talking honestly with you.

I receivedmuch support from many people during my treatment and recovery, and it meant a lot to my wife and our family to see the concern that people have for each other. I find that many cancer patients don’t have anyone to talk to, and they welcome conversation about what they are going through or will soon have to face. Our grandchildren showed me the true sincerity that children have, and we should all model that simplicity when placed in situations of concern for others.

Lowell Gere

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