Monthly Archive for: ‘November, 2014’

Writer’s breast cancer awareness transcends pink ribbons

Proof of his new book elates writer-reviewer Woody Weingarten. Photo by Nancy Fox.

The pink ribbon has become as much a symbol of merchandizing as of breast cancer awareness — illustrated by 49ers cap, available for merely $37.95 online.

December is not National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Neither was November.

October was.

So that means we needn’t think about it for the next 10 or 11 months, right?

Certainly every American woman who’s had the disease — all 250,000 diagnosed annually, all 2 million living with it — can relax ‘cause it’ll automatically go into remission until October 2015.


Maybe that’s why I’m angry.

Despite claims that October’s pink ribbon barrage will fill research coffers, I don’t think awareness should be limited to one month-long streak of sentience a year.

I live on a San Anselmo hill with a fabulous woman who contracted breast cancer 20 years ago.

Yes, she’s survived the disease, the treatments, the trauma and the aftermath. But her survival doesn’t for a minute mean she won’t shudder the next time she goes for a mammogram. Or every time she feels a twang in her right breast.

Or the other one.

Or, indeed, each time she gets any kind of ache anywhere.

I’m outraged because I know breast cancer is chronic and can recur anytime and therefore I must spread hope 365 days a year (while some folks revel in making supportive noises one-twelfth of a calendar year).

The truth is, breast cancer hasn’t quite cornered the U.S. market on October awareness.

That month also has been abducted by advocates of sudden infant death and Down’s syndromes, infertility, pizza and liver and popcorn, domestic violence, dental hygiene, LGBT history, blindness, cyber security, mental illness, Hispanics and Americans with German, Filipino, Italian and Polish backgrounds.

Not to mention dwarfism.

All of which seems to spread awareness a little thin, I contend.

I’m livid that pink ribbons — whose main goal initially was to fund research for a cure — have become a marketing tool for all sorts of merchandise that have little to do with breast cancer and a lot to do with profit.

Do I worry about potential repercussions of making my resentments public?

No, especially since I’ve just published a book with a VitalityPress imprint that not only chronicles the downs but the many, many ups of my being a caregiver for my wife.

I’m hoping it will appropriately distribute awareness.

“Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner’s breast cancer” is available at The ebook sells for $9.99, the paperback for slightly less than the $18.18 that I initially established as a salute to the Hebrew word chai, which stands for both the numeral and the word “life.”

It’s a bargain if you want to learn what you might go through as caregiver or patient, what advances has occurred in breast cancer research or meds, or where to get help.

My book’s aimed at men.

You know about us — most believe we can fix anything. We can’t.

Most loathe being vulnerable. But we must be.

And most despise surrendering control. Yet sometimes we’re given no choice — like when our partners get a life-threatening disease.

For 19 years I’ve been running Marin Man to Man, a weekly support group where drop-in members often decode what physicians and other healers say (or don’t).

Along the way I’ve picked up a few to-do’s. I share them in “Rollercoaster.”

• The physical and mental health of a male caregiver is as urgent as the patient’s.

• It feels good to let go of anger at doctors for not having instant answers; at pharmaceutical companies for manufacturing life-extending but not necessarily life-saving drugs; at yourself for not having a magic wand.

• It’s crucial to remember each person is an individual, not a statistic (and that breast cancer couldn’t care less about race, creed, sexual orientation or politics, that it’s the most common cancer among Israelis and Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank).

• Downloading or renting comedies, taking walks, reading or listening to whatever brings you pleasure, encircling yourselves with folks who evoke positive feelings — all may boost your spirits (and your partner’s).

• Living one day at a time is good medicine, but best of all might be doing today what you’ve postponed forever.

Having absorbed those things, I can now sit here in my cozy Ross Valley home and pass along the verbal talisman my sainted Jewish grandmother blessed me with so often:

“Go in good health.”

Check out Woody Weingarten’s new blog at or contact him at

Page 1 of 5912345»102030...Last »