New Book and Web Site Provide Breast Cancer Support for Men

Last Editorial Review: 10/19/2009

Writer and producer John W. Anderson shares his inspiration behind creating resources for men who are helping the women in their lives fight breast cancer.

By Laura Lee Bloor
Reviewed by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

After John W. Anderson lost his mother in 1988 to a 10-year battle with breast cancer, he had hoped that would be the last time he would encounter the condition.

Then in January 2001, his wife, Sharon Rapoport, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had no family history of it, as do 85% of other women who are diagnosed.

Just a little over one year later, Anderson's younger sister, Mary Enright, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Anderson has also witnessed his mother's best friend, Caryl Spease, and his good friend, Brenda Foster, fight breast cancer.

With one in eight women developing breast cancer at some time in their life, Anderson knew he couldn't be the only man helping multiple women battle the condition. As he sought advice on how to cope, as well as how best to support the women he loved, he soon discovered few resources were available for men.

"There was some stuff out there but not really a guidebook," he said. "[And I thought] I need to do something about this. There are a lot of guys who need help, and they're not getting it."

In response, Anderson wrote the newly released Stand by Her: A Breast Cancer Guide for Men. The book takes a step-by-step approach for men on how to handle a breast cancer diagnosis. It uses a lot of personal stories so that other guys know they're not alone in their experiences, Anderson said.

"The thing guys hear when [breast cancer] happens to them is, 'How's she doing? How's she doing?' but no one is asking you, 'How are you doing?'" he said.

In conjunction with the book, Anderson recently launched the web site that draws from all the principles in the book. also has forums for guys to share their experiences, build a brotherhood, and share ideas on how to better help the women in their lives who are fighting breast cancer.

"It seems like this should have been done a long time ago," he said.

Anderson's experiences were also turned into a 2006 Lifetime Television movie Four Extraordinary Women that starred Lindsay Wagner as his mother. The movie was another source of inspiration for Anderson to share his own story and lay out a road map to deal with "cancer land."

For example, when faced with a problem, men tend to strategize, but it doesn't work like that when cancer enters the picture. In this case, it is critical that men react, not act, which can be difficult for guys, Anderson said.

"Each woman is going to have a different reaction, and you have to adapt to that," he said. "You have to know your place and remember and respect what they want."


A lump in the breast is almost always cancer. See Answer

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"What Are the Key Statistics for Breast Cancer?" American Cancer Society. Sept. 18, 2009. < cri_2_4_1x_what_are_the_key_statistics_for_breast_cancer_5.asp>.