Men's stories of cancer pain

18:04, Nov 25 2012

When his wife Alison Jones was diagnosed with breast cancer, writer Peter Calder found his world turned upside down.

Now he's looking for Marlborough men who've been through the same experience to tell him their stories.

The Auckland-based writer said that the months after his wife discovered she had breast cancer were hell for her: surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and repeated time in hospital with intractable infections turned the best part of a year into a bad dream.

"What I remember clearly was the almost trance-like nature of my life at that time: helpless, hopeless, desperate for comfort that no-one seemed able to give, but needing to be strong for her.

"Occasionally, one of my wife's friends would say to me: ‘And what about you? How are you bearing up?' Some even gave me chocolates. But mostly I felt irrelevant and lost."

Four years on, his wife is well but his sense of helplessness lingered.


"What happens to her intensely concerns me, but there is nothing I can do to influence it, and that is a hard thing for a bloke to accept.

"All the time she was in treatment, I was keenly aware that enormous resources are poured into supporting women with breast cancer, but their menfolk hover confused, isolated and mostly forgotten in the wings."

This has prompted him to write a book to record the experiences of the men - mainly partners and husbands, but also sons and fathers and brothers - whose lives are affected by the breast cancer that has struck a woman in their lives.

The book, to be published by the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation, is "a book for men, and by men" and will be made freely available to men who want it.

"But what's still missing is the most important ingredient: the men whose stories I can tell. If you are such a man - or you know one - I'd really love to hear from you."

He can be contacted through


The Marlborough Express