Woody Weingarten is a survivor of his wife’s breast cancer. From the moment of her diagnosis, she had to struggle through the fear and confusion of what it meant, what to do first, what to do next and what were her options. So did he. Her goal became her survival. His goal became her survival. But to help her live through this, he had to live through it himself with enough calm and strength for the two of them.
The husband of a woman diagnosed with breast cancer has to conquer his inexperience and survive his own terror in order to be a strength to her. He needs patience and insight and practical information about cancer, resources, research and treatment options, where to get help. He needs to be an emotional tower of strength who knows what his wife wants of him. This is a very tall and difficult order. For men who are used to being in charge, for solving problems, for making everything okay, it can be hard to ask for help in a time of private anguish, hard even to put the questions into words, and, until now, hard to find the resource.
Woody’s book Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner’s breast cancer began as Woody’s personal journal, but when he saw the information in it, he realized it belonged in the hands of other men who were on this same roller-coaster without assistance. Rollercoaster is intended to let men know what they may expect. It is a memoir, a love story, a research guide, and some realities of chemotherapy and medications. It is emotional support and a story of survival and romance.
He says, “I have read 15 books written by men on breast cancer and 14 of them are out of date. Research and medications change. Terrifying – you don’t know what to believe or not or if you are getting the right treatment or not. A study says x is true and y is false, the next week it is the opposite. This book is a guide to give people a sense of what they will be facing. There are books for women on this process, but now the men (the invisible people in this journey) have a guide of where to go and what to do.” Woody asks and then answers his own question, “What do the women really want? The obvious may not be so obvious in the midst of anguish. So how does a husband learn what his wife or partner wants? Ask. Just ask. The truth of what they want may be something as simple as wanting someone to listen in silence and squeeze their hand.”
Woody not only developed the strength to lead his wife to safety but, as the facilitator of Marin Man to Man, he is the refuge for other men who are facing the same challenge of a wife with breast cancer. “We let a new person tell his story and we give feedback. Some drop in once, one man came, cried for an hour and never came back. One man whose wife died years ago still comes – it is his chance to talk about missing his wife. He gets grief support and helps others.”
This is a story that counts! If it were just the adventure of the romance between husband and wife that was meant to be, that would be enough. If it were just the personal story of the specifics of living through breast cancer, it would be enough. If it were just the information people need to know about options, it would be enough. And, if it were just the advice man to man on how to see wives and partners through the miserable unasked for challenge of breast cancer, it would be enough. But, Rollercoaster is all of this and more. Here we have an offering of enormous generosity as we accompany Woody through a variety of intimate details he faced as he and she learned how to survived breast cancer. He talks about some of the things men and women, in the first numbing dread of diagnosis, do not think to ask. This book is a teaching on love, trust, patience, and the real meaning of “in sickness and in health.”
Although this book is written to advise men, there is no one who cannot learn how to be a powerful support to anyone going through the emotional and medical processes of breast cancer with its lessons on how listen and to plan for a positive future even in the midst of a negative present.
Listen to Woody tell this story and see that, truth be told, it is worth reading for the insights even if no one in your life has cancer because it is filled with very smart clues about how a man can be the best possible husband or partner. And how a wife can help him be that. From me to you with love in the air,
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