"Stand by Her: A Breast Cancer Guide for Men"
by John W. Anderson; c.2009, Amacom; $18.95 / $23.95 Canada, 257 pages, includes index
In Stand by Her by John W. Anderson, Anderson shares how long before he married his wife, Sharon, his mother died of breast cancer. Her death was a blow made worse when Caryl, his mother's best friend, received her own diagnosis. And weeks after Sharon learned she had breast cancer, Anderson's sister was diagnosed, too.
Having supported four women with the disease, Anderson realized that there are hundreds of thousands of men who undoubtedly feel as he felt: confused, scared, worried, ineffectual. For them, he wrote this book.
When a woman a man loves – wife, girlfriend, daughter, sister, or friend – is handed a diagnosis that changes her life, his first, natural fear is of losing her. Anderson says the good news is that if the cancer is found early, she has a 98% survival rate. She also has a 70-75% chance of keeping her breasts.
During the next few months, men have a challenge ahead of them, though. She'll need to choose her "cancer armed forces", and she'll need the man in her life to lend an extra ear. She'll need rest, so he'll have to pick up the slack. She'll need to know she is still loved and hear it often.
Despite some slight overgeneralizations - all of which can be forgiven – and a few silly analogies, Stand by Her is one of those books that should sit in every recovery room in the country.
Author John W. Anderson's advice is sound and useful because of his own experiences in what he calls "an exclusive men's club" to which no one wants to join. He's gently truthful about the realities and challenges that both are about to face, what to do (and not), as well as what can happen afterward to a marriage or relationship. While his advice is (understandably) skewed to husbands, he also extends it to fathers, brothers, friends, and significant others.
If a loved one has just received a breast cancer diagnosis, I can't recommend Stand by Her enough.
"Blood and Guts: A History of Surgery"
by Richard Hollingham; c.2009, Thomas Dunne Books; $27.99 / $35.99 Canada, 319 pages, includes index
During a typical surgery, the patient is asleep the whole time. They feel little, if any, pain when it's over, and more often than not, they'll be home before the weekend, no problem.
And they have a lot of people to thank for all of the above, as they'll read in the new book "Blood and Guts: A History of Surgery" by Richard Hollingham.
If the surgery had been scheduled for a quiet morning two centuries ago, there would have been no anesthetic at all. The doctor may have been a barber before he was a surgeon, and he might have been operating under the assumption that extreme pain was the only way to assure survival.
A few generations ago, heart medicine was still in its infancy. Doctors, in fact, were looking at groundhogs, dead hogs, and frozen dogs in their quest to make surgery on one's ticker a less ticklish endeavor.
Doctors had a lot to learn about blood and tissue, too, and in the case of transplants, a lot of animals (and not just a few humans) died before surgeons realized that you couldn't just place one human's body part in another human and expect it to work. The foundation for modern transplant science was laid by an arrogant, obsessed man who briefly collaborated with the Nazis, and the key to success was found in a bag of dirt.
Author Richard Hollingham trained for medical school nearly 30 years ago, but the pull to journalism was stronger. In this book, the product of research and the accompaniment to a BBC "programme," Hollingham lets his former training, current talents, and his fascination with medicine shine through.
In an edge-of-your-seat style, Hollingham winds his way through five branches of surgery to tell the tale of men (alas, always men) whose curiosities made chasmic leaps in medicine, and of patients who were willing to be guinea pigs–and in one case, Guinea Pigs with a theme song.
If you love a good story told with suspense, true-life twists, a few winces, and a touch of subtle humor, this is the book to read. For surgeons and the fascinated curious, Blood and Guts is a slice above.
Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old, and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.