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Review of Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (and Yourself) through Diagnosis, Treatment, and Beyond  (Marc Silver, 2004)

Popular self-help books such as What do Women Want? (Eichenbaum & Orbach) and You Just Don’t Understand (Tannen) attest to the interpersonal struggles that couples experience in their marriages.  Add a life-threatening disease like breast cancer to the mix and these challenges are only magnified.  Although Marc Silver’s book is entitled Breast Cancer Husband, its real focus is on the ways husbands and wives together navigate the stresses of breast cancer and is a “must-read” for both partners facing breast cancer.  Silver is quite comprehensive in his coverage, ranging from the discovery of the wife’s cancer to the long-haul of living with the disease after treatment has ended.  The book helps men understand what women want in terms of support—although he never assumes there is a universal response—and helps women understand their husbands’ responses. It provides suggestions on how both parties can communicate about difficult topics such as sexuality, death, and helping children cope.

While Silver’s own journey with his wife’s breast cancer is woven throughout the book, he draws primarily on his interviews with dozens of social workers, psychologists, and physicians and nearly 100 breast cancer couples in providing advice ranging from medical to psychosocial issues.  The following are features of the book that are particularly useful:

  • “Tips” at the end of each chapter illustrate his major points
  • Research is cited to support his major points about the adjustment to breast cancer
  • Open and honest disclosures of couples provide numerous examples of how to and how not to handle the emotional issues connected with breast cancer
  • Glossary of medical terms related to breast cancer
  • Numerous resources including support groups, books, videos, and websites

The book is easy to read, especially in describing highly technical medical terms in very understandable language.  Although the book is primarily written for heterosexual couples, I would recommend it to anyone who has a partner with breast cancer.

About the Author: Marc Silver is an editor at U.S. News & World Report.  His wife, Marsha, was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago.  She had surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments and is in good health.  They are parents of two daughters, ages 18 and 16.

Publisher: Rodale, Inc.
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