When his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, writer Peter Calder found his world turned upside down. Now he's looking for men who have been through the same experience

The months after Alison discovered she had breast cancer were hell for her: surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and repeated hospitalisations 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.

I was fortunate that I have a good bunch of mates I can sound off to when I'm feeling down, but none of them has a partner who's had breast cancer. It felt like no one really knew what it was like for me.


Four years on, Alison is well, but that sense of helplessness lingers. 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 - finding parking places, making tea and putting wellwishers' flowers in vases.

Slowly from that predicament has emerged a project: a book in which I want to record the experiences of the men whose lives are affected by the breast cancer that has struck a woman in their lives. I am conscious that not all women with breast cancer have male partners, but I determined from the beginning that this will be a book for men, and by men.

The book, published by the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation, 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.

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