Cancer and The Cry of Husbands

It is estimated that in 2020:

On average, 617 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer every day.

On average, 228 Canadians will die from cancer every day.

Lung, breast, colorectal and prostate cancer are the most diagnosed types of cancer in Canada (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer). Based on 2020 estimates:

These 4 cancers account for about half (48%) of all new cancer cases.

Almost 1 in 2 Canadians (45% of men and 43% of women) may develop cancer during their lifetime.

About 1 out of 4 Canadians (26% of men and 23% of women) may to die from cancer.[1]

This Scarred Joy post is all about husbands. Before I go any farther, I want to make the following disclaimer. This message is my impression of cancer and an anecdotal point of view of how husband often respond to news of cancer. To be more specific, this post will focus on husbands whose wives have cancer.

My wife has experienced cancer twice. The most recent experience was three years ago at this time of year. This is a reason I write a Scarred Joy post about cancer every December. Cancer is a beast and I hate it. Cancer does not have to be a winner.

It is Okay to Cry

Let us at least try to push aside the view: men and boys do not cry. Men can cry if this is part of who they are. In grief, both women and men make the mistake with an emphasis of a perceived need to be “strong” when other people are present. To cry does not imply weakness.

Now, let me make a point here. I am not saying men must cry as part of their grief process. If tears are part of his grief experience, this is appropriate. If we insist on being strong out of a restrictive societal myth, we stifle our grief.

In my forty-plus years of grief support to people I know men are more reluctant to talk about their grief than women are. My impression is men take more time to process grief before they may talk about it.

Here are a few points I would make if I spoke before a group of men whose wives are ill with cancer.

  • Guys, cancer will wear you down if you let it. This is where you hang on.
  • Let you wife know you are on this cancer journey together
  • Your love for her has not diminished
  • Resist the pull to always feel you must be strong
  • Be honest in your own grief
  • Cry if you need to and know it is okay.
  • Wait, let us read the last bullet again. Cry if you need to and know it is okay.
  • There are men who cry tears at special times of the year to them.
  • Cry for their beloved one in the darkness of night.
  • They cry for their wives during a break at work.
  • Cry because they can no longer hold in their pain or fear.

The Downside of a Cry

There are husbands who cry then leave their wives. This is shocking and sad. We can shed tears for these guys. We can shed tears for their wives. I do not get it. Guys leave their wives because of cancer. Guys, we are to love our wives with our caring presence instead of a defeated absence.

Here are the words of another husband about this sad fact.

“When Mary was diagnosed with breast cancer, I felt overwhelmed. I didn’t know what to do, so I started with research. I was shocked to learn that approximately 25 percent of men leave their wife when they first learn of her cancer diagnosis, and 70 percent of men will leave within two years of their wife’s terminal prognosis.”[2]

My friends, we do not have to act like victims to this beast called cancer. The beast does not have to win. As husbands we continue to live and love with our wives. God understands our humanity. He does not scold us as husbands when we get angry over an illness we know is beyond our control. As husbands we want our wives to stay healthy. We wish we could suffer instead of them and cannot imagine life without our wives.

I understand at least to a degree what you may experience on this cancer journey. I am one of you. I am scarred. You may carry emotional scars for the rest of your life. Guys, it is ok to cry, and it is ok if you do not. Stay by your wife’s side and love her. Do not allow your grief to get out of hand. Find a person you trust and express your grief to them.

We may fear cancer but let us not fear the cry of husbands.



Let Cancer Fear Us! Things That Matter In the Face of Cancer: Part Three


On Wed. January 24, 2018 the doctor who performed surgery on my wife informed her she is cancer free! Two weeks and one day after her surgery he told her that no further treatment was needed.

I am not naïve enough to say I am an expert on cancer. If anything I am an expert on my love for my wife. This is a main reason I decided to write this series.

There is a phrase that has been going through my mind since Terry was informed of her cancer. “Let cancer fear us!” That phrase was my response to the fear cancer causes in the hearts of people. The news of cancer caused fear in me as well. I know of few people who reply, “It’s all good” when they hear cancer news. It isn’t all good! In my experience in coming alongside people who are ill or dying sometimes the “good” seems to be missing.

Let cancer fear us means if you, dear reader, know someone you love has cancer I encourage you to support that person. Don’t let her or him suffer alone or succumb to fear.

You may have heard another more familiar phrase related to cancer. Some people say, “Cancer can be beaten.” I say this too. It obviously doesn’t mean cancer is no big deal. It also doesn’t proclaim all cancer is beaten every time. It does, however, say that even in cancer there is hope. We don’t have to give in to our fears.

Not giving into fear was Terry’s attitude even though cancer was in her body. Before we knew the results of my darling’s lab tests I asked her to give me some of her thoughts regarding her cancer journey so far. Here is what she said.

  • “It is an interesting experience”
  • “It seems surreal—it doesn’t seem real”
  • “Up to this point we don’t know if there will be more treatments”
  • “We don’t know if it has invaded more of my body”
  • “Why worry about it right now?”

Terry’s response was in no way an expression of denial or evading reality. We both knew she had cancer. She did not give in to fear. If anything she wanted cancer to fear her.

During the initial news of Terry’s cancer I realized it was time for cancer to fear us. As news spread people began to pray for her. Many sent us well wishes. Some wonderful people made meals for us for when Terry came home. Our daughter sat with me for hours during the day of surgery. Our sons and their families visited their mom while she was in hospital. Former colleagues also sat with us before and after Terry’s surgery. Our church helped us in prayer and practical gestures of love. A friend of our daughter gave us a gift certificate so we could go out for dinner.

In conclusion allow me to state again what I mean by let cancer fear us. It is the genuine and practical support of people who care for others especially in times of need like a cancer experience. This support can diminish the fear. This support can cause cancer to fear us! This support takes away or diminishes cancer’s control over our emotions.

It is time for cancer to fear us!