To Journalists Writing about Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As you are covering related events and newsworthy stories during that period, please remember the silent victims, namely the primary support persons, and consider contacting me when you are looking for experts to interview.

I went through the breast cancer experience with my wife, Emily, fourteen years ago. (She’s fine now, thank you.) What I discovered in my search for resources to guide me was that there were many—books, articles, websites, brochures in hospital waiting rooms—that could help me to take care of her. But there was nothing about how I could keep sane while I was helping her.

I realized through that experience that, while she was the perceived victim, I was the silent victim, and I needed help on how to keep sane so that I could help her.

That resource didn’t’ exist. So I wrote it. The revised, expanded second edition of Your Partner Has Breast Cancer: 21 Ways to Keep Sane as a Support Person on Your Journey from Victim to Survivor came out as an ebook last year. It has just been released as a print book.

I’m a long-time author, editor, and publisher. I became an expert on keeping sane as a breast cancer support person while making all the mistakes during my own caregiver experience. My main message to caregivers is that you can’t take care of your loved ones if you aren’t taking care of yourself. This message is particularly important for men, who make up the majority of primary support people and yet are socially conditioned to withhold their feelings and not ask for help.

In our interview, we can discuss

  • How to participate in your partner’s recovery
  • When to give her space while finding your own space
  • Finding a spiritual comfort zone to share

and much more.

As Marc Heyison, founder of Men Against Breast Cancer, wrote: “…these ways will have a powerful impact in helping all support people, but especially guys who may be struggling to be loving partners….”

Here is my contact information:



I’m happy to talk to you at your convenience.


Ken Wachsberger

Ten Special Years

This brief entry is a special note to my family, by blood and by choice.

I just wanted to share with you all that today, the Friday before Mother’s Day, is the tenth anniversary of the day we learned Emily had breast cancer. These past ten years with her have been extra special because both of us have remained sensitive to the fragility of life and to how special it is. Every day we are reminded that living a good, successful life requires work, education, courage, initiative, lots of creativity, and a community of loved ones like you. The rest is pretty much a crapshoot: Some of us make it; some of us don’t.

We were reminded throughout that experience ten years ago of how special family is—our traditions, our special events, but, most of all, our closeness in times of need. What I learned then was that the closeness was there waiting to be expressed and shared but I had to make the first move, to allow you in, in order to experience it to its fullest. Humans are funny creatures, I discovered. At the exact time when we need attention and help the most, that’s the time when those who can provide it often withhold it because they think it will make us awkward. By giving us attention, they think they are reminding us of something we don’t want to think about—as if there is a second of the day when we are not thinking about it anyway. So when we need help, we often, in effect, have to give others permission to provide it.

I didn’t know that at the time. I just wrote in my journal and shared it on our family listserv, like I have so often done on so many venues in so many circumstances over the years. The result this time, though, was a steady stream of emails and prayers and calls and visits and other expressions of love that you gave to us. It made a difference to our recovery. It still does.

I also learned, as Emily’s support person, that, while the patient is the perceived victim, with good reason, the support person is the silent victim. Again, I didn’t realize it at the time. I never asked for help. But when you gave it to me anyhow and didn’t let me dismiss your efforts (“That’s okay. I can handle it”), I came to see how much I needed help, too. My literary result was the booklet Your Partner Has Breast Cancer?: 21 Ways to Keep Sane as a Support Person. Since then I’ve given lots of talks about being a support person for someone with breast cancer. I still try to make myself available if someone wants to talk.

Every May since Mother’s Day 2000, Emily has done something special to celebrate her life. Sometimes I celebrate with her; other times she celebrates on her own. One year she participated in the 3-day, 60-mile walk; I was there, too, volunteering as captain of the clean-up crew for the campers. Another year she visited Las Vegas with a friend and fellow survivor. Another year she used her frequent flyer mileage to visit extended family in the Netherlands. Tonight, the budget’s a little tighter so we’re hitting the road to spend a weekend at a bed and breakfast.

What I’ve discovered during these times together is that it isn’t where we go or what we do, or even if we do it together, as much as that we took the time to think about life, to celebrate it rather than taking it for granted. It can be pretty special if you do it right. It’s been good to us.

Barnes & Noble Celebrates National Authors Day: Invites Me to Sell Books


Sunday is National Authors Day. To celebrate, Barnes & Noble, on Washtenaw in Ann Arbor by Whole Foods and my favorite Panera, is inviting authors to sell their books in two-hour shifts. I was invited to be one of them so, first of all, I hope anyone reading this will visit me any time from 3 to 5 Sunday November 1 and bring your friends. Secondly, I hope you’ll buy a few books to enjoy and to give away as gifts for the holiday season.

Some of my books are temporarily out of print. Here are the ones I’ll have with me:

  • Transforming Lives: A Socially Responsible Guide to the Magic of Writing and Researching: the first textbook devoted to helping students turn Ken Macrorie’s brilliant I-Search idea into a full-length, life-changing research project while demystifying the process of writing and researching, arousing their curiosity, and awakening their dormant passion for expressing themselves through writing. So student-friendly it’s been called “the anti-textbook.” If you’re a teacher of writing whose students don’t want to be in your class because they hate or fear writing, this book is for you. It’s been used successfully at the high school and Freshman college level as well as by individual writers who want to find or regain the flow.
  • Beercans on the Side of the Road: The Story of Henry the Hitchhiker: called a cult classic by someone whose name I long forgot but whose characterization I have ever since used. Henry’s story, the adventure of a young college dropout hitchhiker in search of the perfect flow and what it means to be a writer, came out of my hitchhiking years during the seventies when I established my reputation as the foremost expert on intranational hitchhiking in the country.
  • The Ballad of Ken and Emily: or, Tales from the Counterculture: a collection of short stories, poems, head trips, essays, and journal entries including “Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, and Growing Up as a New Left Jew” (an analysis of the Yippie literature from a Jewish perspective as well as a history of the Jewish Left in America and an account of the Yippies and Zippies in Miami Beach in the summer of 1972); “Accidental Revolutionary” (a fictionalized version of my first political arrest following the Kent State murders in May 1970); “Diary of a Mad Anarchist” parts 1 and 2 (May Day 1971 in D.C. during the May Day demonstrations; May 1972, Madison, Wisconsin, after Nixon blockaded Haiphong Harbor), plus “Being in Jail Is Like Finals Week” (because, in case you didn’t notice it, all three arrests happened in May), “Yo Ho Ho-Ulp” (my brief life as a gillnetter in Sebasco, Maine), “The Busy Person’s Guide to Street Yoga” (how I kept limber and in shape while on the road), and more.
  • The Last Selection: A Child’s Journey through the Holocaust: an amazing story about a girl who spent time in Auschwitz during World War II. If you know about Dr. Mengele, you know about the selections. At one point the war ended. Before that, you had— the last selection. Thirteen-year old Goldie was in it, the only child along with her mother and a hundred other women. This is the only book that gives you “life in the gas chamber.” I co-wrote the book with her current husband Sylvan Kalib.
  • Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cancer Book: Like all the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, this one is an anthology of contributions from lots of folks connected with the subject. This time, one of the contributions is mine, an excerpt from my booklet, Your Partner Has Breast Cancer?: 21 Ways to Keep Sane as a Support Person. I’ll have copies of the book and the booklet.

Finally, I’ll have information on my upcoming Dissident Press Series, which Michigan State University Press will be publishing in four parts beginning with the first in May 2010 and followed every six months by another until all four are out. Stories are written by insiders of underground papers—the predecessors to today’s progressive blogs—representing the Black, Puerto Rican, feminist, lesbian, gay, socialist, psychedelic, Southern consciousness, rank-and-file, prisoners’ rights, military, Native American, and other antiwar voices from the Vietnam era.

I hope to see you there. You can always purchase books from my web site but if you show up you don’t have to pay shipping and handling.