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EDITIONS
Thursday, 11 July, 2002, 16:11 GMT 17:11 UK
Breast cancer: A husband's tale
Breast cancer screening programme
Cancer takes its toll on the whole family
Kirsten Halpin was 32 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Whilst she went through chemotherapy and periods of intense illness, her husband Brendan kept a journal. The resulting book, It Takes A Worried Man, has recently been published in the UK.

Speaking to BBC World Service, Brendan explained how writing has helped him to deal with his wife's cancer.

"It is difficult to have somebody that you love going through something like this," he told the Everywoman programme.

"I was supposed to support her, but there was no one to support me."

Therapy

Brendan Halpin has joked that when his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, he couldn't decide "between over eating and alcoholism as a coping strategy."

Brendan Halpin
Halpin: It Takes A Worried Man
Instead, encouraged by his wife, he decided to write about his experiences.

Noting how cancer books often included something along the lines of "this is usually a tough time for him too", he felt that he needed to write about the reality of the situation.

"My attitude when writing it was, "I don't care, my world is falling apart I will say whatever I want", he explained.

The resulting book is a frank, unsentimental account of life with cancer.

Whilst he covers the daily logistics of raising a child, working, keeping house and hospital visits, Brendan's book also includes humorous tales of dealing with side effects.


"There's nothing like staring into the void to spice up the old sex life."

Brendan Halpin
"It's difficult for me to look at the ferret-sized pile of hair she has now gathered together," he wrote.

" But I keep finding myself thinking, "you don't know what love is till you shave your wife bald"."

Passion

Brendan's insistence that his is not a "mawkish" account of living with illness, was further demonstrated when he tackled the taboo subject of lust and the role of sex in a crisis.

"It was on my mind constantly," he revealed.

"I think it is a creative impulse in the biological sense of the word, that I think was tied into the fear of losing her."

"There's nothing like staring into the void to spice up the old sex life.

To engage in the procreative act is about the only way we have of defying death."

Pretence

Recognising denial as a way of coping, Brendan told of his increasing expertise in masking his true feelings.

Kirsten and Rowen Halpin
Kirsten and Rowen Halpin

"I am worried all of the time, I am incredibly sad and terrified of losing her, but I can't let any of this stuff show at home," he wrote.

"I have to be positive, because she has to believe that she can beat this disease and for her to do this, I have to believe it."

After a period of remission, Kirsten's cancer returned again in 2001.

She is currently receiving weekly treatment of Herceptin and Navilbene to prevent the disease from spreading.

Brendan explained the temptation to put "life on hold" during periods of illness, but the Halpins believe that life has to continue.

"The sad fact is that it could happen to any of us on any day," he explained.

"We don't know what is coming, so you can't constantly be thinking about it. You just pretend that it is not happening."

It Takes A Worried Man is published by Hamish Hamilton.

See also:

17 Mar 00 | C-D
03 Jul 02 | Health
05 Jul 02 | Health
10 Jul 02 | Health
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