To Know Is to Love

Oct 19, 2012

Men, did you know that we hurt people when we chose not to learn? Aldous Huxley said, “We can only love what we know, and we can never know completely what we do not love.”

That Huxley quote always reminds me of the never-ending responsibility to learn about the people I claim to love. Intimacy comes out of the scrutiny of our desires, shames and delights. Therefore, loving is not just learning how to be vulnerable; it’s being vulnerable enough to learn.

Men, let’s be clear: someone you love will battle breast cancer. According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, “aside from skin caner, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States.”  Approximately one in eight women will contract the disease. Breast cancer knows no socioeconomic or racial boundaries. However, early detection and access to care influence mortality rates among different groups.

As men, if we are to truly love, the prevalence of this disease demands that we study it.

So men, did you know that seven out of 10 women undergoing breast cancer surgery suffer unnecessary disfigurement because they are not informed that reconstruction is an option? I received this information at a celebration for the first ever National Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day at Emeril’s Restaurant. The event was hosted by the Center for Restorative Breast Surgery, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the Breastoration Fund of the Cancer Association of Greater New Orleans. The chairman of the Breastoration Fund, Wendy Vitter, served as the mistress of ceremony.

The event recognized beautiful survivors like Diana Bajoie and Kim Sport for their tireless efforts to help women and men understand their options with this deadly disease. Their message rang clear as Monday school bells. Love comes from knowing. Knowing saves lives.

Immediately upon diagnosis, everyone in the family gets caught in a whirlwind of questions, fears and doubts. Women and men reconcile how much breast and hair mean to our conceptualizations of beauty. For women, however, ostensible death and disfigurement heightens their awareness of the possibilities of cancer.

Still, there is an information gap regarding detection, treatment and recovery. In particular, women need to know their options regarding mastectomies and reconstruction. Men can help fill that knowledge gap. Questions and doubts should not hinder us from being supportive; men and boys need to be sufficiently informed prior to a direct confrontation. Men, you can get more information at the Cancer Association of Greater New Orleans’ website.

When education moves you from knowing facts and figures to knowing yourself and others, you have taken a major step towards enlightenment. However, when education moves you to serve others, then one can say he or she is enlightened.

Men must know enough to serve their wives, daughters, aunts and friends when she is diagnosed.  Reconstruction is a powerful option that should not be taken off the table because we chose not to learn.

Men, disarm your fears with knowledge. Take the time to learn about her options. To know is to love.

Andre Perry, Ph.D. (twitter: @andreperrynola) is Associate Director for Educational Initiatives for Loyola University New Orleans and author of The Garden Path: The Miseducation of a City.