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Prayer, Laughter & Broccoli


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Prayer, Laughter & Broccoli

 Being There When Your Wife Has Breast Cancer

 Peter Flierl, MSW


Each year another 238,600 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer.  Of these, 192,200 will have invasive breast cancer.  Coping or learning to live with breast cancer is a matter of facing our mortality and our apparent loss of control.  Each of us, whether patient, spouse, family member or friend helps take control, helps fight the battle against this insidious disease, by offering assistance and providing physical, emotional and spiritual support.  Peter Flierl’s first book, Prayer, Laughter & Broccoli, teaches us how to do so.


A reported 7 of 10 men married to a woman with breast cancer end up deserting her, ending marriages through separation and divorce.  They forget that when the going gets tough, the tough get going.  In the case of breast cancer, being tough means having the strength and wisdom to be gentle, comforting, understanding and loving.  Peter Flierl is writing this “how to” book to help husbands and partners cope with the loss they experience, but just as important, to remind them of the enduring nature of a marriage commitment.  The woman they fell in love with is much more than her breast or breasts.  Sex and their relationship at all levels is more extraordinary with senses heightened by the nature of their shared situation.


The author’s wife, Shirley Ann Flierl, was at the leading edge of the trend toward younger and younger women in the United States being diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer.  It was 1982, a year after Shirley, age 37, Peter and their daughter, Alison, age 3, had moved to Greenwich, Connecticut.  Shirley was diagnosed in October and had a modified radical mastectomy without reconstructive surgery in November.  Her tumor was so large and so deep into her chest wall that it could not be completely removed.  She had 22 lymph nodes involved, meaning her cancer was widespread, and her chances of survival were slim to nil.  She is alive and well today and has provided comfort, inspiration, information, and, most important, hope to scores of other women in the ensuing years.


This book is not Shirley’s story, though that is a large piece of the fabric.  Rather, it is a “how to survive” and “how to be a support” for men in the lives of women with breast cancer, particularly their husbands or partners.  It is a celebration of relationships and love, particularly marriage, but connections, as well, with God, family, friends, colleagues and community.  Each of these connections and relationships contributed in large ways and small to Shirley’s survival and to the author’s ability to be there for her.  The book’s audience is women with breast cancer, their husbands or partners, other family and friends in their lives, and the professionals who treat them.


Prayer, Laughter & Broccoli begins with a brief history of Peter and Shirley Flierl going through the process of discovering she has breast cancer and coming to understand they were “playing for all the marbles” according to her oncologist, Dick Hollister.  The bulk of the book is readings of one to two pages for husbands or partners, family members and friends on being there for a woman with breast cancer.  Readings cover a variety of issues from sexuality, faith and love to wigs, prostheses, chemotherapy, artificial menopause, radiation therapy and daily living.  It is a retrospective based on the lessons of nearly 20 years of living one day at a time with hope, despite the overwhelming nature of a cancer diagnosis, loss of a breast, and facing a poor prognosis.


Peter Flierl, MSW has been a social worker and health educator for more than 30 years.  He is the founder and President of HealthGain, a health care consulting business devoted to enhancing the health and well-being of individuals, nonprofit organizations and businesses.  He is a frequent speaker on a variety of health and health related topics, such as: Aging Well, Living Creatively; Complementary & Alternative Medicine; Reducing Your Risk of Heart Disease & Cancer, Organized Weight Loss; Being There When Your Wife Has Breast Cancer, and Loving Yourself.  He serves as Director of Development & Communications for Nyack Hospital in Nyack, New York.


Peter is an inveterate optimist, always able to find the good in any challenge or any difficult and wrenching experience.  Overcoming breast cancer together can enhance and strengthen a marriage if both partners work at it and communicate with each other.  The fall of 2002 is a special year for the author and his wife. Their daughter, Alison, will have been on her own in Los Angeles for a year.  She is also the Editor & Publisher of her Dad’s first book.  Most important, Shirley will celebrate 20 years of survivorship, since she started visits for initial diagnosis in October 1982 that was followed by her mastectomy in November 1982. 


Peter and Shirley Flierl have a message of hope for women with breast cancer and their husbands.  Peter is offering the first book by a man who’s been through it for men who are facing it.



Description Price (including S/H)
Book: Prayer, Laughter & Broccoli


*Please send shipping information along with your payment (cash, check) to: Witty Fools Productions, 7070 West Sunset Boulevard, Suite 222, Los Angeles, CA 90028

 Meeting/Conference Request Form

Please fill out the following if you would like Peter Flierl to speak at a Meeting or Conference.  Peter Flierl is available in the tri-state area at no cost to the American Cancer Society, Y-ME, the YWCA and other organizations with a direct interest in breast cancer research, education, detection and treatment.  He will donate 30% of the proceeds of any sales of Prayer, Laughter & Broccoli made by organizations involved with breast cancer.

Peter will speak at no cost in the tri-state area, but would appreciate reimbursement for mileage, parking, tolls and other expenses related  to an engagement. 

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Copyright © 2002 Witty Fools Productions
Last modified: 10/23/02