In March, 2016 I found myself in what I thought the best health of my adult life. I had recently lost 20 pounds through healthy eating and consistent exercising. Aged 45, I‘m a manufacturing engineer, and was training for the Chase Corporate Challenge, an annual event in my hometown of Buffalo, NY. It was at this time one morning that I was lathering up in the shower and felt a lump about the size of a pea on my chest. It struck me as unusual, but I shrugged it off as a fatty deposit or a cyst. Months passed, and realizing the lump wasn’t going away, I brought it to my wife’s attention. The discovery did not sit well with Dana, and she made an appointment with my primary doctor for June 6. My Doctor said it could be nothing, but wanted me to go for a mammogram which she set up for me two days later. We were asked to come into the consulting room at the radiologists, and were told that the mass looked suspicious, and they would like to send us for an immediate biopsy of the mass and the lymph nodes. This was crazy, how could this be? Breast cancer? In a man? On June 10 I received a phone call from my doctor that I tested positive for breast cancer (stage 2B, micro-papillary type) in both biopsies.
The following month was a testing of our patience as we searched/studied for a breast surgeon, an oncologist, a genetic counselor (thankfully, I tested negative for the BRCA genes), a radiation oncologist, complementary treatments, and holistic options. As well, I had a PET scan (which came back negative) and an EKG, so mentally it was an exhausting time. On June 26 I had a mastectomy and axillary dissection and was sent home with 31 staples and a drain tube; definitely not for the faint at heart. Following surgery, I was told my margins were clear and that 2 out of 10 of my lymph nodes tested positive for breast cancer. In the months following I received 16 chemotherapy treatments along with 30 rounds of radiation. I was given the news that I was cancer free and rang the victory bell at Roswell Park Cancer Institute on May 5, 2017. Surrounded by family and friends, this is a day I will never forget.
For me the emotional journey has been a tougher battling than the physical journey. Breaking the news to my 3 daughters, family and friends, dealing with a “female” disease (my wife was often the one assumed to be the patient), facing the “what if” questions that accompany a cancer diagnosis and fear of surgery proved to be much more difficult than enduring the effects of the surgery, chemo and radiation. My cancer story would be incomplete if I failed to mention my strong faith in Jesus Christ. My hope is in Him and I know that what He has carried me to, He will also carry me through. My wife and I over and over again have found Jesus to be faithful in our lives and the God who never changes will continue to be faithful. A diagnosis of cancer can leave one to question: “what does the future hold?”. As I look to my future with newly reorganized priorities and the desire to embrace every opportunity to make memories with those around me, I can confidently say my future looks full of hope (Romans 15:13).
I am thankful for the Male Breast Cancer Coalition for getting the news out that breast cancer is happening in men too, along with providing a place for men to come together and receive support.