By Murphy Huston
When my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer 20 years ago, I thought she was going to die. She went through a very tough bout of chemo and I was concerned about our two small children. We took control of the situation and became very active with Susan G. Komen. We learned so much about breast cancer, but never imagined we were being trained for another family breast cancer diagnosis.
A head-butt. It was a head-butt from my six-year-old grandson while we were wrestling in March 2014 that changed my life. When he hit my left nipple, I felt some pain, then the small lump.
My GP thought it could be a cyst, but sent me to a surgeon for a biopsy. He too thought it was a cyst. Within a week I learned I had breast cancer. I got the call at home on a Sunday night. I was getting ready for bed early, as usual, because I’d be up at the crack of dawn to host my morning radio show.
When I was in college back in 1968, a guy heard me talking on the campus radio station at University of Wisconsin. He owned a station in town and offered me a weekend job. Since then I’ve been on the radio hosting entertainment, news, traffic and weather shows. My audience now is mostly women ages 42-52 with about 800,000 people listening to my show each morning. I’m very open about my life, so when I announced I had breast cancer, listeners told me they felt like learning a family member had cancer. My broadcast partner teared up at the news and has been very supportive. It was an emotional time and I knew going public with my diagnosis was the right thing to do.
Mentally, I went through some of the same things women do when they have breast cancer. After my mastectomy, I thought, I’m different now. I no longer had a nipple and had a big scar across where my breast once was. I thought my wife would feel differently toward me. I also worried about where else the cancer was going to show up. It’s been about a year and a half now, and I don’t think about those things as much anymore.
People will say, “Oh my god. Murphy Houston has breast cancer.” It’s almost surreal sometimes. Then I realize it’s my mission to educate others about breast cancer, in women AND men. Recently I hosted a fancy event and had all the men in the audience stand up. I had them all do self breast exams in front of their wives! Now I’m the mouthpiece in Denver, and not just because I’m playing adult contemporary music. Women tell me they are talking to the men in their lives about male breast cancer. I can make a difference. Maybe that’s what I’m supposed to be doing.
I knew very little about male breast cancer when I was diagnosed. The surgeon handed me a book about what to expect, but the book was all about women, of course. The doctor said you’ll go through similar experiences, but yours will be different. Really? There was no book for men. It was like reverse discrimination.
When I went for my mammogram, the poor nurse freaked out because she had never done a mammo on a man before. I kept hearing, ‘Well, if you were a woman” this, “If you were a woman” that. I said, “But I am a man! I’m a MAN with breast cancer!”
After the mastectomy, I had drain for a few weeks because there was lots of fluid. I remember the doctor wanting to stick me with a gigunta needle to get the excess fluid out. I thought isn’t he going to give me something to numb the area before inserting that thing in me? Ah, right. The area was already numb from my surgery. Still is actually.
My cancer was caught early and my tumor was studied to determine the best course of treatment and the chances of the cancer coming back. The OncotypeDX results saved me from having to go through chemo and radiation. I am taking Tamoxifen, just like my wife.
We have three daughters, a son, and seven grandchildren, so it was important for us to do genetic testing. In fact, my wife was tested after her diagnosis, but it was recommended she get retested because of new technology. Thankfully we are both negative.
I don’t remember what kind of breast cancer I have, or what stage it is. It’s not important to me, it’s just called breast cancer.
There were lots of doors open to me when I learned I had breast cancer, because of my years of work with Susan G. Komen. I knew exactly what had to be done, so things were made easier for me. Instantly all my doctors were lined up. We used all same docs as my wife.
Many men are not as fortunate. The doctor I saw for a second opinion told me he usually sees men come in when the nipple’s almost falling off and by then it’s too late. The breast cancer is so advanced there’s not much hope.
Men, if we don’t see blood we think we’re just fine. That’s how dumb we can be. Don’t be all macho and ignore the signs and symptoms. Yes, men get breast cancer too. Don’t let things go and think you are above this happening to you.
I’m a big macho guy. I played sports. I was always active. I’ve never felt embarrassed about having breast cancer. You shouldn’t either. Once you start talking about your breast cancer, it gets easier. Talking helped me get through my shyness. Guys, you can call me.