PHILLY BOYZ WEEKEND
It was going to be a great weekend, with a group of 12 High School / College Friends meeting up for their Annual “PHILLY BOYZ WEEKEND”. This year we were in Chicago for some golf, dinners and culminating in an EAGLES vs. Bears Football game.
Suddenly, a big “Bear Hug” from an old friend to me, caused a shooting pain that traveled from my left breast up into my left shoulder. This was not your normal muscle pain or irritation type pain. It was loud, demonstrative and screamed to my brain, “YOU HAVE A PROBLEM”!
In 1995 my sister Vicki and our mom were diagnosed with Breast Cancer, one month apart. Vicki had two recurrences following and in 2006 decided to have genetic testing. BRCA2 Mutation was the diagnosis and the root cause of her Breast Cancer.
Upon hearing her results, Vicki called to warn me that I too, a Man, could be carrying the BRCA2 mutation. Ok, but I’m a guy, I’m not going to get Breast Cancer!
Within 10 days of my “boyz weekend”, once returning to my Rochester, NY home, I was officially diagnosed with Male Breast Cancer! There was no way that I could have anticipated this diagnosis. I had no idea that I could even get breast cancer. 90% of all men all think the same way, and that’s unfortunate.
From my Internist to my Surgeon and continuing on with the three Oncologists that I met with, the lack of definitive information and lack of a true and consensus direction forced me to question almost every decision I needed to make. Ultimately, I had to make these decisions and my research and "gut" had to be the key determinants. You MUST BE YOUR OWN PERSONAL ADVOCATE, when dealing with these decisions. Only time will dictate if they were the right decisions.
A modified radical mastectomy of my left breast, followed by 3 ½ months of Chemotherapy, followed by five years of hormone therapy (Tamoxifen), which was just extended to 10 years, will change your perception of Males and Breast Cancer.
In 2008, no one talked about Male Breast Cancer. The internet which was complete with all the information one could ever want or need, produced ZERO Results about how male breast cancer differs from female breast cancer.
The topic seemed to be taboo. Almost like the topic of female breast cancer was in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. In those years, women swept and hid behind a cloak of silence as no one wanted to be stigmatized as having her breasts removed. It was all so HUSH-HUSH!
In 2008, the topic of Male Breast Cancer was very similar. No one wanted to talk about it. No man wanted to mention that he had it. It was embarrassing and a very un- macho topic..
Once back to normal health, Vicki and I vowed to find a way to inform, educate and support other men who are facing or are at high risk to face, Male Breast Cancer. We created our nonprofit organization called HIS Breast Cancer Awareness (HIS happens to also be my initials).
I got past the embarrassment of being a “one-tit-man” very quickly. I recognized that the system was not set up to handle the “Man Side” of this disease. We have dedicated our life’s work to inform men, from all walks of life, that they can be at risk, but that they can help reduce their issues with this disease, simply by being educated.
Although a year and a half later I was also diagnosed with Prostate Cancer (BRCA related), today I am healthy and possibly in the best shape of my life (or at least since I was in college). I have totally altered my Eating Habits and Diet, My Exercise schedule. My Work discipline and in general, how I live day to day. I live with the fear of recurrence as all Breast Cancer and I'm guessing any other type of Cancer patients do, but I am doing everything possible and in my power to insure that this disease does not come back
I wear my scar proudly. I am not ashamed nor am I embarrassed and I will talk to anyone that will listen about their risks.
Harvey I. Singer
Co-founder, HIS Breast Cancer Awareness