I've just returned from a visit with my oncologist. Male breast cancer has been my constant companion since May of 2014. My visit today included a few laughs and some minor concerns. She scheduled my next ultrasound and mammogram and expressed some uneasiness over two lymph nodes she can feel deep under my left armpit, but for the most part, there is nothing new to report. I can continue coasting through my cancer.
What I have noticed though, is that as my breast cancer evolves, I find myself getting less tolerant of its presence. And this is odd because as we become accustomed to living every day with the possibility of our cancer returning with vengeance, we also learn, as an act of self-preservation, to live with the beast and get on with our lives. But as I mature in this cancer "awareness" that we often talk about, I have become increasingly mindful of my brothers, the newly diagnosed men with male breast cancer, who still deal with their diagnosis every hour of every day.
I believe that attitude is supremely important in my own survival, and I often view my breast cancer from a space of mindfulness, meaning that my years of meditation have allowed me to see my disease from a dislocated point of view. I look at my cancer as an observer rather than as a victim, and from this vantage point, I feel better prepared to take the necessary steps to deal with it.
But as I see men around me dying of the disease, and watch one clinical trial after another omitting males, and witness the pharmaceutical giants ignoring male breast cancer, and feel the anguish of guys being diagnosed with a disease that they didn't know existed, my frustration increases.
And when all of this begins to fester in my heart and in my breast (the one I have) I want to pick up my sword and battle gear and do something more.
And so today I have kicked my cancer fight up a notch. And I offer this simple, yet fervent declaration of my commitment to all of those male breast cancer survivors who have offered me hope and courage these last four years, with this mandate:
"I have declared war on our cancer. This proclamation is my promise to step away from the shadow of an orphan disease; to counter the tyranny of a covert adversary; and to issue clear warning that I stand firm in my resolve to emerge triumphant over any foe that would dare defy us."
Those are "fightin' words" for sure. But words of course don't kill cancer. 10k walks don't kill cancer. Colored ribbons don't kill cancer.
Research kills cancer.
The battle analogy for combatting cancer has probably been around since the very beginning of the disease. And it's a good strategy for those who feel defiled by an unwanted intruder. And it just may be the attitude that men need to adopt to defeat the slow moving, uninspired research going on today with regard to male breast cancer.
It's important to note that there has been progress of course and there are some very dedicated folks like "The Male Breast Cancer Coalition
" and many others who are actively fighting to change the rules. But as I mentioned in the beginning of this piece, it's important for those of us who are surviving to pave the way for those yet to come. So, I'll continue to try to find ways to be helpful and to remain hopeful. And most importantly perhaps, I vow to never become complacent.