Forever Forward: My Male Breast Cancer Motto

Communication is key with cancer survivorship, especially for rare diseases like male breast cancer.

I follow several cancer survivors through social media, including of course, our bloggers from CURE ®. These are “my people” after all.

I will never have the opportunity to meet most of them face to face, especially those who live with my particular brand of cancer. The odds of sitting down for a cup of tea with another man who shares my disease are slim at best. With only 2,710 men being diagnosed with male breast cancer in the United States this year, that would average out to just 54 men in my state of Arizona — or one man per 2,590 square miles.

To give you an idea of how things have changed since my own breast cancer diagnosis in 2014, back then there were only three guys per state unlucky enough to have breast cancer. It all seemed a little lonely at times.

And yet, I can speak with other guys every day online. An odd sort of truth in all of this is that I converse with more women who are surviving breast cancer than I do with men. This is another indication of how unmentionable breast cancer in men remains, andthe words “unmentionable” and “unsurvivable” are unfortunately linked, since it is the very imperceptibility of male breast cancer that makes it so pernicious.

We need to talk about this disease more often and more openly.

Communication, whether it be online or in person, is a big component of my cancer survival. I maintain the momentum of survival by writing mostly. Music composition is my other form of expression, and one I enjoy sharing with others. In a sense, we help to keep each other alive — or at the very least, engaged, by sharing our stories. Cancer is not a passive disease, after all.

Here are a few of the things I’ve found that may be helpful when it comes down to surviving and thriving:

1. Staying connected to our family and friends.

2. Staying focused on our art, our music our adventures our hobbies and our passions.

3. Seeking out others who share our cancer disease to be of service in ways both large and small.

4. Sharing the survival lessons we’ve learned and the experiences we’ve collected.

5. Perhaps most importantly, maintaining a sense of wonder for a world filled with magic, mystery and yes, malignancy. I’m in awe of our human experience every day.My cancer may be an unwelcome part of my life, but it is indeed a component that has shaped the path I’m on.

Communication with others who share my disease is only part of my cancer experience. Most of my days are spent listening to my own internal directives in my quest to survive, moving forever forward, but with the whisper of cancer in the background. It’s always there, but like the warning rattle of our western diamond back rattlesnake here in Arizona, I see the presence of my breast cancer as something more than just a predator intent on killing me. I see it as a wake-up call; a warning for me to stay alert and step carefully through my ongoing survival with a deadly disease.

I’m reminded each day that the only option is onward. And the only direction is forward.

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