How I Discovered I Had Male Breast Cancer

October 14, 2020

You may be surprised by what you can find in a hot shower, whether it be cancer or the discovery on how to live after treatment.

Forget for a moment that I am a man, or that I have breast cancer. Cancer at any stage is an all-inclusive disease. It can happen to anyone. As a guy who often writes about cancer, I’ve never written exclusively for men or women. After all, when science and medicine move forward we all benefit.

Reading stories from other men and women who are immersed in the cancer experience has been an illuminating source of inspiration and information for me, and having the opportunity to pen a few essays on the subject has kept me engaged in the larger effort to find a cure for all of us.

I never expected to be a cancer writer. But then again, I never expected to be one of the estimated eighteen million people diagnosed worldwide with this disease in any given year. What could be more personal than sharing our cancer hopes and fears with others?It seems that sharing can be a powerful medicine.

I can honestly say that most of my significant writing contributions over the last seventy years regardless of the subject matter were conceived or improved upon either while I was long-distance running or standing in the shower. No kidding.

I’ve often listened to words and feelings emerging in my imagination while jogging through the hills on a solo run or taking a soothing shower.

Ironically, the little bump on my left breast that ultimately led me to a life with male breast cancer began in the shower too. Many men report a similar experience since it’s much easier to spot an anomaly in breast tissue for guys, which often happens while taking a shower. In addition to hot showers, running both competitively and for the sheer joy of it was one of life’s greatest pleasures for me. If there had been a way for me to run in the shower, I might have stayed there forever.

But running, especially after my breast cancer diagnosis, was a perfect reason for me to wake up every day and get moving; to actively engage in life and to push ahead into an unknown but eagerly anticipated future. There is a wealth of evidence citing the fact that cancer survivors; people like me, tend to live longer when they have specific goals in their lives to envision and pull them forward.

Perhaps the greatest lesson that I’ve learned as a man with a rare and often deadly form of cancer is that we have to take command of our disease as though our life depends on it. I believe that a little sassy good humor in spite of our illness is good medicine too. Our doctors, families and friends give us the hope and encouragement that becomes part of our survival, along with the chemotherapies and clinical trials and complimentary procedures, but in my view, it takes more than hope and encouragement to keep us alive.

Surviving cancer requires our attention. And attention to details can save lives. Signs and symptoms of cancer can be subtle so early detection is crucial when it comes to disarming the disease. Any change in our bodies warrants an investigation.

With two new titanium knee replacements installed, my running years have crossed the finish line for the last time. But those soothing hot showers remain as daily, meditative moments. And I suppose the words and song lyrics and inspiring thoughts will continue to wash over me as well. So, along with my daily hot shower, and my myriad goals as a cancer survivor and writer, I’ve added one more item to my personal “to do” list. In addition to working on my next great American novel while standing under the shower nozzle this evening, I’m going to make it my intention to contribute an update on male breast cancer here in CURE® magazine exactly one year from today.

That will require that I survive for the next fifty-two weeks and that I stand in the shower tub three hundred and sixty-five more times. In the long run I will demand more of course, at least in terms of survival.But while living with cancer one day at a time, why not cleanse ourselves of any disempowering thoughts? It’s time to bathe in the glory of a cancer-free life.


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