Having cancer is hard enough, but "orphan diseases" can add another degree of division and its own form of social distancing.
Social distancing is nothing new to anyone with a rare form of cancer. That's not because people don't want to get near us, but because for the most part, people don't know we exist. Of the thirty most common cancers in men beginning with lung, prostate, colorectal, stomach and liver; breast cancer doesn't even make it to the list.
While we've made great progress in bringing male breast cancer into mainstream conversation in the six years since my own diagnosis, most people I meet still say "I never knew men could get breast cancer".
The truth is, this sense of social solitude that guys feel isn't because nobody cares. We're simply buried so deeply in the endless data of misinformation, and isolation that no one really knows how to find us. And so it becomes both our duty and our purpose to create a road map of sorts to help the general public navigate their way into our neck of the woods.
The question becomes, how do we put male breast cancer on the map?
The problem lies in the fact that our maps are outdated. And while they are certainly useful for certain applications, our way of navigating through modern science and medicine has become electronic. The good news about all of this is that we can now broadcast and assimilate information in very visible and unlimited ways.
In 2020 the existence of male breast cancer, and other rare forms of disease, have an opportunity to be spotted by virtually anyone with a cell phone or internet connection or through print channels like the stories from survivors who contribute to CURE. So now the task becomes a matter of dispersing the story in informative and conspicuous ways while using all of the tools at our disposal.
Breast cancer in women is never far from the public eye, and rightfully so. It affects far more people on the planet than does the male variety and is an insidious and often deadly adversary. But deadly doesn't change because of the numbers or the gender, and perhaps that's the hardest part to see. The hope for guys is that one day the words "breast cancer" will evoke an image of everyone with a breast.
A few celebrity men have caught the public's attention for a week or two, but the momentum to bring this disease into the realm of public awareness has been overshadowed, quite naturally, by those other thirty and more cancers on the aforementioned male cancer list.
It's always difficult to find focus when there are so many things to look at, but the progress is promising and the willingness of women to include men in their discussions, and even in their conferences, is slowly gaining momentum.
While Coronavirus has partitioned many of us through its threat of infestation, breast cancer now has an opportunity to bring women and men together in a collaborative, curative and common cause.