No Claim to Fame With Male Breast Cancer

In the first days of my recovery, someone said to me, "Breast cancer in men is exceedingly rare. You're famous!"

This is a story about male breast cancer. But before I can tell it, I have a confession to make:

I've always wanted to be famous.

When I was twelve, I read my first book about the great escape artist and magician, Harry Houdini. Actually, his name was Eric Weiss but by changing his name, he added a little more drama to his life. That was the point, after all. He wanted to stand out. And so did I.

I made a decision after reading about him that stage magic was to be my lifelong vocation. Though I did what a lot of young performers do when just starting out — to “borrow” the style and manner of other entertainers they admire — I wanted to find my own, unique way of becoming the world’s next famous magician. All entertainers are selling themselves after all. We become a commodity and our job requires that we get noticed to get hired. Famous performers on the other hand, don’t have to work so hard.

I've always wanted to be famous.

I’ve always loved my job. Along the journey, I’ve visited many countries, invented some good stage illusions, received a few awards for a short-lived television show, made a decent living and had a ball doing it until I finally slowed my schedule down dramatically in 2013 when I was old enough to draw some social security and catch my breath. I was lucky to perform for a few famous people along the way, too: Elizabeth Taylor, Peter O'Toole, David Copperfield and Cary Grant.But I was never famous.

Just a year and a half ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. A wizard of a surgeon in Honolulu made a magical appearance in my life, put me under her compassionate spell and when I awakened, my left breast had vanished. Hopefully my cancer did too.

In the first days of my recovery, someone said to me, "Breast cancer in men is exceedingly rare. You're famous!"

“Wait a minute," I thought, “This is definitely not what I had in mind!”

The irony of that moment was as stirring as any performance I could ever hope to deliver and it revealed the important need to bring this disease of mine out into the open. I understood at once that more men and women needed to know more about this. The scarcity of male breast cancer has made it nearly invisible. The unwanted but unique nature of my diagnosis made it mandatory that I speak up.

Invisibility is a great thing in a magic act, but very bad for the unsuspecting men who have the chance, however slight it may be, to have cancer of the breast. The truth is that many men still don’t know that it’s even possible for them to have cancer in their breasts. Because of this, it often goes undetected.

After all these years, I’ve given up on being famous and it feels alright. When you think about it, your odds of becoming a movie star, winning an Olympic medal or being elected president are much more slim than developing breast cancer.

The odds of developing cancer aren't very important when you suddenly become the person diagnosed. In that moment, your odds jump to 1-in-1.

Instead of signing autographs, I’ll just continue working at being a respectable magician. More importantly, though, I'll continue to work at helping myself and others in the fine art of surviving cancer.