Editor’s Note: October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness about the importance of early detection of breast cancer by spreading the word about mammograms. This year, the American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 232,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the United States, and 40,000 women will die from breast cancer.
A lesser known fact is that breast cancer is not limited to women. In fact, the American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 2,360 US men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and 430 men will die from breast cancer. While men are 100 times less likely to develop breast cancer than women, and the lesions may be easier to find in men due to smaller breast size, the lack of awareness of the disease postpones their medical treatment.
What follows is the story of one person’s journey watching a loved one succumb to this terrible disease. Renee Schledewitz, of Coggon, Iowa, is the cousin of one of our bloggers and has graciously shared the story of her father’s (blogger Andrea’s uncle) battle with breast cancer with us.
My dad, Marlowe Bacon, was a dairy farmer for 40 years. In 2001, he went to the doctor because he didn’t feel well. After running tests, the doctor’s only find was that his blood pressure was abnormal. The doctor scheduled a biopsy after Dad mentioned a lump in his left breast, and the results came back positive for breast cancer.
On Sept. 5, 2001, my dad went in for a mastectomy of his left breast. During the surgery, the surgeons also removed some lymph nodes from his left side to test, and then we waited. The call came on Sept. 11, 2001. As we watched the United States go under attack, we thanked God that the cancer had not spread past the breast into the lymph nodes.
Treatment for breast cancer is, for the most part, the same for men and women. Dad was put on a drug Tamoxifen, and did very well. No reoccurrence. No issues. Life was good. In 2008, Dad began to have issues with his right leg and hip, and an MRI showed a spot on his right leg. A biopsy was scheduled, and during the procedure, they found that he had broken his femur. He was then scheduled for surgery to have a pin put in his hip—diagnosis: metastasized bone cancer.
The doctors told us that his bone cancer was a direct relation from the breast cancer. There was no cure—only treatments to prolong his life. He went through radiation, bone hardening IVs and chemotherapy.
During this entire time, his main concern was to ensure that other men knew that they could also be at risk for breast cancer. He made it his mission to get the word out. Our family participated in all the town parades we could. We walked, wore T-shirts, handed out information, drove trucks with male breast cancer awareness banners, and we stood beside my dad in support. We all knew this awful disease would take him, but we hoped and prayed it wouldn’t.
On Sept. 7, 2009, my dad was granted his angel wings. Man did he fight. He gave it his all. We gave it our all as a family, as his family. At his funeral, his cousin spoke about the history of breast cancer in our family. Seven family members have had breast cancer. Three have died from it. My dad was the only male. Breast cancer didn’t discriminate against our family.
A quote from Marlowe Bacon, a year before passing away from breast cancer:
“My family and I are very interested in making the point that men do get breast cancer and it can be just as serious to a man as it is to a woman. Cancer is a terrible interruption to not only the person involved, but to their whole family. I feel lucky to be a survivor and if promoting cancer awareness could save even one life some place, well, let’s go for it.” Marlowe Bacon, Stories of Hope, July 28, 2008.