By Harvey I. Singer
Cancer is common in our family
My aunt was a breast cancer survivor. My mother is a breast cancer survivor. My sister, Vicki, is a breast cancer survivor. Vicki was diagnosed in 1995 with the first of four bouts of breast cancer. After her third diagnosis, she had genetic testing and learned she had a BRCA2 mutation. Vicki then let me know that we could have the same mutation and it could affect our health, as well. After Vicki’s fourth diagnosis, she had a double mastectomy, reconstruction, chemotherapy and currently she is on Arimidex.
Sir – you have breast cancer
In 2008, I heard the same words Vicki had been given: “You have breast cancer.” Even though Vicki had lived with breast cancer and tested positive for a BRCA2 mutation, I was still shocked that I, a 54-year-old male, was being diagnosed with breast cancer. Three weeks later, I had a complete mastectomy of my left breast, followed by chemotherapy, Tamoxifen therapy and precautionary MRI’s and mammograms. Genetic testing also proved that I had the same BRCA2 mutation as Vicki. While I have never been embarrassed about my breast cancer, it is a very hard cancer to navigate as a man.
Sir – you also have prostate cancer
Eighteen months after my breast cancer diagnosis, I was given more devastating news: “You have prostate cancer.” Having already been through breast cancer, my reaction was very matter-of-fact. I knew my mutation caused this cancer and I knew I would do whatever was needed to beat it.
Awareness of male breast cancer is critical
A year after my breast cancer diagnosis, Vicki and I started the HIS Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation to help educate and bring awareness that not just women deal with the risk or positive diagnosis of breast cancer. We work with FORCE in order to bring the subject of hereditary cancer to the forefront. FORCE is an amazing organization that helps so many previvors and survivors. They are like family to us at HIS Breast Cancer.
Looking ahead to the future
Vicki and I have another brother who is also BRCA2 positive and, thankfully, has not been diagnosed with cancer. We also have five boys among us. We hope and pray for a time when no one has to worry about breast cancer. We believe it is about the knowledge and understanding of your risks, and the ability to navigate and mitigate potential and future diagnosis, that can make a difference.
Wisdom is to be your own advocate! Always know that you, not your doctor, are in charge of your own health. Make it your most important full time job. It may not "pay" you, but it will certainly "reward" you to learn and understand all of your choices.
Harvey Singer, BRCA2 Breast and Prostate Cancer Survivor