By Dave Bushman
In loving memory of Dave Bushman who was a tremendous voice in the hereditary cancer community, we share his story. Dave devoted his life to helping educate people about hereditary cancer, especially sharing information about how men have risks as well. Dave was an inspiration to all who met him. Dave passed away from COVID-19 in April 2020.
Men can have mutations, too
I always knew that there was cancer in my family – my mother died of breast and ovarian cancer at 42. However, I didn’t realize the extent that cancer permeated my family or that it could affect me until my sister got tested and learned that she carried the BRCA1 genetic mutation 187delAG.
After speaking with her, I got tested and learned that I also carried that mutation. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but I informed both my son and daughter and suggested that they be tested.
My son’s test was negative, but my daughter found out that she, too, had the mutation. I was greatly concerned for my daughter, who was 34. Moreover, I felt extremely guilty for passing along the mutation to her. I knew that it was irrational to feel that way, but I couldn’t help it. When I told my daughter about my feelings of guilt, she said, “I understand, but think of all the wonderful genes you gave me.”
Men have risks, too
My immediate concern was for my daughter, but I also had to think about my own risk. As a male, I learned that my risk was pretty low compared to the risk that women with a mutation faced. Still, as I discovered more and more information about family members who had cancer, I knew that I could not completely ignore my own risk.
I learned that with a BRCA1 mutation, I was at a slightly increased risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer. I was 67 when I learned I carried the mutation. I started going to my family doctor for regular examinations. Due to a chronic enlarged prostate, I had been going to my urologist regularly for many years. I was pretty sure that I did not have cancer, but I knew that I would have to become more aware of my physical condition.
One day a few years afterward, my wife noticed a small bruise on my left breast near the nipple. I touched the area and felt a hard mass I had not noticed before. I promptly called my family doctor who immediately sent me to the breast center in his building.
Mammograms are for men, too
Entering the breast center felt strange and a little weird. This was a place for women – what was I doing there? Everything was pink, including the gown I was given to wear. They did make me feel a little less uneasy by telling me that they were used to having men come there, although the only men there at the time were waiting for their wives.
After discussing my personal and family history, I was given a mammogram, an ultrasound and a needle biopsy. I had always heard women talk about how uncomfortable and even painful mammograms were, but women have breasts. How were they going to do a mammogram on me, a male? Well, I found out and immediately developed a new and healthy respect for women who had to undergo regular mammograms. I became convinced that the mammogram machine was designed by the Marquis de Sade.
Fortunately, the results of my mammogram, ultrasound and needle biopsy were all negative. They said that it was just a pooling of dried blood. I went back three months later for a repeat mammogram and ultrasound and, once again, they were negative.
FORCE helped me on my journey
FORCE introduced me to the world of hereditary cancer and helped me come to grips with just what I was facing and how to deal with it. FORCE has given me the opportunity to share everything I have learned about hereditary cancer and to meet and become friends with hundreds of amazing people who have had similar experiences in their struggles dealing with this deadly disease.
I continue to monitor my health and from what I have learned and experienced, I have created The BRCA Brotherhood Facebook group for men who face the same issues as me. As a male, finding out that I carry a genetic mutation was not fun, but it was important for me and my family to know. I am a proud previvor.
Dave Bushman, BRCA1 Previvor
"When you are with FORCE, you are never alone!"