Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Men at Risk for Breast Cancer, Too

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Men at Risk for Breast Cancer, Too

Article excerpt

Byline: JEREMY COX

Beyond the pink ribbons and the tongue-in-cheek "Save the Ta-tas" T-shirts lies another side of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For every 100 women diagnosed with breast cancer, one man is diagnosed, as well. While their numbers pale in comparison, men face many of the same challenges with the disease as women. The same surgery. The same chemotherapy. The same fears of recurrence. But they face at least one challenge that women do not: living as proof that breast cancer can strike men. Here, three First Coast men share stories about their battles against a disease and a stereotype.

KEITH BELL, 45, SOUTHSIDE

A dark thought crept into Keith Bell's head as he sat in a lonely corner of the hospital, awaiting surgery.

A thought he knew was irrational. But there it was.

Some woman, a breast cancer victim, must have placed a curse on him. He was sure of it. Why else would a man - a relatively young man at that! - be sitting here with a potentially deadly lump in his breast?

"This is supposed to be a woman's disease," he remembers thinking.

Bell's cancer story began when he was 16. His mother was helping him get his shirt off when the fabric caught on a dime-size knot under his right breast. She was alarmed enough that she sent him to the hospital that night to get it checked out.

After a brief examination, the doctor concluded that the lump was nothing more than a cyst.

Flash forward 25 years to 2004. Suddenly, that dime grew to a quarter and, even though he was told it was a cyst again, he wanted it out.

A surgery scheduled for three hours ballooned to seven hours as doctors realized that what they thought was a cyst was really breast cancer. With Bell still unconscious, his wife, Leena, was the first to hear the news.

"I didn't know how to deal with it," she said recently.

A follow-up surgery removed the entire breast. Afterward, Bell had nearly five months of chemotherapy, losing 45 pounds and all of his hair - even his facial hair and eyebrows - along the way.

He was so weak that he couldn't go back to his job as a school bus driver. He went on unemployment for a couple of months.

Today, Bell credits the support of his family and his church for helping him rebound physically and emotionally from cancer.

"I feel like the Lord gave me a second chance," he said.

JOHN FRICK, 68, FLEMING ISLAND

Reading the newspaper saved John Frick's life - sort of. While reading the Times-Union on his couch in November 2001, Frick discovered a Tootsie Roll-size growth in his left breast. He noticed the lump when he reached to turn the page and felt a twinge in his breast as his left arm brushed against it.

"It was purely accidental," said Frick, a retired U.S. Navy master chief last based at Cecil Field. …

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