Thursday, August 9, 2012

Married with Breast Cancer: Kent County Couple Both Battle Breast Cancer

A man being diagnosed with breast cancer is a rare occurrence but it’s even rarer for a married couple to both become breast cancer survivors. Read on about Mike and Sarah’s story.

In the summer of 2003, Mike Smith lifted his wife Sarah after she caught the biggest fish on a fishing trip in Ocean City, MD.  “When I picked her up, I felt this sharp pain in my right nipple.  I already had a doctor’s appointment scheduled so I went in and told him about it.” The doctor first thought it was only a cyst but a biopsy proved that it was cancerous.  Mike was diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) Stage 2 and joined the less than 1% of breast cancer cases which are found in men.

After having a mastectomy, Mike talked with a male friend who was also a breast cancer survivor and his friend suggested he talk to the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition.  He visited DBCC’s Dover office and spoke with Lois Wilkinson, DBCC Program Manager of Survivorship & Education.  “She was shocked that I had breast cancer but she was so helpful and was behind me the whole way,” Mike said.

After he completed his treatment, Mike told Lois that he would like to volunteer with DBCC and spread the message about breast cancer in men.  He began speaking at churches and other events.  “When I spoke at church, the wives would always thank me for speaking up and occasionally men would come forward discreetly and ask questions.”

Mike then decided to participate in DBCC’s Peer Mentor Support Program and has mentored newly diagnosed male breast cancer patients.  “I felt that men diagnosed with breast cancer really needed to talk to someone of their same sex.”  Mike has mentored two men through their breast cancer journeys.  “A lot of men don’t want to talk about it and would just die with it,” he said.  “That’s why I felt I needed to be vocal about being a male breast cancer survivor.”
Mike & Sarah at a Nurture with Nature event last month

About 8 years after Mike’s diagnosis, his wife Sarah got the news she never thought she would—she had breast cancer.  “We both were just shocked. We thought ‘What are the odds?’” After a routine mammogram, a radiologist spotted a shadow and surgeon was able to locate a small lump.  A biopsy confirmed that Sarah had Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) Stage 0.  “We were fortunate that it was caught early and her lump was removed,” Mike said.

Mike then mentored Sarah through her breast cancer journey.  “She was there for me when I went through it and I was able to help her too,” he said.  Sarah has been volunteering with DBCC alongside Mike since his diagnosis 9 years ago.  Sarah also works to educate other Thai women in her community about breast cancer prevention and early detection.

Sarah and Mike have daughters and grandchildren that they frequently educate as well.  “It’s part of our dinner table conversation,” Mike said.  “We always ask if they have had their check-up and mammogram.” Mike and Sarah are fortunate to have had each other and the support of DBCC through their breast cancer journeys.  “We’ve been through it,” Mike says.  “And DBCC has been there through it with us. We are very appreciative of that.”

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