“I just happened to notice in the shower that I had a lump on my chest. I then got a phone call that told me that I had breast cancer,” said Bill Everett.
That was the start of a difficult journey for Bill, who was battling a cancer which made him feel like an outsider.
“When we walked into the doors for an organization that was for breast cancer, they automatically assumed that it was me,” said Bill’s wife, Dana. “All the paperwork he fills out is “when’s your last menstrual period” and “are you pregnant?”‘
Bill said it was an intimidating experience – a 45-year-old, healthy husband, and father of three now battling breast cancer.
“It’s probably almost, even, maybe a little embarrassing to come to terms with it – to have to tell people and tell my guy friends. Everybody was totally understanding, but in my mind – I had to fight that battle,” said Bill.
“It is generally considered uncommon for men to fight breast cancer. They are usually surprised when it happens to them,” said Dr. Tracey O’Connor, a breast cancer oncologist at Roswell Park.
Dr. O’Connor said there are about 2,500 cases of male breast cancer a year. That is compared to about 260,000 for women.
“Men are generally often presented with a higher stage than a woman, because it’s unexpected,” said Dr. O’Connor.
Bill’s cancer was stage 2. He started treatment right away. But, he still had thoughts of doubt.
“All I could think about is “am i going to reach age 50?” I have 3 teenaged daughters and another thought I kept thinking in my head is “am i going to be able to see them grow up, am I going to be able to walk them down the aisle some day,”” said Bill.
Dana started researching and found the Coalition for Men with Breast Cancer.
“It’s got to be a lonely road to be on the cancer road and then to be a male breast cancer patient also,” said Dana.
Bill said that organization is what helped get him through the next several months of treatment.
He then had a mastectomy, several rounds of chemo and radiation. In May of 2017, he rang the victory bell at Roswell.
“It was a very special day, I’ll never forget it,” said Bill.
“I always knew he was strong and this just blew me away,” said Dana.
Bill said he hopes sharing his story will help raise awareness to male breast cancer patients.
Dr. O’Connor said men should give themselves breast exams, just as women do. She also said men with a family history should be more aware of a risk.