By Patricia Washburn
My husband, Marlyn Washburn, was like so many other men in that he did not know men could get breast cancer. In December of 2016, however, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer. At the time of his diagnosis, his breast cancer had already metastasized into his liver, lungs, lymph nodes, bones, and brain. Surgery was not an option due to the extensive spread throughout his body, however he did attempt radiation and chemotherapy. Both were minimally successful. He took his last breath on May 26, 2017.
Marlyn had been an educator for 41 years. At the time of his death, I decided it was my turn to step up to the plate to educate others in the matter of male breast cancer. I took his car and had it wrapped with my message. The sides of the car proclaim, “Breast Cancer Does NOT Discriminate…MEN TOO”. The hood of the car sports a photo of Marlyn taken on Christmas at the time he was first diagnosed. It makes an impact when I tell people just five months later, he was dead. This car is my “moving billboard” in honor of Marlyn and in support of the many men with breast cancer.
After having the car wrapped, I contacted several television stations, radio stations, and newspapers in the communities where we had lived and where people knew Marlyn. Most agreed to interview me and share the story of male breast cancer.
I have become a Lead Advocate with the Male Breast Cancer Coalition (MBCC). We strive to advocate for our men and to educate everyone we meet. Every person has breast tissue, therefore EVERYONE is susceptible to getting breast cancer. Do not confuse this with chest cancer. They are totally different cancers. Breast cancer can only be diagnosed through a biopsy and begins within the breast tissue. It is important to know that breast cancer does not discriminate by gender, age or race.
Since my husband’s death I have been traveling the United States spreading the message of male breast cancer. I also share signs and symptoms with those I meet. In my travels I have met personally with many of our MBCC “brothers”. It is important they, and their families, know they are not walking this journey alone. We are all family, and we all pull together for each other.
In 2019 I was pulled over by a South Carolina State Trooper. The ONLY purpose of the stop was to ask me about male breast cancer. I had passed him on the Interstate, and he read the side of my car. That is what I hope for with my car. If I can educate just one person and save him the heartache my husband and our family went through because of breast cancer, all the time and energy I have spent will be worth it.
Breast cancer is not all “pink”. MEN, TOO!