Dazed, I patiently waited for clarity to return. As the mental fog slowly receded, I was somewhere else – somewhere in a far off foreign land.
Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, I stood gazing out at the aftermath of the storm. Inside my head Dorothy’s voice echoed, Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.
Plucked from my comfortable reality, I was battered by a whirlwind of emotions triggered by my diagnosis. Breast cancer? But I’m a man!
My emotions rose to the forefront, Where was I? How did I get here? How do I get back home – back to me? I tried to click my heels together, but my feet refused to move. Desperately I looked for Dorothy. She could help me get back home. But no one was in sight. In the eerie stillness I realized I was now in the Land of Breast Cancer. And I felt alone.
Surveying my new surroundings, I confronted a pink world sprinkled with the blue debris of my shattered reality. The bewildered inhabitants, all draped in pink ribbons, cautiously came forward. They gaped in astonishment at who stood before them.
In my pre-cancer days, I happily connected with the pink of October. I heartily gave to all who supported Breast Cancer Awareness. This disease had too many women in its poisonous grip. But this changed in 2007 when I became a member of this family and a reluctant citizen of the Land of BC. My senses expanded as I faced this disease drenched in pink. I frantically searched its topography for traces of blue.
Cancer’s recurrence in 2010 plunged me deeper into this land of pink. I felt even more disconnected. I was a stranger in a strange land. Where was the Good Witch of the East to guide me back home? I did my best to blend in.
Yet each October I was overwhelmed by tides of pink. My lone blue raft struggled against the towering swells of pink ribbons bearing no hint of blue. My sails were worn and tattered by the gales of an awareness campaign directed at early detection in women. What about the men? What about those living with Metastatic Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer does not discriminate. It pays no attention to one’s race, religion, or sex. And even when we are told that it has left us, it can lie hidden, waiting to resurface.
Finding my place in the Land of BC took time. It was a journey to discover my voice, a quest to secure a lifeline of support, and a determination to find me once more. Eventually I saw my responsibility to own my place, to vocalize my presence, and to find strength in sharing my story. The struggles and embarrassment of being a man with breast cancer are still raw in my psyche, but like the courageous women before me, I call out for validation.
For those of us in the Metastatic and Male Breast Cancer families, it is we who now seek understanding, recognition, and a place at the Awareness Table.
We are one voice, one family, one community demanding action for more funding, more research, and more effective therapies for ALL.
Our road of brick is not just pink, but one with hints of blue and the color black of Metastatic BC. Together we follow this path to Oz: it is our way back home, back to a life where cancer is a distant memory.
And this October as I gaze out at what lies before me, I hear that familiar voice exclaim, Toto, we’re not in Pinktober anymore.
Recognizing that voice as mine, I smile and proudly declare, “No, we’re not in Pinktober anymore!”
And I swear that I can hear the sound of my heels clicking together.