Eric Pieszala is speaking out about his journey fighting breast cancer with the intent to raise awareness about breast cancer in males, and that although it is rare, it is possible. His honest story of courage and love encourages everyone that they are never alone in their fight.
The first time I’ve ever heard of men getting breast cancer was when I was in elementary Catholic school and our priest found out he had it. My mom was shocked because we had thought men couldn’t get it. I remember my mom having a women’s breast self-examination card on the shower for a while at home. She would once in a blue moon tell us to check ourselves and look for lumps. We never had any cancer scares in the family before, so we watched, but we weren’t too concerned.
All my life I’ve been a bit overweight and when I was a teenager I developed “man boobs.” I’ve also had cystic acne as well. So, every once in a while, I would find a bump here or there, it would grow, maybe cause some pain, but eventually disappear. Well last fall I developed a lump in my left breast. I thought it was just another cystic acne forming, so I didn’t worry. My wife on the other hand said to call the doctor. I said we’ll just wait a bit and see what happens.
For the remainder of the year she pushed, and I ignored. In the spring of 2018, my wife and I started going through MAP classes to foster and adopt. One of the requirements for the class is to get a physical. My wife scheduled the appointment and told them about the lump. My doctor checked it but said it was a cyst but to get an ultrasound to make sure. So, after a few weeks of putting it off I finally got it done and they found that it was a fleshy mass not fluid. My doctor decided that I needed to have a biopsy. Well you can guess what happened.
It was a very hard week for my wife and me. We were told that I had stage 2 breast cancer and that it had reached one of the lymph nodes. We didn’t know what to do.
My wife found a support group on Facebook for us and the head of the group, Peggy Miller, called us that day and talked to us about her son’s experience with breast cancer. The Male Breast Cancer Coalition was a big help to us during this time. A month later I had both breasts removed along with the lymph nodes in my left armpit. Recovering at home was rough.
Being a guy, there were so many things I wanted to take care of but I couldn’t. The hardest part was dealing with the drainage tubes. I had to sleep in a recliner, shower very carefully, and have my wife milk and empty them. The recovery shirts that the Coalition gave us and the pouches that my wife made to hold the drainage tubes while I showered helped with the recovery process.
The drainage tubes are gone but the scars will always be there. I look at them as a battle wound. A battle I fought and survived, and many men have valiantly fought and lost but will always be remembered.
After 4 month of horrible chemo treatments and 5-weeks of radiation I thought I was done. Then September of 2019, right after my wife and I decided to try fostering again, I was told that the cancer had come back in my lungs as metastatic cancer. At this time, I am still waiting for treatments due to issues between doctors and insurance, and our dreams of fostering are once again on hold.
This is something I will always be fighting, but I know I do not fight it alone. And as I told Peggy Miller and others that I have met over the past year, I want to be a voice for male breast cancer. God is getting me through this and now I want to warn others. It’s a disease that dominates women but in 2019, they expect 2,670 men to be diagnosed in the nation. Breast cancer in men is a rare disease. Less than 1% of all breast cancers occur in men. For men, the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer is about 1 in 833. Even with those statistics, so many men still believe that men CANNOT get breast cancer. I want to be a voice to men to check, go to your doctors, and make sure they get it in time!
MEN: CHECK YOUR BOOBIES!!!