These compelling stories come from our heroes – the people who’ve had or been close to this terrible disease. These individuals inspire us to keep going – and to stay on mission until we’ve found a cure. If you have a breast cancer story that you would like to share, please email BFTC@bowl.com.
When most people think of breast cancer, they think of it being a women's disease. While they are right about 99% of the time men can get it too, and the challenges of beating it are just as great. I’m from Brownsburg Indiana. I always thought of myself as a tough guy that can handle anything. I served in the United States Army and work security for a large shipping company in Indianapolis. I have a wife, 2 sons, daughter in law, and 4 beautiful grandchildren. In 2010 I also had a bad gall bladder.
It turns out that the gall bladder may have saved my life. In March 2010, I woke up with a pain in my side. I figured it was a gall bladder attack and it turned out I was right. The only difference this time was that I would need to have it surgically removed. My doctor ordered more tests, including a CT scan. I always try to be prepared for anything but I wasn’t prepared for what the doctor said next. My doctor came in the room and said, “Well your gall bladder's bad, "But we also found a mass in your left breast." An ultrasound confirmed that the mass was real and deep in my body.
Five biopsies confirmed that I had cancer - breast cancer. I was 58 years old at the time. These words stick in my mind even today” I hate to tell you this over the phone but its breast cancer”. In 2012 and 2013 I had the opportunity to spread my message. I was one of 11 breast cancer patients, two of whom are men, chosen to take part in the Ford Motor Company's "Warriors in Pink" program. It included a documentary that tells my story in my own words. We also modeled clothing and other items for 2012 and 2013 that Ford sells to raise money for research. The items I modeled would also have a video of me personally thanking people for their order when the check out. I thank Ford for choosing me to be part of such a rewarding project. This project gave me the opportunity to travel and during my travels I would tell my story to anyone that wanted to listen.
I am now part of the Reach to Recovery program with the American Cancer Society in which a man with breast cancer can contact me if they just want a “guy” to talk too. This is as rewarding for me as it is for them to be able to talk about it. I am in contact with 5 men right now from all over the United States. I speak at events and do interviews as often as I can. It is important to me that men know that this can happen to us and it’s ok to talk about it. Don’t ignore the symptoms!!!!
Tom Retzack - Survivor
Hey, what about us guys! I am a son, a brother, and a husband. I am an insulin dependt brittle diabetic and am a 10 year breast cancer survivor. I have been officiating sports for the better part of 30+ years and am currently working with the Coaches versus Cancer program in our local schools. I am a bowler who has competed in local, state, and national tournaments. The second year I went to Nationals, the team I was on finished 6th overall. Since I am a "lefty", I was fortunate that the cancer was in my right breast, as I could continue to do many of the things I thoroughly enjoyed doing (like bowling). I had to go through mammograms, needle biopsies, and take hormones, just like the girls. When my weekly chemo treatment was over for the day, I would bowl that night and managed to maintain a 200+ average in the three leagues I was bowling in at the time. I had radiation treatments for 33 straight weekdays and at the same time, had 11 weeks of chemo (you see, I was in an advance stage of the cancer). This was all prior to my surgery. I wasn't able to go to the USBC National Tournament that year, as my surgery was only two weeks after our group was going. This spring I will be competing in my 25th USBC tournament.
My surgery took place on March 26, 2004. On May 26, 2004 I was inducted into our local Men's Association Bowling Hall of Fame. The guest speaker for the evening was Walter Ray Williams, Jr. During the course of the year, we were given a chance to win a spot bowling against Walter Ray in a tournament format. Because I was going into the HOF that evening, a friend of mine gave me the spot that he won. It was my first competitive bowling since my surgery. There had to be 50+ people watching my match who knew what I had gone through the past few months. Every time I threw a strike, the people would cheer. Walter Ray had this look on his face like "who's this dude". I didn't let on why the crowd was backing me, but I did beat him 246 to 211. It wasn't until the banquet that night that he realized why everyone was cheering me on...I beat him and I was beating cancer. That same year I was also inducted into our local Softball Hall of Fame...see, real men do wear pink and can also get breast cancer. I've also can say that I rolled a post-cancer 300 game and hopefully there are a few more honor counts in my future. I still continue to bowl in three leagues.
Unfortunately, so many men do not realize that they can be diagnosed with breast cancer. Approximately 2,240 men in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. My wife (who lost her mother to breast cancer two years prior to me being diagnosed) and I try to get the word out because unfortunately, many men may disregard a change in the breast or think it’s nothing.
Rosalind Bartlett – Survivor
My name is Rosalind Bartlett, and I live in Kansas City, Mo. I am a 19-year breast cancer survivor. I bowl in a senior league and I proudly wear my Bowl for the Cure shirt to let others know that there is life after breast cancer.
Susan E. Marple – Survivor
My name is Susan, I became a breast cancer survivor 20 years on Jan 5, 2013. On Jan. 5 1993, the same day I had my last chemo treatment, was also my 50th birthday! It was not the most “fun” 50th birthday celebration of my life, but it was among the most significant.
In the fall of 1992, I went to my PMD for my annual physical. As per my usual, I expected to leave happily after the doctor says “keep up whatever you are doing, you’re doing a great job” and see you next year. Not this time. I had my mammogram and routine blood tests done prior to my visit, as usual, so the doctor would be prepared to discuss how really well I'm doing.
So I was thinking.
The doctor was already sitting with my chart on her desk when I walked into the room. After some light conversation, I'm still waiting for the good words. Not this day. “You had an abnormal mammogram. I've arranged appointments for you to see an oncologist and a surgeon immediately, this week.” What a shocking, unexpected, unpleasant surprise that was! No family history, non-smoker, not overweight, no lumps, no clue! I had the “invasive moderate growing kind”. It was the beginning of a year of physicians, surgeons, chemotherapy, sickness, loss of hair and an overwhelming sense of chronic exhaustion. Cancer is an evil that disrupts families and kills people!
I had a single mastectomy with reconstructive surgery. I was fortunate “they got it all and there was no lymph node involvement”. Everything has a silver lining! I confronted the chemo, not always being a good sport about it, but realizing it as a means to an end. My oncologists and their nurses were Heaven sent. Suddenly, I realized how truly fortunate I was to have the cancer on the OUTSIDE of my body! My chance against recurrence was 98%! I could live with that – for a very long time possibly! I started a workout program so that when it was time to return to work, I could be strong enough to manage my family, together with my sometimes chaotic ER duties and hectic daily schedule.
I eventually returned to work as an RN in a Boston ER. I had been the recipient of outpourings of love and care from church family, family co-workers and friends for the entire previous year. Returning to my life in the real world was exhilarating and exciting. I never asked God “why me” nor did I blame Him for the “lost year” of my life. However, I did thank Him for the renewed life I was enjoying after all was done. Cancer can really make you get your priorities straight – in a hurry!
I am in good health, still have annual physical exams, mammograms and whatever else I’m told to do that is age appropriate. I am happy and I count my blessings daily. Not taking my good health for granted anymore, either!
Pamela Perkins – Friend
I have a dear friend, Kay, who recently has been battling with breast cancer. Kay is in one of our bowling leagues, “Tuesday Express” at Westview Lanes in Waco, Texas. She has been bowling for numerous years, been in bowling tournaments and has been an officer in our league.
Kay is like some women that have never had mammograms nor did she do self-exams. The word breast cancer is such a frightening word. When you hear those words from the doctor – “you have breast cancer” – the first thing comes to your mind is “I am going to die”! There is so much HOPE today though!
It was one of those hot days of Texas when Kay discovered she had a lump in her breast while in the shower. Kay went to the doctor the next day and they did confirm that she did have breast cancer. She has had three surgeries since then. She was praying that they could save her breast but ended up having the mastectomy. The mastectomy is a very dramatic emotional experience for a woman! Kay is thankful for her bowling friends that she received a lot of support. Kay will take the chemo pill for five years.
We are thankful for all the organizations that raise money for breast cancer research and awareness! Especially Bowl for the Cure and the merchandise they sell. Every bit helps!
Thank you so much Untied States Bowling Congress for your ongoing support.
April Kasch – Survivor
I am a wife of 17 years. Together my husband and I have six children, and we have four grandchildren. Everyone in our family loves to bowl, either occasionally or on leagues. I work full time at an electric co-operative and seasonally I prepare taxes. I enjoy bowling and working with the youth bowlers on the weekends. I have served as a director on the local association's board for four years. I have been bowling on and off since 1985.
I was diagnosed on Aug 13, 2010, when I was 47 years old. My cancer was found merely by accident, really. You see both my mother and my little sister have had breast cancer. I have been going for my annual mammograms as early detection is key. In June 2010 when my surgeon found yet another suspicious lump on the left side, he recommended that if the biopsy came back negative again, that maybe I should consider talking with an oncologist to see what kind of preventive measures I could take to help deter the development of cancer. The biopsy in June came back negative and he set me up with an oncologist in July. After discussing my mom and sister's cases, the oncologist ordered a baseline MRI. The MRI showed possible cancer in the right breast, the opposite side that caused the referral to begin with! The oncologist then ordered a biopsy of the area the MRI picked up which was only 1.0 cm in length and approximately .2 cm in diameter! The biopsy was done on Aug 13, 2010 came back positive for invasive ductile carcinoma.
I was referred back to my surgeon to discuss my options. Since the cancer was caught so early, it was small enough to offer me several choices for treatment. Due to my family history, I opted to have both breasts removed. I explained to my doctor that I was a bowler and that there wasn’t anything I loved to do more in life than bowl. I explained to him that the new season would be starting and I had plans of bowling in the nationals tournament that next year. He explained that as long as everything went well, best-case scenario would be no bowling for three to six weeks.
The night before my surgery was the last night I would bowl for a while. That night, I bowled my best game ever – 247 with a 613 series. Woo-hoo! My average at the time was a 169. The next day I told my surgeon I wanted to get a 250 one day so he had to do an awesome job, not just a great job.
The surgery went well. I only stayed in the hospital one day. I had lots of support from family and friends during my recovery; however, I was very anxious to get back to everyday life. So the fourth week after my surgery, I was back bowling! On March 6, 2011, my average had increased to 178. That night I rolled a 258 game/ 618 series. I was so excited! I got that 250 I was shooting for!!