In 2003 Peggy Miller and her husband were relaxing and watching TV when their 17-year-old son Bret asked for some help.
“Here, feel this, mom,” Bret asked while directing Peggy’s hand to his chest, where a pea-sized lump was right under his nipple. Bret and his father would eventually shrug this off as something not too serious, while Peggy wondered if this was breast cancer.
“I thought, oh, is this what they tell us, women, to look for?” Peggy shared. She would keep that thought to herself so as not to alarm anyone – but the thought nagged at her.
For the next seven years, Peggy continued to push Bret to mention this at his annual physicals, including an appointment soon after discovering the lump. Doctors didn’t seem too concerned, but Peggy continued to push.
She pushed so much that at age 24, Bret only asked the doctor to take a look so he could report back to Peggy and “get her off his back”, as he explained it.
After a few tests, the doctor sent Bret to get a mammogram, which felt very unexpected for a young man. The mammogram led to a biopsy, which led to a mastectomy in just 3 weeks time.
Now, over a decade later, Peggy recalls this story with the heaviness a mother carries, knowing something much worse could have happened. Even after seven years, the lump remained at stage zero.
The story could have ended there, but Peggy and her family felt this experience opened up a new calling for them. Until that point, Breast Cancer was something they maybe talked about in October, was something Peggy herself checked for while keeping up to date on mammograms, and they knew to respect the many voices working to raise awareness.
But having lived through a very unconventional experience, they sought to share the word that Breast Cancer is not exclusive to women over 50.
Through that journey, Male Breast Cancer Happens was created. Today, the organization supports a network of 800+ men with breast cancer. The group offers virtual discussions and meetups for emotional support along with once-a-month Q&As with medical professionals who share treatment support and answer questions.
The organization also provides a self-breast exam guide in multiple languages and other helpful resources.
Male Breast Cancer Happens exists to break the stigma surrounding breast cancer in men and to highlight that awareness is for everyone since everyone has breast tissue.
Thinking back to that first encounter with her son, who identified the lump, Peggy has advice for caregivers.
“Listen to them, hear them. And even if you don’t know what to do, figure it out. Network, find the answer.”
To learn more about Male Breast Cancer Happens and to support, visit them below!
Male Breast Cancer Happens Facebook Page