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Friday, June 7, 2013

Ft. Thomas Man Undergoes Double Mastectomy; Raises Awareness for Male Breast Cancer

When I was writing for The Hilltopper at Highlands, I remember our teacher Mrs. Birkley gave us an assignment to write a feature story on one of our classmates. That seems like a pretty simple assignment until you start asking your classmates questions:

"So, uh. How was your summer?"

"It was okay. We went to the Swim Club a lot."

"That's cool. Umm. How good are those Slush Puppies there?"

"Awesome. The Moo Malts are really good too."

"Haha, yeah. Yeah. Umm. Yeah."

The point of the assignment was to ask probing questions. An important arrow in any young journalists' quiver. Everyone has something interesting to say or an intriguing story to tell. My interview was with a younger classmate of mine, with whom I was not really familiar. I had no connection to her. I didn't know what she liked to do or how she spent her summer, so I started down the path where any normal person would start. I asked her about her family.

"Well," she started. "My father was diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of the school year last year. They caught it pretty late. I spent my summer taking care of him and he died about a month ago."

I was speechless. What do I say to her? Do I keep going with the assignment? Do I hug her? And breast cancer? I thought that was only something that women could contract.

Obviously, not so. Her father had gotten breast cancer and he had died. That assignment taught me a lot more about life than it did about Journalism.

Fort Thomas resident, Steve Del Gardo went through a similar experience this past year.

Starting in April of last year, while he was taking a shower, Del Gardo felt a lump on his chest. He immediately called his doctor and was sent to the Wellness Center for Women.

"Really?" Del Gardo wrote in telling his story. "Shouldn't have it read Wellness Center for Men and Women?"

Mid April 2012: Biopsy.
End April 2012: Biopsy results. Determined benign.
October 2012: The lump had not disappeared.

"So a little voice in my head told me to get back to the doctor ASAP," Del Gardo said. "I went back to the Wellness Center for Women again to fill out those forms again. They never changed the forms to accommodate male patients. Go figure"

Doctor schedules surgery to remove lump. It's cancer. Breast cancer and a double mastectomy needed to be scheduled for November.

November 28, 2012: Surgery
January 13 2013: Chemotherapy.
March 7, 2013: Last day of treatment.

When you put it all down like that, it seems pretty cut and dry. For Steve Del Gardo and many other men, the raw emotions from day 1 until the rest of your life can be the scariest you'll experience. Steve's doing great now and he's doing something to help other's go through the same process he did.

Enter Protect the Pecs. (Protect the Pecs Facebook page)

"It was after my second treatment while I was resting on my couch that I heard a voice in my heard telling me that I needed to start a male breast cancer foundation," said Del Gardo. "A wave of good feeling swept over my body and I know it wasn't just the anti-nausea meds or Vicodin; it was as through I realized that forming the foundation would be my calling; my destiny."

Saturday, June 15th, Del Gardo is hosting a Protect the Pecs, Male Breast Cancer Awareness Party at Mio's. The Carter New Band will be playing.

Dave Kraus, Del Gardo's friend is helping to organize the event. "Since we are in the beginning stages of forming this foundation, (the event at Mio's) is just an awareness event," he said. "Our goal for this event is to pack Mio’s and bring Male Breast Cancer awareness to our community.  Once we get everything finalized with the government we will begin our fund raising campaigns for awareness and research."

See you at Mio's next Saturday.

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