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Buddy to Buddy: Men and Breast Cancer

A breast cancer survivor from Windham shares his story in the hope of helping other men.

WINDHAM, Maine — About five and a half years ago, John Fecteau of Windham was taking a shower when he noticed a small, marble-like lump under the skin of the left side of his chest.  Having already survived prostate cancer, he wasted no time putting in a call to his doctor. Fecteau says, "He looked at it and said, we better have a mammogram.  I had no idea men could even have a mammogram," Further testing confirmed that it was breast cancer, and that it had already spread to one lymph node. 

According to the American Cancer Society, men account for less than one percent of all breast cancer cases.  But, of course, that doesn't mean it can be ignored. "It was going to spread if I didn't do anything about it," says Fecteau, "I might not be sitting here, who knows."

Fecteau underwent a double mastectomy and radiation therapy.  After getting a second opinion, he decided to forego chemotherapy. He says that part of his story highlights the importance of second, or even third, medical opinions.

Like many survivors, Fecteau says his battle with cancer reminded him how precious life is.  As soon as he finished treatment, Fecteau and his wife traveled to New Zealand to visit his brother, and then to Virginia to visit with other family members. "It makes you more aware of your family. Your friends," he says, "How important it is to try to be a blessing to somebody else."   

While he was receiving treatment in Boston, Fecteau and his wife stayed at the Hope Lodge, a home away from home for patients and their caregivers, provided free of charge by the American Cancer Society.  It was an experience for which Fecteau says he was very grateful. "It’s a wonderful place to meet people and just strike up a conversation with them," he says, "You learn a lot about their story and their courage to face whatever they’re facing."

To give back, Fecteau has organized a charity golf tournament and this month is participating in the Real Men Wear Pink campaign, raising money for the organization that was there for him when he needed it most.  "Life is not a given," he says, "It is a blessing. We're here for a purpose."