Wife raises profile of male breast cancer
Walkersville woman hopes to change stigma for men who suffer from disease
Originally published October 22, 2009 - Walkersville Gazette

by Courtney Pomeroy | Staff Writer

Cathy Reid is tired of pink. She has no problem with the intentions behind Breast Cancer Awareness ribbon; it's
the color she has reservations about.

Reid, of Walkersville, prefers a ribbon she helped create — a pink one on top of a blue one. It is the trademark
of her organization, Out of the Shadow of Pink, which she started with her husband after he was diagnosed with
breast cancer in 2005. He has since died.

Reid works everyday to help spread public awareness about male breast cancer and aims to eventually make
the third week in October Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week.

Though the disease is much rarer in men, The National Cancer Institute predicts 1,910 new diagnoses of male
breast cancer and 440 deaths from the disease for 2009.

"I sit here and watch TV, the majority of these shows don't say anything about men," Reid said, waving an arm
at a television tuned to CBS talk show "The Doctors." She said she was angry when the show recently called
breast cancer a woman's disease. "Give me a break, guys," she said. She promptly wrote a letter to the show, as
well as to Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey.

The mortality rate for men with breast cancer is much higher than it is for women, mostly because there is so
little awareness that men can contract it, and as a result few men practice prevention methods, Reid said. Her
husband, Joe, died at age 47 last September after a three-year battle with breast cancer. He initially thought a
lump he found was a weightlifting injury and already had an advanced stage of breast cancer before he was

"He knew he had the lump for a while, didn't think a thing of it," she said, "because he did not know."

Even Reid, who had her own mammograms done "religiously" and had heard of the male form of the disease
through working at a hospital didn't immediately think of breast cancer as a possibility for her husband. When
he was diagnosed "everybody was shocked," she said of the reaction from friends and family. None of them
knew men could get breast cancer, she said.

Everyone's shock at her husband's diagnosis and the public ignorance of the disease were the main reasons she
started Out of the Shadow of Pink, she said. One method of getting the message out there is through her
trademark pink-and-blue ribbon, which she designed.

"Embarrassment over what is perceived as a woman's disease is a huge problem," said Reid, who hopes the new
"Connect" portion of her Web site (www.outoftheshadowofpink.com) will bring together men who are looking
for support. She said when Joe was diagnosed in 2005, they found no local support groups for male breast
cancer patients and none of the male patients she talks to through the site are willing to attend support groups
comprised only of women.

Although she knows the embarrassment is a serious issue, Reid chuckled at the memory of her husband having
"a cow" when he was given a pink gown at his initial mammogram. "All of the brochures and breast cancer
material we received were always emblazoned with the pink ribbon" as well, she said.

Reid's organization hosts fundraising events and she is in the process of collecting signatures for a proclamation
to make the third week in October Male Breast Cancer Awareness week in Maryland.

At her events, she tries to get the word out while raising money for Dr. Leisha Emens of the Johns Hopkins
Kimmel Cancer Center, who "develops and tests active vaccination strategies for breast cancer treatment,"
according to the center's Web site.

Reid said if her husband were still alive, he would probably have two pieces of advice for men.

"No. 1, if you find anything unusual, have it checked out right away," she said. She suggests that men, especially
those 40 or older, or with a family history of breast cancer, do monthly breast self-exams just like the ones
women are encouraged to complete regularly. "If you're uncomfortable with it, have your wife do it — she knows
how," she said.

Secondly, he would also say, "‘Just know that this can happen to you, too,'" Reid said.

E-mail Courtney Pomeroy at cpomeroy@gazette.net.
Male Breast Cancer Awareness Ribbon
Male Breast Cancer Awareness