By Tom Paolella
The Two River Times is a 2012 sponsor of “Paint the Town Pink,” an initiative aimed at encouraging annual mammography, presented by Riverview Medical Center. Each week through May 12, the TRT will feature stories and blogs provided by Riverview, focused on communicating the goal to encourage women aged 40 and older to pledge to have their annual mammogram to our readers.
In late 2008, Randy Wilhelm noticed something irregular with his left nipple and simply brushed it under the rug. “I was busy with work, busy with family, and simply didn’t want to address the issue – I ignored the signs my body was trying to tell me,” says Randy. After a year of watching an abscess on the left side of his chest grow in size, and hiding it from his family, Randy finally showed his wife Sandy of 26 years the lump that was protruding from his chest. She immediately convinced Randy to go the Emergency Care Center at Riverview.
Randy is a 45 year-old male breast cancer survivor who proudly supports Paint the Town Pink and does whatever he can to increase awareness about male breast cancer and early detection. A biopsy confirmed the lump on Randy’s chest was in fact a tumor and also confirmed that Randy had Stage 4 breast cancer. “By simply ignoring the signs, the tumor had grown to the size of a lemon in only a year,” says Randy. “My mother died of breast cancer, and if I had only listened to what my body was trying to tell me and heeded my own advice on early detection, this all could have been avoided – I should have known better.”
According to the American Cancer Society, in 2011 about 2,140 cases of breast cancer are expected to occur among men, accounting for about 1 percent of all breast cancers. In addition, approximately 450 men will die from breast cancer. As with any cancer, early diagnosis is the key to survival.
Randy underwent a radical mastectomy of his left breast under the skilled hands of Dr. Debra Camal. The tumor, as well as 23 lymph nodes, were removed and after several rounds of chemotherapy, Randy was given a second lease on life. Randy is now cancer-free for over two years and serves as an advocate for early detection for men and women. “If you don’t think something is right, get it checked out,” says Randy. “If one person benefits from hearing my story, then this was all worth it. Educating the community on early detection is not a male vs. female thing but something that can affect us all.”
Randy credits his wife and his two children Eric, 23 and Samantha, 19, with being the inspiration for his battle through his tough time. “Without my wife, I wouldn’t be here today to tell my story,” says Randy. “Throughout this entire ordeal, the relationship between my wife and children has strengthened beyond belief. My wife and I have a renewed sense of dedication to one another and from this came a new rule in our marriage – no secrets ever again about anything, good or bad.”
Paint the Town Pink 2012 runs from May 4-12. For more information about Paint the Town Pink visit the new website at www.PainttheTownPink.com and be sure to follow Paint the Town Pink on Facebook to see highlights of this year’s campaign and for a complete list of events and activities.