One of the most overlooked aspects of breast cancer, in its sea of pink, is that breast cancer doesn't just affect women. It's a fact that Connecticut couple Gerard and Meg Campion understand all too well.
In 2006, after noticing a strange blister on his chest, Gerard was diagnosed with male breast cancer, which surgery revealed had spread to three lymph nodes.
"I remember thinking, he's not supposed to have this. I am," Meg said.
The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 2,000 men in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014. But because men constitute such a small portion of the breast cancer community (less than 1 percent of all breast cancer patients, according to the National Cancer Institute), men aren't as educated about the disease as women. In a recent study, 80 percent of men had no idea that they could even develop breast cancer. And for those men with breast cancer, many are diagnosed late, which leads to higher mortality rates.
"I think a lot of times when we talk with people about breast cancer, mainly because the amount of press that female breast cancer gets, that men feel like this is not something that could happen to them," said Dr. Harold Tara, an oncologist at the Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut.
Which is why Gerard, a father of two and grandfather, is determined to raise awareness by talking about his battle. A recent golf outing for his 62nd birthday, where Gerard played 62 holes of golf to honor the occasion, raised thousands of dollars for male breast cancer research.
"I have this opportunity to talk about it, to hopefully alleviate fears that people have, to talk about men, to get them to watch themselves," Gerard said.
Three years after Gerard's diagnosis, Meg herself was diagnosed with breast cancer. "Everything was in sight, meaning it had not traveled to any lymph nodes," Meg said. After a lumpectomy and radiation, Meg was declared cancer-free.
"We're just moving forward and dealing and concentrating on [Gerard]," Meg said.
That's because in 2011, Gerard was diagnosed with breast cancer again. This time, doctors learned that Gerard's cancer had spread to his spine, ribs and hips. Doctors told the couple that Gerard's cancer wasn't curable, but it is manageable.
"The cancer's at some point going to get me," Gerry said. "And it's going to take a while to get me because I ain't gonna let it get there."
"Simply put, he's my hero," Meg said.