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Research Is the Reason I Can Advocate for Others

By BCRF | June 13, 2023

When Andre Martins was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer, he had no idea that men could get the disease

Andre Martins, 52, was shocked when he was diagnosed with breast cancer last November. He had no idea men could get the disease. His first thought was, “Am I going to die?”

“I was numbed, to be honest. I just remember thinking how I’d tell my kids and my husband,” he said.

One day, Andre felt a soreness in his chest that he’d never experienced before. He had a gut feeling that something was off in his body. After multiple doctor visits where he was told everything was ok he decided to dig deep into his skin, and he found a lump. Andre had a family history of cancer—his mom had passed away from ovarian cancer and other family members died from different forms—so he thought it might be some type of cancer, but never imagined it could be breast. An ultrasound, mammography, and biopsy though confirmed it.

“I didn’t know what to think,” he said. “There was no way to know, but I didn’t think it was breast cancer.”

After keeping the news to himself for a few days, he told his husband, Craig. For Andre, one of the hardest parts of the whole experience was figuring out how to tell his kids Juliana, 25, Anna-Claire, 23, and Nicholas, 21 about the diagnosis. He had surgery scheduled for early January. The winter holidays felt like a good time, since his kids lived across the country, but he decided to wait so they could have a perfect Christmas together. After the holidays, he broke the news.

“I’m usually very blunt and I tell people things,” he said. “I did not have the courage to tell them, but I didn’t want to go into surgery without sharing, so I called them as a family.”

Then he had to face telling other people.

“I felt a little bit ashamed and thought that people were going to judge me for having breast cancer and being a man,” he said.

So, he wrote an article to tell his friends and family about the diagnosis. While he felt embarrassed, he knew he was starting treatment soon and didn’t want to hide it from people anymore.

“I decided to write that essay to make me feel comfortable and to stop thinking about embarrassment and instead focus on my treatment,” he said. “I went from being embarrassed to tell everyone to telling everyone.”

He had a lumpectomy in January 2022, then four rounds of chemotherapy, and 15 rounds of radiation. Now, for the next five years, he is on hormone therapy. His treatment wasn’t easy, and it took a toll on him mentally and physically.

“I was the poster child of all the side effects. My doctor told me I got them all,” he said.

While there’s always a possibility for recurrence, Andre feels like he’s in good shape because his breast cancer was found early—and he had the best outcome.

“I’m a fighter,” he said. “I went through some hardships in my life, and this was the toughest thing I have done.”

Male breast cancer is rare, and Andre wasn’t alone in not knowing men could have breast cancer. So, he hopes to do something about that.

“I decided I’m going to turn my embarrassment into advocacy and create awareness of my situation so other guys will be able to perform self-exams and do whatever it takes so this doesn’t happen to another person,” he said.

Andre credits research for making today’s treatments possible, but he hopes for a future with even more progress.

“I hope, through research, that we can find a cure, and, most importantly, ways of preventing this disease, so about 300,000 women and 2,700 guys don’t have to go through this every year,” he said. “Through research, they can find a cure for breast and other cancers.”

Read more stories from BCRF’s Research Is the Reason storytelling initiative here.