Jim Howey


My job as an NFL official has given me the opportunity to travel around the country, but the best part is the camaraderie and friendships we all have. I was always interested in sports.


In the summer of 2005, I was a 6’4, 210-pound, healthy 53-year-old guy. I had come in from a work out, laid down on the floor, and ran my hands down my chest. I felt a lump in my right breast. I had my wife check the lump too and we decided to get in touch with my physician.


The doctor wasn’t too concerned, he thought the lump could be a cyst or some fatty tissue, but he sent me for a biopsy. I was shocked and in disbelief when I was told I had breast cancer. My first question was, “What is the most aggressive thing we can do?” I didn’t want to take any chances. A mastectomy of my right breast was performed 10 days later. After my surgery I was a little surprised at how flat my chest was. Reconstruction was discussed, but I didn’t want any more surgery. I just wanted to get well and be well. Plus, the surgeon told me reconstruction on a male was really hard to do.


The invasive ductal carcinoma was caught very early. I had four rounds of chemo followed by five years on Tamoxifen. I lost my hair because of the Cytoxan, but that wasn’t a big deal to me. I can see how it would be for women, though. The Tamoxifen gave me some of the same side effects women experience; I had hot flashes and mood swings. Even though I have not participated in genetic testing I realize it could be beneficial to have that information.


Initially I was reluctant to call my illness breast cancer. I would say, “I had a tumor in my chest.” For me, being a man, the idea of breast cancer just didn’t sound right. Maybe if it was called something else it would be easier for men. Being a very private person, it was difficult for me to discuss my illness with anyone other than my family and close friends. 


Every October the NFL goes pink. I’m all for it. We need to continue supporting women. I would like to see more emphasis on male breast cancer and make people aware that men can get breast cancer too. I do think about it. I’ve gone through it. I’ve lived it. Maybe they can give us one blue wristband and one pink wristband. It wouldn’t be a big deal. We could even get the players to do it. Our hats have a pink ribbon. How about one side of the ribbon is blue and the other side pink?


Now I like talking about my diagnosis. I enjoy it and want to make a difference. An odd thing for me is I’ve talked to a lot of women who have been through breast cancer, but never with a man.


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