Dec. 7, 1950 – May 26, 2017
Marlyn had been a diabetic for many years. Unsatisfied with his current PCP (doctor), he switched to Pat’s doctor. The first A1c blood test revealed an elevated alkaline phosphatase which the doctor said could include the gallbladder or liver. He ordered an ultrasound. This was quickly followed by an MRI, PET/CT scan, bone survey, biopsies of the breast and liver and finally a brain MRI. These tests were over a month-long period. The result was “metastatic Stage 4 breast cancer” of his left breast. It had already metastasized into the liver, lungs, adrenal glands, lymph nodes, bones, and brain. His cancer was Estrogen positive, Progesterone negative and HER2 positive. The chemo cocktail chosen included Perjeta, Herceptin and Taxotere. He also had radiation on his right clavicle and took targeted radiation on 7 of the 8 tumors in his brain. The 8th was on his brain stem. He refused radiation on that.
Not knowing any other man with breast cancer, Marlyn and Pat assumed it could not happen. Marlyn’s oldest daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer two years prior to Marlyn’s diagnosis. Her genetic test results came back as “Origin Unknown. Possibly Environmental”. She encouraged her siblings to get tested, but we did not see a need for Marlyn to be tested. After his diagnosis, his blood was drawn for the test, but it wasn’t until the last day of his life. His results came back as “Negative”.
Marlyn had symptoms, but neither of us were concerned about them. His right arm and shoulder had been in extreme pain for several months. We assumed he had strained a muscle while golfing. The bone survey revealed that the cancer had spread to his bones, including the clavicle and spine. Radiation completely stopped this pain.
The oncologist felt a lump in his left breast near the nipple. When asked if he’d ever noticed it before, he said he didn’t remember. He said if he would have felt it, he would have assumed it was another lipoma. (A lipoma is a non-cancerous fatty mass under the skin. Very common in both men and women.) Marlyn had two or three lipomas.
The oncologist asked if I had noticed a change in his personality. At the time, I told her I had not. After the fact, I can say I should have noticed changes. He was always very kind and loving to me, but the past two years his temper seemed to flare at times. One day while driving he was at a red light but was given a green arrow to turn. He refused to turn saying the light made “no sense”. It was one we drove through often. Now I can see that the tumors were probably already in his brain back then.
Marlyn died just five months after his diagnosis. I took his 2014 Dodge Dart, the last car he ever bought, and turned it into a moving billboard. On the sides it says, “Breast Cancer Does NOT Discriminate…MEN TOO”. Marlyn’s picture from our last Christmas together is on the hood. As of this writing, October 2023, I have driven the MarlynMobile over 101,000 miles around the USA visiting our men, their loved ones, and raising awareness about breast cancer in men.