MASON, Oh. - The Westshore Pizza and Cheesesteaks logo on Mike Shroder’s red work shirt isn’t the only badge he wears near his heart.
Another identifier lies below the fabric, forever fused with his skin: blue script with a pink ribbon wrapped around the end of the message that reads “Cure.”
“I just felt like I’d do something to spit at it,” Shroder said of his first tattoo, a reminder he had inked in Portland, Maine, after he finished treatment for breast cancer.
Shroder, of Mason, was on vacation with his wife Patty Stump in Florida when he first noticed what he thought was an infected hair above his nipple. He made an appointment with his doctor when the bump wouldn’t go away.
It was November 2006 when he saw a radiologist who confirmed the bump was actually breast cancer.
“I said ‘How many guys have you seen this year?’ and she said ‘You.’ And I said ‘I guess I’m the lucky one.’”
After that, Shroder had a mastectomy. For him the surgery and recovery were “as easily as it could possibly get.”
But Shroder’s family wasn’t done with breast cancer. A call came saying Stump had it, too.
- The American Cancer Society estimates that about 2,240 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in men in 2013 versus the 232,340 cases to be diagnosed in women.
- About 410 men are projected to die from breast cancer according to American Cancer Society statistics versus and estimated 39,620 deaths in women.
- Breast cancer is also 100 times less common among men than women, which is partially why Stump describes her experience as very different from her husband’s.
“I think the emotional part of it was so different for him than it was for me. I think the treatment was very different, too,” Stump said.
Treatment seemed to be geared more toward women than men, she said, something Shroder echoed.
“Every time I’d go down there they’d give me something,” he recalled, referring to a time when he jokingly asked for a Cincinnati Bengals striped folder over a pink one. “I said ‘All I ever see down here is pink, don’t you have one masculine thing?’”
The couple were both treated at the University of Cincinnati Barrett Health Center. They remain involved with Bosom Buddies, a group that helps men cope with breast cancer, and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Greater Cincinnati affiliate.
The couple takes part in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure each year too, walking in the line for survivors together.
“The first year they were like, ‘This is the line for survivors,’ and he was like ‘I am a survivor,’” Stump said.
“There were three or four people who said ‘You can’t sit with you wife, this is for survivors only,’” Shroder added. “I’m a survivor. It’s written on my shirt.”