Brownsburg man shares manly side of breast cancer story
When most people think of breast cancer, they think of it being a women's disease. While they are right about 99% of the time, men can get it, too, and the challenges of beating it are just as great.
Darrell Skaggs of Brownsburg is a man's man. Former military, works in security at a large northwest side shipping company. He's got a wife, children, grandchildren and a bad gall bladder. It turns out that the gall bladder may have saved his life.
In March 2010, Darrell woke up with a pain in his side. He figured it was a gall bladder attack and it turned out he was right. The only difference this time was that he would need to have it surgically removed. His doctor ordered more tests, including a CT scan. No one was prepared for what the doctor said next
"He called and said, well, your gall bladder's bad," Darrell said. "But we also found a mass in your left breast."
SEARCH FOR SUPPORT
An ultrasound confirmed that the mass was real and deep in Darrell's body. Five biopsies confirmed that he had cancer - breast cancer. Darrell was 57 years old at the time.
"I was searching for a support group for men and there are none," he said. "I found men who were out there, but they just don't talk about it, and I think that needs to change."
So Darrell set out to change it. He made his own contacts with other male breast cancer survivors, got advice, and tried to draw them out to talk about it more. He became a vocal breast cancer patient, reaching out to friends, neighbors, and even Channel 13. He wrote a letter to our television station to ask that we throw a Summer Outback Steakhouse Block Party in his neighborhood. We did and dozens of breast cancer survivors joined in, including at least one other man from central Indiana.
SPREADING THE WORD
This year, Darrell has a bigger platform. He was one of 11 breast cancer patients, two of whom are men, chosen to take part in the Ford Motor Company's "Warriors in Pink" program. It includes a documentary that will tell his story in his own words. The group is also selling clothing and other items for 2012, which program participants will model on their website. If you buy something that Darrell is wearing, a video of him appears telling about his battle with breast cancer.
"It's going to get a lot of attention," he told me. "And give me a chance to tell men, you know, that this is real stuff."
And it's a story that takes a real man to tell.