Occupation – Financial Advisor, Senior Vice President at BB&T Scott & Stringfellow, Inc.
Children- Grown daughter and son
When were you diagnosed? August 2015
Bon Secours – St. Mary’s Hospital - mammogram
Henrico Doctor’s Hospital - Surgeon Clifford Deal, MD
Oncologist – Kelly Hagan, MD
How was it found? Nipple discharge
Do you have a family history of breast cancer? No
What gives you your strength?
My family: Nancy, my supportive wife of fifty years; our daughter, Laura Ford, whose smile can brighten the darkest day, and her husband Patrick; our son, Winston Wheeler, who was diagnosed in May 2015 with a Grade IV Glioblastoma and whose courage, determination and strength are truly inspirational, and his wife Lindsey. Our granddaughters, Meredith and Maisie, are unfailing sources of joy.
Something about yourself you want people to know.
Until 2015, I considered cancer -- when I had to consider it at all -- as one of those unlucky plagues that other people had to face. With no past history of cancer in our family and with the only real health issue being my problems with atrial fibrillation and a total knee replacement, I figured we were immune to that sort of problem. Ours is a close-knit family, and everything seemed pretty perfect until May 1, 2015, when our son suffered a seizure and the subsequent scans confirmed a brain tumor – a Grade IV Glioblastoma.
During the traumatic weeks that followed, I experienced the usual stress-related problems – headaches, insomnia, fatigue – and then a bloody nipple discharge. More to appease my wife than myself, I had it checked at Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, where my son was being treated. Telling me they had never seen such discharge in a male, they suggested a cautious “wait and see” course with follow-up if the symptom persisted. When I returned to Richmond, I delayed further action until the annoyance of the discharge led me to Richmond Surgical and a final diagnosis of stage 2 breast cancer and a mastectomy. Knowing that children of cancer patients are at increased risk of developing cancer themselves, I subsequently underwent testing to identify whether or not I passed on a cancer-prone gene, which in my case proved negative.
It is important for every man to realize that though male breast cancer is rare, it does happen, and when it does occur, it is even more lethal than breast cancer in women. Unfortunately, even doctors who are proficient in treating women’s breast cancer don’t necessarily recognize the symptoms in males. Men must be their own advocates. If something is out of the ordinary, whether it is a lump or discharge or pain, it shouldn’t be ignored.
For my part, I quickly returned to work full-time as a financial advisor, a career I have pursued for 35 years. I go hard – continuing to push myself. I work out regularly and frequently head to Virginia Beach where gym regimens, biking and beach walks are part of our daily routine. My wife and I travel extensively with our passports currently sporting 111 countries. We particularly enjoy travel in remote areas like Sri Lanka, southern Chile, Myanmar, Borneo, and areas where I can scuba dive, most recently in the Maldives, or tackle a challenge, like diving with the great white sharks in South Africa. Two months after my mastectomy, we toured Peru, a strenuous trip that culminated with our visit to Machu Picchu.
Cancer is a harsh teacher with gentle lessons: Every day is precious. Every occasion when we can spend time with those we love is a blessing. Life is too full of opportunities to succumb to fear or to withdraw. Family and friends bolster our spirits and strengthen our resolve in countless ways. It is more important to focus on gratitude than to count all that cancer destroys.
One person CAN make a difference......be that person