Before, during and after my bone marrow cancer diagnosis, good friend and business partner, Bruce Jesse, was always there for me. Supportive and upbeat, Bruce covered for me while I underwent radiation and chemotherapy. He helped pick-up-the-slack in our real estate business. Bruce’s wife, Susan, helped my wife, Pattie, at home and at the office. Bone damage caused by my cancer was (and still is) painful. But cold Wisconsin winters made things worse; the pain became unbearable for me.
So when we decided to head south and move to Florida, Bruce’s son, Eric, helped us pack and move things too heavy for me to lift.
Good friends and a great family! That was four years ago. Pattie and I are settled and living happily in Florida, although we really miss our old friends in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Bruce and I email back and forth occasionally, and we try to see them each fall when we head back up-north to see a University of Wisconsin and/or Green Bay Packer football game.
So I was surprised to learn that my longtime friend had been diagnosed with cancer, too. Skin cancer or colon cancer? Nope. Some type of blood cancer like me; maybe leukemia or non-Hodgkins lymphoma? Wrong again.
Bruce called me (after his therapy was complete) to tell me he had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I sat stunned as he told me how he had found an odd lump in his chest, sought-out a specialist and had a mastectomy at Mayo Clinic several months before.
As I processed the unsettling news, a number of things flashed through my mind. I was indescribably thankful that he was doing well and apparently the cancer is gone–hopefully for good. But I was also disappointed that I couldn’t have been there for Bruce like he–and his family–had been there for me.
It turns-out Bruce had called for two reasons; to fill-me-in on his cancer journey, and to let me know that his family would be visiting California at the same time Pattie and I were scheduled to meet a publisher in Los Angeles.
In a former life, Bruce had lived and worked in L.A. as a music company executive. His adult daughter still lives there now. How fortunate he would be staying with her ten minutes away from us. Small world!
So I decided to extend our trip and make time to see him. Not just to reminisce and joke about old times, but to interview Bruce, Susan and Eric for a series of articles I was working on about the real faces of breast cancer.
I was so struck by Bruce’s journey that I decided to narrow the focus of my series to men with breast cancer. Bruce graciously agreed to allow me to interview him and his family for my expose’; an up-close and personal look at one of the unexpected faces of breast cancer.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I would like to go back and examine why I think telling the story of men like Bruce is important. So that’s where I’ll pick-things-up next week.
Feel good and keep smiling! Pat