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08-16-15   My Journey With Breast Cancer, Healing Within with Michael W. Kovarik

Michael was an elementary teacher for thirty-four years. His passage with breast cancer began in 2007. It was with a second diagnosis in 2010 that Michael embarked on this journey to heal within. Michael continues his journey in Greenwich, New York, where he lives with his partner, Tim, and their dogs, Polar and Macy.

The doctor’s words hung in the air. I couldn’t wrap my head around them. Breast Cancer…but I’m a man…men don’t get breast cancer…do they? In late 2006 I discovered a lump on my left breast. At my yearly physical my GP recommended I have it removed-it was most likely a cyst. Fear took control and I decided to wait. I didn’t have to wait long. Within a few weeks my left nipple was inverted and off to the surgeon I went. There I was in January 2007 receiving the news. For the next four and a half years I dealt with surgeries, a major decision to either having surgery to remove my left nipple or radiation, Tamoxifen, mammograms, the BRCA 2 gene, more doctors, and a struggle with body image. I focused on that magical five-year mark when I would be done with cancer, the drugs, and the struggle.

As you can see denial was my partner. But in 2010 a second occurrence of the cancer was discovered. I had a hard time wrapping my head around this disease the first time and this time it was more defined. “How?” I kept asking myself. How could this be-I’ve been going to the doctors, the blood work, the Tamoxifen, and the cancer returned? How?

My new oncologist stated that they really did not know what to do with men who have been on Tamoxifen and the cancer returned. I was put on a stronger drug and a six and a half week therapy of radiation. Within a week of the drug’s introduction to my body, the noted side effects made their presence known. For the next few months an intense struggle with the drug’s effects on my body and psyche ensued. I was losing me in this endeavor. Eventually I made the decision to heal on my terms. What unfolded was a passage where I crossed paths with some remarkable, gentle, and healing souls. I delved into yoga, Reiki, acupuncture, connected with a physician who focused on an integrative approach to energy medicine, I paired up with a homeopathic doctor, and became aware of any anger and resentment that I held on to. I discovered my inner voice. In this path I understood that I needed to travel through my inner emotional maze, connect with my spiritual self, and heal within before I could heal from the cancer.

In November 2012 after leaving an elementary teaching career that spanned thirty-four years, I sat down and wrote about my passage with male breast cancer. In June 2014 my book, Healing Within: My Journey with Breast Cancer was published. Now my journey is to heighten awareness of this disease, strive to have male breast cancer a comfortable topic of discussion, and to encourage our medical community to realize the importance of this malady and to see if effective treatments differ between men and women.

I am a male breast cancer survivor and I am not just surviving, I am thriving.

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