Art Maust was helping a buddy work on his house when he felt a twinge in his chest, and was surprised to feel a lump when he touched the spot. The lump never went away, but it didn’t really bother him so he ignored it–for several years.
It was in 2008 that Art was driving to the doctor for his annual physical when something caught his eye. “It was October, so I saw pink ribbons and signs for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I remember thinking I should ask her about this lump, strictly because of seeing the pink stuff.”
By Thanksgiving, Art found himself getting a biopsy and although he knew it was a possibility, he was surprised to hear the surgeon say, “Well, you’re one of those rare men. You have breast cancer.” According to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, some 2,470 men are diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States each year and 460 men die from it annually.
Art followed the doctor’s recommendations to have a mastectomy, and four rounds of chemotherapy. “Emotionally, I remember how demoralizing it was to worry about my health,” Art says. “Then I realized how much harder women have it. I take my shirt off and I have a scar, but nothing compared to what women have to go through with a mastectomy.” When Art began examining his family tree, he realized he had relatives on both sides who had died from breast cancer. He decided to go through genetic testing, which showed he did not carry the breast cancer gene. “That made me feel relief for my daughter Jennifer” he said.
Still, many men do feel a stigma being diagnosed with breast cancer, and Art understands because he’s been through that emotional roller coaster. Nine years after his initial diagnosis, Art is happy to share his story and help raise awareness about breast cancer for both men and women. Although he has yet to meet another male breast cancer survivor, he has offered to share his story with other men through Susan G. Komen Northwest Ohio.
“I was lucky,” Art says. “There are a lot of people not as lucky as I am—men and women. You have to do what you can.”
Since 2009, Art has attended Race for the Cure with his wife Pat—and usually some friends as well—proudly wearing the pink shirt identifying him as a breast cancer survivor. This year was no exception. He considers it a duty—and a privilege—to raise money and awareness to fight breast cancer.
“Men need to know it’s possible for them to get breast cancer, so I’m proud to wear the pink. I consider myself extremely fortunate. That thing was in there for years. I count my blessings that there was a pink ribbon on display between my house and the doctor’s office that day.”