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Komen’s survivor of the year Jim Berry tells a man's side of breast cancer battle

September 8, 2013 Updated: September 8, 2013 at 9:51 pm
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photo - Nancetta Westcott, , event executive director, with Jim Berry, breast cancer survivor. Berry says his goal is to get the word out to men that they can get breast cancer and need to be self aware. (Monica Mendoza, The Gazette)
Nancetta Westcott, , event executive director, with Jim Berry, breast cancer survivor. Berry says his goal is to get the word out to men that they can get breast cancer and need to be self aware. (Monica Mendoza, The Gazette) 

Standing on main stage in Garden of the Gods Park on Sunday along side hundreds of women wearing pink "survivor" T-shirts was Jim Berry.

He had on his pink T-shirt too.

Berry, 47, is a breast cancer survivor and he told his story to the 5,000 walkers and runners at the 19th annual Southeastern Colorado Susan G. Komen Race for Cure event.

It was shocking getting the diagnosis of breast cancer, he said. His friends and coworkers couldn't believe it either. People don't think of men getting breast cancer. But they do, he said.

"I had to lift up my shirt and show my friend I was missing one breast," he said. "Awareness about breast cancer for men is lacking."

Breast cancer in men is rare. This year about 2,000 men in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer. About 390 will die, according to the American Cancer Society.

The small numbers means it's not as talked about in men's circles, Berry said. Talking about breast cancer with men is what it must have been like for women 20 years ago.

One year ago, he felt a lump in the right side of his chest. The then 46-year-old thought he pulled a muscle until the pain was too much to take. When he was diagnosed it was stage 4 breast cancer. That means cancer has spread to tissue and organs. In Berry's case, it spread to his bones.

Statistics showed he could live six months to two years. Berry said he told his doctor, "let's go, let's get after it."

He took four months of "hardcore" chemotherapy and then three months of radical preventive radiation treatments. His face swelled up, he was weak. He lost his hair. But now, he's making a comeback. "The attitude is the biggest thing," he said.

And now he talks about his experience and shares information with his buddies on the golf course. He's not afraid to talk about breasts, the chest, the bosom, he said.

He was named the 2013 El Paso County honorary survivor of the year.

"Just be self aware," he said. "Tough guys need to go to the doctor too."

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