As the Advisor of the Cancer Research Society’s Major Gifts and Planned Giving department, Réginald Godin is no stranger to cancer. Every day, he talks to some of our most generous donors who were affected by cancer or who’ve lost loved ones to the disease.
Réginald’s story with cancer isn’t only professional. It’s also a personal one.
In 1992, he began to feel a pain in his chest. After a series of inconclusive treatments, he was sent to a specialist who scheduled him for a mammogram.
“I never thought it could be breast cancer. My grandmother had a double mastectomy in the late 1950s and her doctor warned her that her grandchildren could be at risk. At the time, they still believed that cancer skipped a generation. Of the 19 grandkids, I was the only one this happened to and I was a man. It was so unexpected.”
The mammogram revealed anomalies in both of his breasts. His doctor told him that there was a 95% chance that they would develop into cancer by the time he was 50. A preventative lumpectomy was the suggested form of treatment to avoid breast cancer.
“I would keep pushing back the operation because I was scared. I was working a lot at the time and was definitely prioritizing that over my own health. The hospital called and told me that if I didn’t get the procedure before I turned 40, they would have to do a whole new series of tests.”
Between the treatments and trying to determine what it was, it took three years before Réginald got the operation. He openly admits that being a man at risk of developing breast cancer made his decision harder.
“There was lots of gossiping in the mammography waiting room. Many women were complaining about how this was another problem that men would never have to deal with or understand. I couldn’t help but laugh at that, given my circumstances. When they asked why I was laughing, they were dumbfounded by the fact that I was waiting for a mammogram as well.”
Although only 1% of breast cancer patients are men, the mortality rate is often much higher. Réginald thinks the taboo surrounding the diagnosis and the myth of masculinity could be a contributing factor, as it can lead to late diagnoses.
“People are often uncomfortable when I talk about it, but I want men to know that they are also at risk for breast cancer. Men don’t believe it and have a hard time understanding and accepting that they too have breasts and breast tissue. It’s something that’s not brought to the awareness of the general public.”
Réginald was able to outsmart cancer through prevention made possible by research. Had he been the first man diagnosed with breast cancer, the outcome wouldn’t have been the same. Research gave his doctor the awareness that breast cancer can also affect men.
“Research is a reason to live. I see that every day, it’s the survival of the population and it’s our survival. Without research, we can’t move forward and I, for one, want to live healthy until my death. That is something that we can achieve through research. Research gives hope and if we don’t care enough about it, we might just miss something essential to our survival.”
For him, being an everyday cancer hero means taking the time to listen to your body, and to listen to the experts around you.
“Now more than ever, it’s important to take the time to take a break. We need to listen to our bodies’ needs, especially those working from home. Listen to your doctors. If you have a week off, take it. We need to trust research and the importance of the medical field as a whole, those on the front lines just as much as those doing the research.”
Supporting cancer research with a $5 monthly donation has the potential to have an enormous impact on someone’s future. Research is the only way to further the detection, prevention and treatment of all types of cancer.
“It’s important to raise funds for all types of cancers. These causes need to continue. My biggest wish would be for me to lose my job next year because cancer no longer exists and there’s no need for me to process donations. If that were to happen, I would move onto another disease and do it all again, until there’s nothing left to outsmart.”
If, like Réginald, you believe in the power of everyday cancer heroes, please consider making a donation today.