Many people know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Many fewer know that this is Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week.
In fact, most people don’t know that men can even develop — and die from — the disease.
Nicholas Sadler knew none of that. A Westport resident — an actor/ filmmaker who worked with Ray Romano on “95 Miles to Go” — his journey to documenting the disease began in 2012. A close friend’s mother became one of more than 40,000 women who die from breast cancer each year.
Sadler wanted to go beyond awareness-raising. He decided to delve into what happens after diagnosis: telling friends and family members, meeting with oncologists, dealing with chemo and the minutiae of daily life.
He thought it was a project for women and their loved ones. But then Sadler was introduced to a Connecticut man who had just received his own breast cancer diagnosis.
Bill Becker was the 1st breast cancer sufferer Sadler met. Just 42 years old — with 6 kids, a great job and a wonderful life — his world turned upside down when a funny lump in his chest was finally biopsied.
Becker felt so isolated and stigmatized, he could not even tell friends and colleagues what kind of cancer he had.
There were no support groups for men. Even a medical receptionist was surprised that he — not his wife — was the patient.
The incidence of breast cancer in men is less than 1% that of women. Research on male breast cancer is almost non-existent. Last year for the first time, genetic differences were observed between women and men with the disease.
Even the nomenclature is confusing, Sadler says. “People wonder, do men have breasts?”
Becker — generous and warm-hearted — invited Sadler to chronicle his journey. “In the midst of the catastrophic event, the most dire circumstances, Bill wanted to help others,” the filmmaker says.
Sadler was with Becker during his treatments. He was there when the cancer went into remission. And when it returned with a vengeance.
He asked Becker and his wife — Staples High School graduate Lisa Fuentes — if being there was too intrusive.
No, they replied. They wanted him there. They wanted people to know what male breast cancer is like.
Two years ago, Becker entered hospice. Sadler asked if he could visit.
Lisa said of course — and encouraged him to keep filming. “We want to share our journey, so people know where it ends,” she said.
The end came despite “extraordinary love and support” provided by doctors, nurses, family and friends.
The resulting film — called “Times Like These” — is quite powerful.
“This is a very human, relatable story,” Sadler explains. “It’s about one disease. But it’s also about how all of us face health challenges, setbacks, and life. I hope it can do a little bit of good.”
Most of the filming is already done. A few follow-up interviews remain. Sadler is also halfway through the edits.
He’s set up a non-profit organization, to accept foundation and individual grants. He hopes to complete the documentary by March, so it can be submitted to film festivals for 2018. Sadler will also make it available to organizations, for their own fundraisers.
You may not know much about male breast cancer. But if you’d like to help spread the word or to contribute funds, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 310-880-8829. For more information about the video project, as well as links and articles about the disease and research, click here.
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