A Cancer Survivor’s Story: Men Get Breast Cancer, Too
June is National Cancer Survivors Month. For the next four weeks, we will be telling the remarkable stories of patients whose treatments at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center have enabled them to return to a normal life.
Donald Kumin doesn’t look like someone who has cancer. The vibrant 88-year-old Delray Beach resident regularly plays golf with friends. He and his wife, Irene, are taking a cruise this fall, and at an age when many of their contemporaries have gone into assisted living, they are proud to be leading an active life from their own home.
But Kumin does have cancer. In fact, he has had it for two decades — his first diagnosis was in 1997 — including two recurrences. His story, however, is testament to the fact that advanced treatments offered at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine continue to make cancer a disease patients can live with, rather than die from.
What is more unusual is the nature of his disease, because Kumin is a man with breast cancer. Fewer than 1 percent of breast cancer cases are men, and the lifetime risk for a man is about 1 in 1,000, versus 1 in 8 for a woman.
“Only about 1,800 men a year in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Charles L. Vogel, M.D., Kumin’s long-time oncologist. “When Don was first diagnosed in 1997, the cancer appeared on his right side, and he had 14 positive lymph nodes. When the cancer came back on his left side in 2008, it was another bad presentation — 18 positive lymph nodes. In 2014, we found a lump under his collarbone and another tumor in his bones. This history clearly indicates a very aggressive, metastatic cancer.”
“You don’t know what the future is going to be when they tell you that you have cancer,” Kumin said. “It was a big surprise, because no one in my family ever had breast cancer, and I tested negative for the breast cancer gene.”
Over the years, Kumin has had two mastectomies and been treated with chemotherapy, radiation and anti-hormonal therapy. He is currently on a form of oral chemotherapy.
“We are doing everything we can to keep Don off intravenous chemotherapy, because that would impact more significantly on his quality of life,” said Vogel. “Right now, everything is going OK. He is asymptomatic and living a normal life. Breast cancer has become a chronic disease no different than diabetes, chronic renal disease or congestive heart failure.”
Kumin has a very straightforward attitude about his prospects.
“Life is what it is, and cancer is what it is,” he said “It’s there, I’m here, and we have to live together, whether we like each other or not. But I can’t say enough about the quality of care I have received at Sylvester and what it has meant for my life. I consider myself a miracle.”