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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Women aren’t the only ones who are diagnosed with breast cancer, and Pat Washburn of Omaha wants people to know that.

Pat lost her husband, Marlyn, in May to breast cancer after he was diagnosed around Christmas 2016.

“He did not believe that men could get breast cancer,” Pat said.

It was surprising to Marlyn that he even had breast cancer, let alone that it was found too late to cure.

The Grand Island Independent reports that he was a high school math teacher and then moved on to be an administrator in several Nebraska and Iowa schools. He retired in Red Cloud. The couple married in 1994 and combined have eight kids, 21 grandchildren and seven great-great-grandchildren.

Pat said Marlyn went to the doctor last November to get blood work done for a routine diabetes checkup. He had been having pain in his right shoulder, but brushed it off. She told him to mention that to the doctor, so he did.

The doctor decided Marlyn needed an ultrasound and then found elevated alkaline phosphatase levels, which could mean something wrong with the liver or gallbladder, she said. Six lesions were on Marlyn’s liver and an MRI later showed the spot on his breast.

By then, Pat said, the doctors knew it had spread. The cancer spread from his breast throughout his body and affected his lungs, kidneys and brain. He also had eight brain tumors, including one on his brain stem.

“He was full of cancer, and we didn’t know it,” Washburn said of her husband.

She said Marlyn’s daughter, Barbara Lovercheck, was previously diagnosed with breast cancer and is now a survivor. Marlyn just didn’t think that could happen to him.

Pat said the oncologist said Marlyn’s cancer was extremely progressive and he might have five years to live.

“We got five months,” she said.

They heard the word “cancer” around Christmastime and Marlyn died May 26. He was 66. Much of those five months were spent in the hospital. When he wasn’t in the hospital, he was at home on oxygen, which the Washburns needed lots of. Pat said they went through 15 tanks of oxygen a week and no home would take him because his care was so extensive. He went through lots of radiation.

“Those five months were five months from hell,” she said, noting how much suffering her husband had to go through.

Pat and Marlyn used to go to a movie every Tuesday. She said they managed to get to a few $5 movies during the five months, but it was hard. He couldn’t do many things anymore.

Pat has made it her mission to tell people that men, too, can get breast cancer. She said there’s not as much of a stigma with it anymore, but that men simply may not know that they have to look out for breast cancer.

She told a story of talking to a man on a shuttle bus about breast cancer in men. He asked her many questions, as he mentioned a lump in his breast once they started talking.

“An awful lot of them say they didn’t know,” Pat said about telling people that men can get breast cancer, too.

She had Revolution Wraps put a wrap on her car so it would promote awareness of breast cancer in men and make a statement. She has walked in parades and handed out thousands of fliers to help spread the word.

Early detection is key. Pat said it’s just as important for women to be aware about breast cancer in men so they can help the men in their lives.

“My main goal is to make people aware that breast cancer is not only a woman’s disease, it is men’s also,” Pat said. “I don’t want any other man to go through what Marlyn did. I don’t want any other family to go through what we did.”


Information from: The Grand Island Independent,