Eric Buhler takes the fight against breast cancer personally; he can’t remember a time when the devastating disease hasn't affected his life in some way.
He was just an infant when breast cancer took the life of his grandmother on his father's side.
And by the time doctors discovered cancer had developed in his grandmother’s body on his mother’s side, it had spread throughout her body. They weren’t able to determine where it originated but Buhler, who was 12 at the time, has always suspected it started as breast cancer.
The following summer, he received more bad news. His mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
“She fought and won that battle,” he said. “She is a survivor.”
The relentless disease then returned and developed in her other breast. She won that battle too, Buhler said, making her a two-time survivor.
“She is in the healing process right now," he said.
So, when the Shorewood resident was invited to the National Breast Cancer Coalition's annual summit in Washington DC with the Wisconsin chapter and saw little involvement from men, he knew he had to speak up.
“After I attended I got the fire to make things happen and change the way we look at breast cancer,” he said. “It has affected me in my life since I was born.
"It’s time to do something about it," he continued. "I take breast cancer personally. I want to do everything I can to effectively end the disease.”
Inspired by Buhler — who has helped with breast cancer research as a nursing student at UW-Milwaukee and was connected to the state NBCC chapter by his professor — the WBCC has launched the new Men’s Breast Cancer Initiative.
“It’s not a support group — it’s for men who have had women in their lives affected (or maybe they’ve had breast cancer themselves) and want to do something besides don a pink shirt and walk in a 5K,” said Dawn Anderson, WBCC executive director and , in an email to Patch. “We want to introduce them to us as the premier policy focused breast cancer group and give them a way to participate that maybe suits them better.”
An initial event was scheduled for Saturday in the to kick start the initiative that Buhler and Anderson hoped would educate local men on breast cancer and spark energy in the community. However, a lack of RSVPs forced WBCC to cancel it.
Still, Buhler hopes there's an interest in the area.
“People just relate it to a woman’s disease, but that’s not the case. Men do and can get breast cancer,” he said. “For me that strikes a chord, because I know I’m not the only one that has been affected. I want to end that barrier.”
About one in eight women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. In 2011, an estimated 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 57,650 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer. Meanwhile, about 2,140 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in men in 2011. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000, according to Breastcancer.org.
Buhler said he hopes to find men who want to see significant change in the fight against breast cancer.
“I want to have people go to Washington (DC) and try to affect policy and politics and spark change,” he said. “It’s not something just medicine is trying to take on anymore.”